Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Study Skillz

Studying has never been something I'm good at.  I never had to in high school but oh boy is MIT a different story.  It seems like all my time is spent doing problem sets and studying.  Thing is, I never knew how to study.  I'm a master at getting work done, I can power through papers and problem sets like nothing.  Studying is a different story.  It lacks structure.  It lacks instructions.  It lacks a to-do list.  It lacks an end.  That was the key, without a clear end I never knew how to start.  From the beginning of course.

Yes I'm aware how neurotic I am that I make lists of everything...
I started a system where I go through all of my notes from start to end, and on a blank piece of paper put down any equation, constant, vocab, anything I'd need fast and often in an exam.  This is my cheat sheet.  Each exam I make a new one starting from scratch, and modifying it based on what I figured out I needed to know on previous exams that I failed at.  (It may be worth pointing out that all of my ChemE exams are open note, open book.  Don't be envious, it just means they can ask more obscure things.)

Then I go through and tab my textbook.  Any table, equation, sample problem that looks useful gets a sticky note label on it.  I usually do this as I go (yes I do read the book during normal weeks.  I'm a goody goody), but sometimes I fall behind, so I make it task 2.

Lastly is practice problems.  First I redo all my old problem sets.  These have the most potential of having material you will see again.  It's why they give you the problem sets.  Often they're also harder than the exam will be, so if you can do these you'll likely pass the exam.  Lastly practice with old exams.  I say do this last because if your professor is anything like mine they switch the covered material drastically each year.  Old exams are almost guaranteed to either not have enough material, or have things you didn't cover.

The end.  That's when I stop studying and relax.  Rereading and rereading and doing the same problems over and over and over doesn't help.  Spending too much time on one thing just makes you nervous.  So relax, do other work, and walk into the exam like what up I got a big, erm, you know (keeping it PG!)
Good luck and happy studying!

Any study tips you have?  I'm always looking for more.  Let me know ;)

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