1. Come to class. Regular class attendance is one of the biggest predictors of success. As you will see if you compare the online lecture overheads with actual class notes, the overheads are just *outlines* of the actual lecture, and if you do not fill in the outlines, you will be missing most of the content of the lecture. Also, most people benefit from having material presented in several ways (eg, verbally and in writing). Further, in class you will be able to ask questions, participate in demonstrations, and take pop quizzes, which will not only provide extra credit points, but should also help you to learn the material and learn how to answer questions you may be unsure of on actual exams.
2. Read the book. Due to limited class time, there is obviously going to be more opportunity to go into detail in the text than in class. The text also provides much of the same information as I do in lectures for major points, giving you the chance to have that material available in different formats and different words. Finally, the majority of the test questions refer directly to content from your textbook.
3. Use your resources. You have a large number of resources available to help you do well. On this website, you have the lecture overheads, study guides, practice quizzes, tips for doing well, and more. You also have links to the textbook website, which includes even more practice test options amongst its other content, and to various writing resources. I have regular office hours every week, and will meet with you outside of these hours if need be. You have the option of turning in drafts of your PsychLogs to get feedback before turning them in for grading. And CMU offers a number of other resources for all students. For example, tutoring is available free of charge for all 100-level and 200-level courses (and others also).
4. Give yourself plenty of time, and pace yourself. If you first try to study for the exam the night before, or two nights before, you are unlikely to do well. There is simply too much material to learn from scratch in that amount of time. On the other hand, if you read the chapters as we cover them, by the time you get to the exam you will already have read each chapter, and been able to integrate the text material with what was covered during class, so studying will be a review, as it should be, rather than the first time you see the text chapter. Starting to study earlier also allows you to complete multiple study guides, to ensure that by the time you come to the exam, you can complete the entire study guide without referring to your notes or the text, as outlined below.
5. Do practice tests. While I've already mentioned these as one of your available resources, I want to stress them specifically, because I think practice tests are such a useful tool both for learning and for feeling prepared for your exam. This website includes a few questions for each chapter, but even longer tests are available on the textbook companion website; practice questions are also included at the end of each textbook chapter. Research has shown that repeated testing helps learning tremendously, and that in fact, just the process of testing facilitates learning the material being tested on. You have several opportunities for repeated testing of material in class, via pop quizzes, unit exams, and the cumulative final, but you also can ensure doing well on your in-class exams by taking all the practice tests ahead of time, so you know before you come for the "real" exam that you can correctly answer similar questions on the same material.
Other tips to help ensure a good grade:
1. Read the chapters before the class in which we cover them. If you’ve already missed that opportunity, make sure to read them soon afterward. This will help you integrate the information and also recognize which parts you do or do not really understand.
2. During class, if there’s something you don’t understand, ask me! Chances are you’re not the only one. If you realize later you didn’t understand something, come ask me as soon as possible, so that you have that information before the exam.
3. After class, take the extra five or ten minutes to review the main topics and why they’re important - it’ll help you a lot in remembering that day’s lecture. During this time, also go fill in the notes you took if while reviewing them you realize you've left blanks where you will later want more information.
4. As you review the day's material, if you have MsyPsychLab look through that also so that you have the best sense of what each thing listed means.
5. When you begin to study, start by reviewing the chapter summaries at the end of each chapter (assuming of course that you’ve already read the chapters themselves!). Then put marks next to those sections that were strongly emphasized in class, so you know they’re important. Also put (different) marks next to the sections that I said you could skip.
6. Next, outline the chapters. If outlining doesn’t work for you, make sure to do something with the material to help you organize it and make sense of it more than just reading it over again - remember what you learned about shallow vs. deep processing. This is also a good time to use the textbook study guide as a way of helping learn the material - there are lots of practice questions in there you can use to test yourself, as well as summaries of the material.
7. THEN, after doing the above, go to the study guide (the one I distribute, not the textbook one) and see how much you can answer without looking in your notes or textbook. This will give you a good idea of what you really know for the exam.
8. AFTER doing the study guide without looking, go back and check your answers. Make note of any sections that you missed, and make sure to reread that material. This is true for sections you got wrong as well as those you left blank.
9. Before the exam, you should be able to do this whole study guide by heart. If you start studying in advance, you’ll give yourself the time you need to do all the steps listed here, and you should do well on the test. If you try doing this the night before, chances are you won’t be able to, and you also won’t have a chance to ask questions before the exam. So please study in advance.
10. Come see me! If there are things you're not sure about while you're studying, ask me about them - if it's a straightforward question you can email or call, or for any kind of question you can come to my office.
11. After an exam, if you didn't do well, or as well as you'd expected to, come to my office to review the exam. The exams are in the bin outside my office door, so you do not need to come during office hours. I've found that students who bring their exam cards and review the questions they got wrong tend to do much better on future exams. If after doing that you're still not sure how to do better, bring your exam cards and notebooks to my office so we can review your test-taking, note-taking, and study habits together. Again, students who have done this have often seen much higher grades in subsequent exams.
12. Make sure you look over your exams and your psychlogs when you get them back. For exams, come to my office and look through the answer key so you can understand why you missed the questions you missed. This will help you in figuring out, for example, whether you made simple mistakes or truly didn't understand a concept, which is useful information to have as you learn new material. It will also help you tremendously to have gone over the unit exams while the material was still fresh when the time comes for you to take the final exam. For the PsychLogs, look at all the comments (and ask me if there are any you can't read!), and the breakdown of your score, so you understand why you got the grade you did and what you might want to do differently next time, if anything.
13. I haven't watched all of these yet, but here's
a set of videos that not only
provides study information, but specifically discusses some traps you might now
be able to avoid or overcome.
1. Read the question first with the answers covered up. In many cases, you should be able to fill in the correct answer, and then when you uncover the answers you can just see which one best matches what you already said. In this way, you avoid getting distracted by alternate choices.
2. If you don’t know the answer but you can eliminate some of the others, cross them off. It’s usually easier to narrow it down if you can see clearly which ones aren’t right.
3. When you’re reading both questions and answers, circle or underline important words (such as NOT, or ALWAYS, but also words that specify what you’re looking for, like CONDITIONED vs. UNCONDITIONED). This will help you avoid jumping to quick conclusions, and also will force you to read the questions more carefully.
4. If there are any words you don’t know, ask. Unless they’re things I’m testing you on, I’ll help.
5. Write on your exam books. Draw diagrams, make lists, cross off answers you know are wrong, mark questions you're not sure about and want to go back to, etc.
6. TAKE YOUR TIME!!! You have the entire class period to complete your exam, and to recheck your answers. Just because other people are going to race out after half an hour doesn’t mean you have to start rushing.
These are a few guidelines to help you decide what to study most and least in depth. Used in conjunction with the study guides, hopefully they will make your study decisions a little easier.
Generally speaking, the stuff you want to know MOST in depth is material that was covered both in class and in the text, especially if we spent a lot of time on it or I otherwise indicated it was really important. The next in-depth would be material that I covered in class and referred to the text for (as in, "the text explains this part very clearly, so I won't go into all the details here, but make sure to read that section..."). Then would be things that I covered in class but aren't in the book, or that are in the book but not covered in class. This does NOT mean that material in this last category won't be on your test!! What it means is that you probably don't need to know this material in as much detail as you do material that was covered more in class and/or your text.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to stop by or email. Good luck!
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