Study Tips Requested

I’m currently studying for exams and working fulltime. I also have a 16 month old daughter and a strong desire to play Xbox 360 games when I have spare time.

As you can imagine, I don’t have a lot of spare time and I should be using it for study, not playing games!

Anyway, I’m wondering what others have found to be effect study methods.

The course I’m doing is entirely by correspondance. Basically, I’ve got a study text, a heap of practice exams and revision tests, and an email address for asking specific questions of an instructor.

For past exams I have used a flashcard program in which I pose questions and answers that I think will focus my learning in the right areas. I have come to find this less than desireable as some subjects aren’t necessarily open to that direct question/answer type arrangement and I also find myself spending more time trying to make a flashcard look pretty rather than adding content to it.

I do find that I learn better when I write things down, it makes me read the material more than once, and in more detail. My handwriting is not very good though (messy and slow) and I’m considering taking notes in MS Word.

My specific question is whether people have experience with taking notes by hand and on a word processor. Does the act of physically handwriting notes make it more effective than typing them or am I likely to get the same or perhaps improved value from using Word?

My non-specific question is, do you have any general study advice for someone with motivational problems (gaming instead of studying) and distractions (work, wife, daughter, dog, SDMB.)

I am acutely aware that I should be using the time I’ve spent writing this post studying.

Now I might go and have some lunch.

Writing by hand always cements my learning better than typing. YMMV.

Taking small breaks and getting exercise is good. Maybe you can take your daughter for a walk in the stroller when you need a break. Heck, you could even tell her everything you’ve learned.

If you can be disciplined about putting your game back down after 20 or 30 minutes, use that as a reward for hitting your study milestones for the day.

I find that I am better at learning and remembering information if I can mentally process the information and then explain it to somebody else. As Sam I Am said, even talking to your daughter about what you’re learning will help you to better understand and remember the information you’re taking classes on.

Also, if the practice exams require thought-out answers (like short essay/multiple sentence answers), use them as much as you can. If the books have practice examples of principles or equations, work them out with the book so that you better understand the process before doing the practice exams.

I’m not great at giving further advice on this, as I have never been a great person when it comes to studying. However, I found that doing things like outlining/annotating chapters while doing reading for classes I had to work at helped immensely. I was able to compartmentalize the information presented and had a handy set of notes for reviewing when I was done. Sometimes a conceptual map is needed, and sometimes it’s a list of definitions, while at other times making up one’s own examples of how a concept works will work best. It just depends on what the information is that you’re being tested on.

I’ve been studying part-time (while working full-time) for the past five years.

I find it far more effective to write my notes by hand than to type them. But that may simply be because that’s what I’m used to.

I find this to be the most effective method, especially if you have a heap of practice questions, go over the material, ground yourself in the basic terminology (or whatever subject) and take a practice exam, study the ones you get wrong, and go back to the summaries of that part of the material, continue taking practice exams as much as possible, since it gives you the best idea of the sort of vocab and buzz-concepts that you’ll see on the real test, even if the words are different.

I find it very difficult to do any study when my daughter is actually here.

Although I work “fulltime” I normally only do a couple of days a week. The rest is made up of standby at home, and days off. On the standby days my wife is at home as well to look after my daughter, Little Miss (un)Helpful, in case I get called in to work. These standby days are reasonable opportunities for study although family distractions are high.

On the days off, my wife may be at home or she may take the opportunity to work. Every Thursday and Friday, Miss Helpful is in childcare and the wife is at work. These days are my best opportuity for study as long as I’m not working myself.

On days where I’m at home alone with Miss Helpful I find it almost impossible to do anything as she is demanding of my time and although there are plenty of periods where she is playing by herself, they are inconsistant and don’t allow me to develop a routine.

Agreed that being able to explain something to someone else helps immensely with learning. I used to do some training in my currect job and it was always necessary to know the subject to a much deeper level than what you were required to teach.

The idea of telling her about what I’m learning sounds good. She loves to be read to but doesn’t yet have any idea what the stories are about so I could easily regale her with tales of turbine engines and aerodynamics.

Another problem I have is that the study material is quite light on information. It’s been developed from classroom material and I always feel that there’d be a lot more information added in passing by a real person giving a lesson. I guess that is an inherent disadvantage in distance learning.

Unfortunately the practice questions are all multiple choice as that is the format of the actual exam. I don’t mind that for the exam itself, but it doesn’t work as well for study because it won’t always show up a lack of understanding on a subject and is open to being able to work out the answer by a process of elimination. I may feel good because I got a question right, but the same question with a different set of answers may have been much more difficult to answer.

I will try the daughter thing when I get a chance. I’m also trying the MS Word thing for a little while.

