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HOW TO study and perform well in the class

Does anybody out there really know how to study? You'd think so, since a lot of young folks say that's what they're doing. Like you perhaps, Napoleon supposedly had great skills of concentration.
     While in the midst of battle, for example, he could calmly decide what to do and how to do it. However, that hardly compares with a student who has waited until approximately 9:30 pm the night before his or her final to crack open the books. A bunch of things can get in the way...laundry, dinner, call home, a quick game of one-on-one...before a person can really settle down to learning what he or she has avoided the whole semester. Now it's time to start and the dorm sounds like a war zone, people are dropping by like messengers from the front trying to get you to give up the fight (it's hopeless), go for a beer and just take your chances that the Prof won't read the exams. Napoleon would have had a nervous breakdown.

In order to study you need one resource above all. TIME. It's just the way it goes, to "learn" something: a pirouette, a side-pocket shot, German, or a breakeven chart, you gotta have time. Your roommate may not need much, others like you may need a lot. But everybody needs some time.
     So the first task of anyone trying to learn "how to study" needs to know how to manage his or her time. On the other hand, if you don't have much time left...and who does these days of multitasking, then you better be good at learning Stress Management. So where can you start?

There are probably a lot of sites online which can aid students in learning skills, however, one of the best is provided by
McGraw-Hill and its subsidiary, Dushkin Publishing (Dushskin Online): <>
     This site is comprehensive and should meet all the needs that most students have for acquiring learning skills. One of the special sections is: Study Tips: Tools for studying and learning (free) and includes the following topics:

  • Basic Library Research: A quick four-step process for doing library research.
  • Critical Thinking Tools Tips on how to improve your critical thinking with puzzles, tutorials and articles.
  • How to Best Use the Web A six step method for learning which are the best and worst sites for the task.
  • How to Evaluate Material Practical information for evaluating Web research sources.
  • How to Learn in Class Straight forward counsel on how to best utilize class time.
  • How to Manage Your Time Why should you...and how should you?
  • How to Perform on Tests How to make them less threatening and more productive.
  • How to StudyWhat's really the best way?
  • How to write Term Papers Tips to meet instructor's expectations.
  • Problem Solving Techniques Finding Solutions to difficult or uncertain situations.

There are other sites where individual professors have offered their own insight into the "How to..." process, but Dushkin has developed a very strong and useful site. Nevertheless, many of these professors have been teaching a very long time, know their students well and how to help them.
     Also, try a great little site called: the Learning Skills Program developed by the Counselling and Development Centre (CDC) at York University in Toronto <>. This site offers free online information on: Reading, Note-taking, Time Management, Exam Preparation, Essay Writing, and yes...Stress Management. There is some awfully good information in these sections and you ought to take the TIME to read have to start somewhere!


The following may not sound like a guide to studying, but in an important sense it is. Studying is a mind-set...that is a willingness to dedicate yourself to the learning process...that is, work. How can you create a "mind-set?" Someone once said that the only two things you really need to reach your goal, are:
     (1) know what it is; and
     (2) recruit the people to help you get there.
Neither of those tasks are particularly easy. Once you have the goal insight, you are the "keeper of your vision." Don't forget that, since almost everyone else will, since there are a lot of distractions. The people that you choose as friends and collaborators in almost anything you do will have a great impact on whether you reach your goals or not. Therefore, reach out to the best: friends (dedicated students), professors (open-minded and friendly mentors), librarians and staff, family members (motivators and financial assistance), professionals in your chosen field (professional mentors), and anyone else that you feel will be an essential part of your "team."
You have to communicate your goal(s) to yourself...probably the toughest assignment of all since it requires complete dedication. Then there is your team; ask their help, motivate them (thank them), and reward them. This team will be the foundation of anything you study. They will motivate you, direct you, contribute towards the efficiency of your efforts, and share in your successes. You have to be a leader...of your team. If you learn that lesson, then success after college is yours for the taking.

How you study, where you study, when you study is best done by what you decide; but you must be objective and critical about the results of your efforts. If studying in the library is perceived as the right place, but nevertheless, is actually screwing around with your friends and setting up dates for the weekend, then you know that what you are doing is wrong. You need three basic things to study well: dedication, no distractions, and good information, how you apply these principles is up to you.

Class performance

Let's be very, very honest...the great majority of professors give better grades to students who want to learn than those that don't. It's no different from banks who base loans and credit ratings on the account owner's credit history. If that seems self-evident, consider that seating and behavior make a difference. What does that mean?
     (1) It means putting yourself in a strategic seat in the classroom (sometimes that's controlled, but usually it's not). A strategic seat is usually near the center-front of the room. Slouching down in the back row (the gunfighter position) so that you can survey the entire room to check out the opposite sex or keep control, escape being called upon, or possibly catch up on come Zzzzz's usually is a bad strategy (are there any good reasons for sitting in the back?). A good seat means you can see better (and the prof can see you better...which is the point); hear better (ditto), and you will make contacts with people who usually have also made a commitment to learn. These are rules of thumb of course, but the logic is mostly indisputable.
     (2) Relating well to the professor in the classroom is ESSENTIAL. Good relations with the professor...(i.e. come on time, do your homework, try and help the discussion (but participate no matter what), volunteer to get whatever the prof forgot, helping with the VCR, etc. will usually help you succeed. Some people will call this "sucking up to the prof;"...those who call it that are usually jerks. Being helpful to others in the class, including the professor is both appropriate and honest. Bad relations (coming in late, smart-mouth attitude, bored look, bad smell and dress, cynical questions "are we expected to know this for the exam?", talking in class with your neighbor, no homework, and cutting class are guaranteed to get you mentioned in the faculty lounge (professors are not the only ones who get reputations)...and not the way you would like.

Sometimes you won't feel like being there...maybe the prof ain't so hot. that's life and won't change anywhere, even when you start work, so learn to go with the flow. Other times, there will be problems at home or in the dorm. Your best choice is to make sure you share those problems with someone on your "team;" but make sure your professor knows that it is not him or her or the class that is causing you problems (sometimes it's very hard for the prof to tell)...and if it is the prof or class situation let him or her know, in a nice way, what you need to change things so you can be more productive.

Bottom line : communicate, communicate, communicate. 

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