ower Learning Jill had not done as well in high school as she had hoped. Since college involved even more work, it was no surprise that she didn’t do better there. The reason for her so-so performance was not a lack of effort. She attended most of her classes and read her textbooks. And she never missed handing in any assignment, even though it often meant staying up late the night before homework was due. Still, she just got by in her classes. Before long, she came to the conclusion that she simply couldn’t do any better. Then one day, one of her instructors said something to make her think otherwise. “You can probably build some sort of house by banging a few boards together,” he said. “But if you want a sturdy home, you’ll have to use the right techniques and tools. Building carefully takes work, but it gets better results. The same can be said of your education. There are no shortcuts, but there are some proven study skills that can really help. If you don’t use them, you may end up with a pretty flimsy education.” Jill signed up for a study-skills course and found out a crucial fact—that learning how to learn is the key to success in school. Certain dependable skills have made the difference between disappointment and success for generations of students. These techniques won’t free you from work, but they will make your work far more productive. They include three important areas: time control, classroom note-taking, and textbook study. Time Control Success in college depends on time control. Time control means that you deliberately organize and plan your time, instead of letting it drift by. Planning means that you should never be faced with an overdue term paper or a cram session the night before a test. Three steps are involved in time control. First, you should prepare a large monthly calendar. Buy a calendar with a large white block around each date, or make one yourself. At the beginning of the college semester, circle important dates on this calendar. Circle the days on which tests are scheduled; circle the days when papers are due. This calendar can also be used to schedule study plans. At the beginning of the week, you can jot down your plans for each day. An alternative method would be to make plans for each day the night before. On Tuesday night, for example, you might write down “Read Chapter 5in psychology” in the Wednesday block. Hang this calendar where you will see it every day—your kitchen, bedroom, even your bathroom! The second step in time control is to have a weekly study schedule for the semester—a chart that covers all the days of the week and all the waking hours in each day. Below is part of one student’s schedule: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 continued lan36275_ch18_375-386.indd 379 07/12/12 7:23 PM380 Part 3 Special Skills Time Mon. Tue. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. 6:00 a.m. 7:00 Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast 8:00 Math STUDY Math STUDY Math Breakfast 9:00 STUDY Biology STUDY Biology STUDY Job 10:00 Psychology Psychology Psychology 11:00 English English 12:00 Lunch Lunch Lunch On your own schedule, fill in all the fixed hours in each day—hours for meals, classes, job (if any), and travel time. Next, mark time blocks that you can realistically use for study each day. Depending on the number of courses you are taking and the demands of these courses, you may want to block off five, ten, or even twenty or more hours of study time a week. Keep in mind that you should not block off time that you do not truly intend to use for study. Otherwise, your schedule will be a meaningless gimmick. Also, remember that you should allow time for rest and relaxation. You will be happiest, and able to accomplish the most, when you have time for both work and play. The third step in time control is to make a daily or weekly to-do list. This may be the most valuable time-control method you ever use. On this list, write down the things you need to do for the following day or the following week. If you choose to write a weekly list, do it on Sunday night. If you choose to write a daily list, do it the night before. Here is part of one student’s daily list: To Do Tues day 1. Review biology not es before class 2. Proofr ead English paper due today 3. See Dick about game on Friday 4. Get gas for car 5. Read next chapter of psychology text You may use a three-by-five-inch notepad or a small spiral-bound notebook for this list. Carry the list around with you during the day. Always concentrate on doing the most important items first. To make the best use of your time, mark high-priority items with an asterisk and give them precedence over low-priority items. For instance, you may find yourself wondering what to do after dinner on Thursday evening. Among the items on your list are “Clean inside of car” and “Review chapter for math quiz.” It is obviously more important for you to 8 continued lan36275_ch18_375-386.indd 380 07/12/12 7:23 PMChapter 18 Writing a Summary 381 Copyright © 2014 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. review your notes at this point; you can clean out the car some other time. As you complete items on your to-do list, cross them out. Do not worry about unfinished items. They can be rescheduled. You will still be accomplishing a great deal and making more effective use of your time. Classroom Note-Taking One of the most important single things you can do to perform well in a college course is to take effective class notes. The following hints should help you become a better note-taker. First, attend class faithfully. Your alternatives—reading the text, reading someone else’s notes, or both—cannot substitute for the class experience of hearing ideas in person as