I find that studying with others and frankly explaining things to others to be an enormously motivating (you cannot slack if others are there to bust your balls over it) and effective study technique, but it really does vary by individual.

I only have some concrete suggestions - study in a quiet, non-distracting place (someplace that you can’t see the computer or television, because they attract your attention even if they aren’t on). Set realistic goals for studying each day, and reward yourself when you hit them (assign yourself three chapters a day or something like that).

Repetition, repetition, repetition. The more times you go over it, the more you’ll retain. Vocalize what you’re reading so you get it into your head in more than one stream.

Just do it. :smiley: You can always find one more thing to do other than studying.

[li]Set realistic goals. (I found studying more than 5-6 hours/day unproductive)[/li][li]Take regular breaks. (15 min every hour, or 30 min every 2 hours. Do something physical during your breaks. My room was always impeccably clean when I was studying)[/li][li]Don’t get distracted during your breaks. (Go back to the books, use an alarmclock if needed)[/li][li]Clear away the gaming console (I believe you have enough distractions without it)[/li][li]Take your notes by hand. (the extra time you need to make them legible is not thrown away. A computer, esspecially one connected to the internet, is infinately more distracting than a piece of paper) [/li][li]Hire a babysitter (or find a nice neighbour or familymember)[/li][/ul]

Agree with the old-fashioned handwritten notes/flashcards approach.

I require an absolutely bare room (think “The Matrix” – a table with a notebook computer/desktop with neatly bundled cables) if I am to do any thinking or writing + a chair and whatever materials I need (books, pens, notebooks, etc.).

If you can’t spare the space for a dedicated study, earplugs can work well. Probably best in a space where line of sight is relatively unobstructed/uncluttered. Most people I know who claim “they don’t fit right” (I’m talking about the standard foam industrial-style hearing protection kinds) don’t know how to insert them into the canal properly – they’re well worth a try.

I always favored using stimulants to work out the fine details of a given project, and a couple of stiff drinks when it came time to prepare my results in florid style.

Decide how much time you’re going to spend studying each day. Take into consideration how much you need to study, and how much you can realistically expect to do. (As The Librarian says, there’s a point of diminishing returns.)

Break that time up into chunks of whatever you’re comfortable with. Set a timer, study for that amount of time, and take a break. Repeat until you’ve hit your set study time for the day.

After that–and this is the important part–don’t feel guilty about not studying. Play with your daughter, play your games, live the rest of your life, but do it all knowing that you’ve already studied for the day.

Don’t study without a plan. “I’m just going to sit here with the book and learn this stuff” never works. “I’m going to outline these two chapters, then make flash cards, then review them” works a lot better. If your study plan requires a trip out for supplies, just do it; it takes time, but it usually means more productive work when you get back.

Practice exams are like solid gold, but use them wisely. Study the material, then use the tests to assess yourself so you know what you need to hit harder. Take it like it’s a real exam, or you’ll convince yourself that you knew answers that you really didn’t. After that, go back and use the questions as a new study guide.

What program are you in, if you don’t mind my asking?

My true-tried method of studying in college won’t work for you, for several reasons, but my best studying in college was done with a friend and a six pack. Now, since I’m taking all my courses distance ed, and all the exams are week-long open-book, I don’t really need to study.

I’m studying for an air transport pilot licence. Seven exams, some more difficult than others, and not easy to find someone else studying the same stuff at the same time in a small town.

I did resúmenes. My preferred method of learning is problem-solving (I was one of those rare people who do better on the “problems” part of the exam than on “theory”); for theory, re-reading just sends me into zombieland, so I had to find something that was an activity.

Hence, schematics, bullet-point lists, rewrites showing connections between different parts of the course.

It didn’t really matter whether it was legible or not, since the point wasn’t being able to read it later… it was that writing it down was more active than rereading for the 7thzzzzZZzzz…

As a matter of fact (looks both ways), I stumbled onto this when I prepared cheatsheets for Latin. I never took them out, but having prepared them gave me enough “extra understanding” over not doing so to go from fail to pass.

And of course, get rid of your biggest distraction: Miss (Un)Helpful.

Find someone in your immediate vicinity other than your spouse who is willing to call you or come by on a regular basis and ask you how it’s going. No, really. There is something about knowing that you will have to answer the question “so what did you do today about _________” in future that makes people do something in the present.

Optimally, you would give that person a rough schedule of what needs to be done when so they can also help keep you on track.

I read through the material like a novel, not really caring whether I can memorize the fine points or not, not taking notes, but rather just trying to get an idea of what all there is to be learned. Then I set myself a project that would require knowledge of something that was in there, and use the book as a reference piece while I do the project, going back over the relevant sections. And I’ll just keep making up projects until I’ve used everything.