Study Guide

There are several techniques for effective studying. Here are some that I recommend; they helped me when I was a student, and I believe they can help you. These techniques should work with any class.

1. Before Class

  • Read Your Assignments: Many believe that it is easier to read after you hear the lecture, but that is not true. Teachers plan their lectures on the assumption that the students have read the material before the class. Many students do not like this because they cannot understand all of what is in the textbook. However, that's OK--the lecture is intended to fill in the parts you don't understand in the reading.
  • Take Notes While Reading: When reading a textbook, it is easy to move your eyes over the text, and understand nothing. This does not help you at all. Taking notes while reading has two benefits: first, it forces you to think and try to understand, and second, the notes are useful for later review and study for the test. When you take notes (not just translation!), try to summarize each paragraph (or each paragraph group) with one or two sentences. Summarizing forces you to think about the meaning of the sentences, and so it is useful. Also, make a list of important words that are key to what you are reading. You can take notes in Japanese, or any language you want. These notes are for you, not for the teacher.
  • Make a List of Questions: There will almost certainly be things you don't understand in the text. Don't worry about that at all. Just write down a question for each point you don't understand, and take the list with you to class.

2. In Class

  • Take Lecture Notes: Try your best to take notes of the lecture. Try to create a "shorthand," a kind of personal code, using abbreviations, arrows, pictures, etc. For example, write "cp" instead of "computer," or "incl/hw" instead of "it is included in the hardware." Take notes especially of what the teacher writes on the board--but also take notes on any point that sounds important to you. If you have a computer, you might even take notes using a word processing program.
  • Ask Questions: Use the question list you made when reading before the class. The teacher will probably answer some of the questions automatically in the lecture. However, if the teacher passes by the point and you still don't understand, ask the question!

Common Concerns about Asking Questions
My question is foolish! If you do not understand a point about the class, then asking a question about it is never foolish. In fact, it is foolish not to ask!
Other students will be annoyed, or think I am not as smart as they are. If you have a question, then there is a good chance that many other students have the exact same question! They will probably be happy that someone asked it.
My questions will slow down the class. The whole idea of a lecture is to help students understand. That's why we meet in a class, instead of only reading the text. Your questions are an important part of the class!

3. After Class

  • Type Your Lecture Notes: Your lecture notes are often written in a hurry, using the "shorthand" code. One week later, you may not understand everything you wrote! Therefore, it is a good idea to type or re-write the notes in "longhand," or plain language, so you can understand it later. There are two more excellent reasons for typing your notes: first, because typing your notes will remind you of what you learned, helping you understand and memorize better. Second, you will have clean, neat notes that will be excellent test study materials!
  • STUDY GROUP! This is an important study guide, and may be the biggest help to you. Find two to five other students in your class, and meet with them at least once a week, especially before tests or exams. It may be difficult to find a time when everyone can meet, but it is a valuable way to study! When you study, try to do the follwoing three things:
  1. Exchange notes (here is where your reading notes and typed lecture notes will be very popular!!)
  2. Q&A: Each member of the study group announces the points they do not fully understand; other members of the group explain.
  3. Quizzing: All members of the group close their notes, except for one member who asks questions to all the others. All members take turns asking the questions.
Common Concerns about Study Groups
I don't have time! It would take more time to study alone! Make time for study groups.
I know everything I need to know already. Probably you don't. Are you getting 100% correct on every test? If not, then a study group can help.
I know more than the other members of the group! or-- I feel embarrassed asking smarter students to help me! There is a benefit to all members of the study group. "Smarter" students also need to study, and the best way to study is to teach and explain to others!
  • Talk to Your Teacher: If you still need help, if you don't understand something, then go to your teacher and ask for help. Make an appointment to see your teacher during office hours or at a special time, and discuss the points you need help with.
  • Get Tutoring: Tutoring is often available from your school, sometimes at no charge. If you are having trouble, ask your teacher and/or the administration of the school for a tutor.

I hope that these suggestions and techniques help you as they helped me when I was a student. It is true some may be difficult and can take time to finish--but maybe it is easier and quicker than other techniques!

You may have other techniques as well, and some of these techniques might not work for you. However, you should try all of them, and try to make them work. FInd the ones that help you, then continue using them! If some don't help, then discard them and look for other techniques.

Good luck in your studies!