someone presents them to you. Also, in class lectures and discussions, your instructor typically presents and develops the main ideas and facts of the course—the ones you will be expected to know on exams. Another valuable hint is to make use of abbreviations while taking notes. Using abbreviations saves time when you are trying to get down a great deal of information. Abbreviate terms that recur frequently in a lecture and put a key to your abbreviations at the top of your notes. For example, in sociology class, eth could stand for ethnocentrism; in a psychology class, STM could stand for short-term memory . (When a lecture is over, you may want to go back and write out the terms you have abbreviated.) Also, use e for example; def for definition; info for information; + for and; and so on. If you use the same abbreviations all the time, you will soon develop a kind of personal shorthand that makes taking notes much easier. A third hint for taking notes is to be on the lookout for signals of importance. Write down whatever your instructor puts on the board. If he or she takes the time to put material on the board, it is probably important, and the chances are good that it will come up later on exams. Always write down definitions and enumerations. Enumerations are lists of items. They are signaled in such ways as “The four steps in the process are . . .”; “There were three reasons for . . .”; “The two effects were . . .”; “Five characteristics of . . .”; and so on. In your notes, always number such enumerations (1, 2, 3, etc.). They will help you understand relationships among ideas and organize the material of the lecture. Watch for emphasis words—words your instructor may use to indicate that something is important. Examples of such words are “This is an important reason . . .”; “A point that will keep coming up later . . .”; “The chief cause was . . .”; “The basic idea here is . . .”; and so on. Always write down the important statements announced by these and other emphasis words. Finally, if your instructor repeats a point, you can assume that it is important. You might put an R for repeated in the margin so that later you will know that your instructor stressed it. 9 10 11 12 continued lan36275_ch18_375-386.indd 381 07/12/12 7:23 PM382 Part 3 Special Skills Next, be sure to write down the instructor’s examples and mark them with an e . The examples help you understand abstract points. If you do not write them down, you are likely to forget them later, when they are needed to help make sense of an idea. Also, be sure to write down the connections between ideas. Too many students merely copy terms the instructor puts on the board. They forget that, as time passes, the details that serve as connecting bridges between ideas quickly fade. You should, then, write down the relationships and connections in class. That way you’ll have them to help tie together your notes later on. Review your notes as soon as possible after class. You must make them as clear as possible while they are fresh in your mind. A day later may be too late, because forgetting sets in very quickly. Make sure that punctuation is clear, that all words are readable and correctly spelled, and that unfinished sentences are completed (or at least marked off so that you can check your notes with another student’s). Add clarifying or connecting comments wherever necessary. Make sure that important ideas are clearly marked. Improve the organization if necessary so that you can see at a glance main points and relationships among them. Finally, try in general to get down a written record of each class. You must do this because forgetting begins almost immediately. Studies have shown that within two weeks you are likely to have forgotten 80 percent or more of what you have heard. And in four weeks you are lucky if 5 percent remains! This is so crucial that it bears repeating: To guard against the relentlessness of forgetting, it is absolutely essential that you write down what you hear in class. Later you can concentrate on working to understand fully and to remember the ideas that have been presented in class. And then, the more complete your notes are, the more you are likely to learn. Textbook Study In many college courses, success means being able to read and study a textbook skillfully. For many students, unfortunately, textbooks are heavy going. After an hour or two of study, the textbook material is as formless and as hard to understand as ever. But there is a way to attack even the most difficult textbook and make sense of it. Use a sequence in which you preview a chapter, mark it, take notes on it, and then study the notes. Previewing Previewing a selection is an important first step to understanding. Taking the time to preview a section or chapter can give you a bird’s-eye view of the way the material is organized. You will have a sense of where you are beginning, what you will cover, and where you will end. There are several steps in previewing a selection. First, study the title. The title is the shortest possible summary of a selection and will often tell 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 continued lan36275_ch18_375-386.indd 382 07/12/12 7:23 PMChapter 18 Writing a Summary 383 Copyright © 2014 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. you the limits of the material you will cover. For example, the title “FDR and the Supreme Court” tells you to expect a discussion of President Roosevelt’s dealings with the Court. You know that you will probably not encounter any material dealing with FDR’s foreign policies or personal life. Next, quickly read over the first and last paragraphs of the selection; these may contain important introductions to, and summaries of, the main