By Kimmie Smith
When midterms and finals arise, a time of mild panic begins for some people. This occurs because they are unsure of how to tackle all the information learned over the previous weeks. Looking back at a stack of notes and highlighted books does not seem to make as much sense as it once did. To prepare yourself, you need to have worked through your Active Study Plan prior to your exams. An Active Study Plan is a way that you can sit down and study when you are preparing for a huge final, a blue book exam or a study session that is open to you prior to a large exam. This study plan can be broken down into steps which will help you immensely.
Organization is Key
To study you need to be organized and this organization starts when you are in class. Make sure that you date and title your notes. It is helpful to synch the titles of your notes with the topics that are listed in your syllubus. Generally the syllabus is dated and says what you will cover in class and it is easier if those titles are listed within the notes. If you record your lecture notes make sure you say "Today is Sept 5th and this lecture is entitled The African Diaspora". When you are reviewing these notes you will remember this clearly because you have given it titles and dates. Also make sure that you have a book that is only for that course so that your notes are in order and make sense. If this class has a lecture and also a lab make sure that you title that information that was discussed in lab with the same title as that which is linked to the previous days lecture. In most cases, your lab is a time when you can discuss concepts in depth that were covered in lecture and this will be helpful as you study.
Divide Your Chapters
Many times you may have courses that only have exams and papers so teachers expect that you are keeping up with your assignments. Make sure that if you know that you have 15 days between an exam or blue book and you have 200 pages to read in this time, divide the days you have with the pages that need to be read. This way you are not reading large portions of text that have little meaning to you. Make sure to write notes as you go and date them with appropriate titles. Write questions that you have so that you can pose them during class and write the answers down. These could be answers that will support future answers in a test or paper.You will find that your lectures support your readings and labs and you will have increased understanding. An Active Study Plan allows you to constantly learn and reduces the overwhelming feeling of all the information you are learning.
Review Your Notes
You may not be able to review your notes every night after class; however, you can do this once a week. Generally, most classes meet twice a week and if you have a lab, they meet once; therefore, you have met at least 3 days and classes average between forty five minutes to sometimes as much as an hour and a half. That's a lot of information which does not include your outside reading. By refreshing yourself with your notes you will be able to see how the information ties in. Questions you may have once had (because you wrote them down) may be answered and you may have new ones. If you are taking a math class, work out some of the problems and formulas and you may find that with all the new information you have learned you understand it more. Each week that you review your notes and text that is highlighted, you will always look at the information covered in prior weeks and that strengthens what you know. When it is time for you to REALLY study for the exam you will find it faster to study and you can spend more time on concepts that you really don't know as well.
Write it Down
Beyond writing your notes, write down in your day planner what days you will be reading a certain amount of pages. Make a note of what day is the day you will review your notes for what courses and make it as consistent as possible. When you have a day planner you feel more obligated to cover the tasks. There is something about checking off a task that makes you feel like you have accomplished something. It also ensures that you will tackle everything that is listed so that you can move on to other things. The risk of not writing it down means that you may not consistently get into the routine of your Active Study Plan, you will be side tracked by other activities that you may want to enjoy and you'll find yourself forced to cover more information that you could have broken down into manageable time periods.
Go to Office Hours
Your professor offers a period of time where you can meet with him/her to ask questions. These are known as Office Hours and it allows you to build a relationship with your professor, go over what you know and to pose any question that you have. If you have a time conflict with the Office Hours that are mentioned, email or ask for another time that you can meet. Many times people only go to these times right before the exam and it is hard for you to get in so utilize them earlier.
Form Your Own Study Group
Get a group of people from your class that you know is interested in staying on top of the class as well. Make a weekly time where you meet with one another and discuss the course and your findings. Pose questions to one another, make flash cards whatever you can do to make sure that you know about what occurred in this weeks class and how that ties into the overall them of what you have learned so far. You can even go to your Office Hours in a large group as well. Of course prior to going to your study session, you will want to be prepared and do the above items so that you are actively participating and utilizing your time well. You will want to take notes and raise questions so that you can continue to solidify what you have learned. This same group will be instrumental when you really have to study for the exam.
This is how you form an Active Study Plan. This can be applied to any course regardless of the information that is covered and you will find that you are less stressed when it is time to study. You will feel that you can really cover information that has been harder for you to grasp. Once again through this plan you are reaching out to others to form a support group of those that are as interested in learning as you are, you are learning to prepare yourself and organize your time and finally you are taking the initiative to build a relationship with your professor for future recommendations as well.
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