Counseling Center- Self Help
Taking lecture notes (TOP)
Besides listening, the main job of the student in a lecture class is to take good notes. Most students know they should take notes in class but many don't know how to go about it. They either take too many or too few, and they don't take the best ones. Taking lecture notes is an art that must be developed by practice. However, once developed, note-taking skills can be the key to remarkable academic improvement.
The following is a step-by-step guide to improved note-taking:
Utilize your active listening skills. They provide the basis for an increased comprehension of what a particular lecture is all about, as well as serving to make the lecture more interesting.
Try and get a preview of what a particular lecture is to be about. Most lecturers actually help the student out with this, either by giving out a handout containing an outline of the lecture, writing an outline on the blackboard, or at the very least, making a few introductory comments at the beginning of the lecture. This preview or outline should permit you to see the orderly development of ideas in the lecture, and to anticipate the point in the lecture at which questions raised in your mind may be answered.
Once the lecture actually starts, you must comprehend and note the organization of what the lecturer is saying. Your preview plus any handouts the lecturer gives out should help you identify main points and themes. Even an apparently disorganized lecturer provides many clues to his organization. Pay attention for statements like "The main point is" or "Note this" or "The three main assumptions of this theory are". Another clue may be the mere repetition of a statement if the lecturer takes the trouble to say something twice, then h/she must think it's important. Changes of pace may also serve as clues. When a lecturer suddenly slows down and says something as though they want you to get it, the statement is probably important. Changes in voice tone or loudness may also signal important points.
While you are organizing what the lecturer is saying, you should also be taking notes. Take notes according to the lecturer's organization. Write down the main ideas and the important details connected with them. Do this in your own words, so that you are sure that you really understand what the lecturer is saying. If the lecturer gives a technical definition or states something obviously intended to be a precise statement, you should take this down verbatim.
Compared with your textbook, your lecture notes are incomplete, imperfect and not well organized. It is therefore important to review them as soon after the lecture as possible. If you review within a few hours of the lecture, much of what the lecturer said is still fresh in your mind, and you can fill in essentials that did not get into your notes. And if you feel that you should rewrite your notes, this is the best time to do it.
Studying for an exam (TOP)
No tricks or short cuts will help you if you don't know your subject. Review your work, reading, and lecture notes periodically. In reviewing for an exam, it is necessary to memorize and understand factual data; find organizing principles and see interrelationships. Organize your material around main points and make sure you understand it.
Reflect on what you have learned. Reflecting means examining material from your own viewpoint, making implications not explicitly stated. See how all of the facts are combined.
Know your instructor. Your notes are a good clue to the type of questions and the material s/he will cover in the exam.
The danger of cramming should not be downplayed. Cramming blocks the learning process. You easily forget what you have learned after the exam. Cramming may not get you through because it forces you to learn material out of context. Also, cramming for one subject may force you to let another subject slide which you have to cram for later; it leaves you no time for real learning.
During the exam, don't be in such a hurry to start that you forget to read directions. Read the questions carefully and plan your time. An exam tests your judgment as well as your knowledge; it calls on your ability to select as well as to display information.
For essay exams, read all the questions first to see what information fits best and where. Jot down ideas briefly as you read. Make a brief outline before you start writing. A well-organized essay should contain the following: a thesis statement, supporting material (show relationships, give examples, add facts), and transitional words and phrases (make your train of thought clear to the reader).
For objective exams (true-false; multiple choice; short answer; matching; etc.), survey the exam and divide your time accordingly. Go through the exam once, answering the easy questions--then go back to the ones you left out. If you're in doubt about an answer, stick to your first choice. For true-false exams, analyze the qualifiers and pick out the key words. If there is not too large a penalty for guessing, guess intelligently.
In general, read the directions carefully, and then follow them. Write legibly--you may be correct, but if it can't be read, you deserve a lower mark. And above all, keep calm. Naturally, knowing your material is the best way to insure passing an exam. But it will also help if you have an efficient approach to exam taking. Good luck!
Reducing Test Anxiety (TOP)
Test anxiety consists of two basic components: physical tension (which can be decreased by relaxation training) and negative thinking patterns (which test anxious students have learned). Sometimes these patterns have been learned so well over the years that they have become automatic, and the student doesn't realize that negative thoughts are disturbing the test taking process.
The problem with test anxiety is that negative statements interrupt the attention needed to test well. Focusing on negative thoughts such as, "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm too slow at this" distract from the task of thinking about the test items. So, your goal is to recognize your negative statements, develop some positive statements to replace the negatives, and practice substituting the positive statements to be more productive.
Here are some examples of positive statements:
"I'm OK no matter what."
"I did that well."
"I can't be perfect, but I can do my best."
"It's OK to make mistakes."
"I'll skip this and come back later."
"Just do them one at a time."
(Material adapted from "How to Study", by Morgan & Deese)