ideas. Then briefly examine the headings and subheadings in the selection. Together, the headings and subheadings are a mini-outline of what you are reading. Headings are often main ideas or important concepts in capsule form; subheadings are breakdowns of ideas within main areas. Finally, read the first sentence of some paragraphs, look for words set off in boldface or italics , and look at pictures or diagrams. After you have previewed a selection in this way, you should have a good general sense of the material to be read. Marking You should mark a textbook selection at the same time that you read it through carefully. Use a felt-tip highlighter to shade material that seems important, or use a ballpoint pen and put symbols in the margin next to the material: stars, checks, or NB ( nota bene , Latin for “note well”). What to mark is not as mysterious as some students believe. You should try to find main ideas by looking for clues: definitions and examples, enumerations, and emphasis words. 1. Definitions and examples: Definitions are often among the most important ideas in a selection. They are particularly significant in introductory courses in almost any subject area, where much of your learning involves mastering the specialized vocabulary of that subject. In a sense, you are learning the “language” of psychology or business or whatever the subject might be. Most definitions are abstract, and so they usually are followed by one or more examples to help clarify their meaning. Always mark off definitions and at least one example that makes a definition clear to you. In a psychology text, for example, we are told that “rationalization is an attempt to reduce anxiety by deciding that you have not really been frustrated.” Several examples follow, among them: “A young man, frustrated because he was rejected when he asked for a date, convinces himself that the girl is not very attractive or interesting.” 2. Enumerations: Enumerations are lists of items (causes, reasons, types, and so on) that are numbered 1, 2, 3, . . . or that could easily be numbered. They are often signaled by addition words. Many of the paragraphs in this book, for instance, use words like First of all, Another, In addition, and Finally to signal items in a series. Other textbooks also use this very common and effective organizational method. 20 21 22 23 continued lan36275_ch18_375-386.indd 383 07/12/12 7:23 PM384 Part 3 Special Skills 3. Emphasis words: Emphasis words tell you that an idea is important. Common emphasis words include phrases such as a major event, a key feature, the chief factor, important to note, above all, and most of all . Here is an example: “The most significant contemporary use of marketing is its application to nonbusiness areas, such as political parties.” Note-Taking Next, you should take notes. Go through the chapter a second time, rereading the most important parts. Try to write down the main ideas in a simple outline form. For example, in taking notes on a psychology selection, you might write down the heading “Defense Mechanisms.” Below the heading you would define them, number and describe each kind, and give an example of each. Defense Mec hanisms a. Defi nition: unconscious att empts to reduce anxiet y b. Kinds: (1) Rationalization: An att empt to reduce anxiet y by dec iding that you have not really been fr ustrated. Example: A man turned down for a date dec ides that the woman was not worth going out with anyway. (2) Project ion: Project ing onto ot her people mot ives or thoughts of one’s own. Example: A wife wh o wants to have an aff air accuses her husband of having one. Studying Notes To study your notes, use repeated self-testing. For example, look at the heading “Defense Mechanisms” and say to yourself, “What are the kinds of defense mechanisms?” When you can recite them, then say to yourself, “What is rationalization?” “What is an example of rationalization?” Then ask yourself, “What is projection?” “What is an example of projection?” After you learn each section, review it, and then go on to the next section. Do not simply read your notes; keep looking away and seeing if you can recite them to yourself. This self-testing is the key to effective learning. 24 25 26 27 continued lan36275_ch18_375-386.indd 384 07/12/12 7:23 PMChapter 18 Writing a Summary 385 Copyright © 2014 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Write an essay-length summary of a broadcast of the CBS television show 60 Minutes . In your first sentence, include the date of the show. For example, “The September 8, 2013, broadcast of CBS’s 60 Minutes dealt with three subjects most people would find of interest. The first segment of the show centered on . . . ; the second segment examined . . . ; the final segment discussed. . . . ” Be sure to use parallel form in describing the three segments of the show. Then summarize each segment in the three supporting paragraphs that follow. ACTIVITY 2 Textbook Study Sequence Remember this sequence for dealing with a textbook: preview, mark, take notes, study the notes. Approaching a textbook in this methodical way will give you very positive results. You will no longer feel bogged down in a swamp of words, unable to figure out what you are supposed to know. Instead, you will understand exactly what you have to do and how to go about doing it. Conclusion Take a minute now to evaluate your own study habits. Do you practice many of the above skills to take effective classroom notes, control your time, and learn from your textbooks? If not, perhaps you should. The skills are not magic, but they are too valuable to ignore. Use them carefully and consistently, and they will make academic success possible for you. Try them, and you won’t need convincing.