Studying requires a definite set of skills which must be understood, developed, and practiced. What is studying? Sitting down and reading a textbook or being sprawled out on a bed and skimming through an assignment is a small part of it. Studying is an all-out concentrated attempt to learn. It is successful only if you learn well and efficiently.
Some of the components which contribute to successful study habits are good motivation, organization of work, budgeting time, good attendance in class, concentration, listening, and reading of the texts including all charts, graphs, and tables.
WHAT IS MOTIVATION?
Motivation is the desire or the urge to learn. This urge to learn may come from the use which you wish to make of the subject in your future career. It may come from a desire to satisfy your teacher or parents. It may come from a desire to enter college, to earn a scholarship, or from a desire for a feeling of accomplishment.
Unless you have a desire to learn, there is a tendency to secure just enough knowledge to last through the next meeting of the class. Motivation can be a desire for happiness, rewards, obtaining the praise of others, or just receiving satisfaction in obtaining the answers to the unknown.
Set some standards which will have to be reached in order to perform to your own satisfaction. Make each class a challenge. Aim high enough so that you will feel proud of your own accomplishments and that others will be happy to know you and to be in your company. Studying becomes more enjoyable when you build within, yourself the proper motivation. It has been learned that the Phi Beta Kappa graduate is more successful vocationally than the person who barely achieves graduation. Earn good grades to assist in obtaining a scholarship. Good grades help to get you into law, medicine, graduate school, or into some of the better job opportunities.
HAVE A PLACE TO STUDY
Every student should have a quiet Place to study which is as free from distractions as possible, This means no TV! It means that you will be better off if the radio is quiet. Commercials and comments will distract your mind from the things you are trying to do. Avoid things which draw your mind away from your studies. It is fine if you can have a desk and a straight back chair will be a helpful adjunct. There should be a dictionary, a book of synonyms, and pens and pencils nearby. A yellow marker is handy to mark important sentences in your books. Do not use markers on books from the library.
Psychologists have found that a prolonged study of two or more hours does not bring helpful results. The student will be better off if he concentrates on his task for forty-five to fifty minutes and then takes ten minutes out for physical exercises, such as stretching, walking, or doing setting-up exercises. This will rest your body and relax your mind. Good health, both physical and mental, will make a better student.
When you sit down at your desk, start studying. Your mind is lazy, and there will be a tendency to daydream. You are in charge of your mind and you can tell it what to do. Forget everything and concentrate on the task at hand. Build an enthusiasm for your task along with your motivation, for the more you know about a subject, the more interesting it will become. A subject which is said to be dull can become more interesting if you really study and do not allow other factors to enter in. You can read further than the assignment and you can consult with other authors. It can be fun. 'There are sermons in stones, books in running brooks, and good in everything.' Motivate yourself, build enthusiasm, and create a quiet place to study. It will help with your work. Do not lie on the bed, for your mind thinks of that as a place to relax, and sleep and it will do just that. Find a place to study and use it only for that purpose. Even the picture of your latest girl or boyfriend should be on the bureau and not on your study table.
HOW TO STUDY YOUR ASSIGNMENT
Professor Walter Pauk, Reading Study Center, Cornell University has an OK4R method. The "O" means that you should make an overview of the assignment. This can be done by reading the sentences at the beginning of each paragraph and creating for yourself a word picture of what the assignment is about. What is the author trying to accomplish in this particular section?
The "K" means to get the key ideas. What are the main points the author wants to tell you? Sometimes your teacher, in making the assignment, will cite some of the key ideas in the assignment. Make a note of these in your assignment notebook, for then you will know what she considers to be the most important parts. It is similar to making an outline. First you get the overview of what is going to be learned and then you get the key ideas or the main points of the assignment. Ask yourself, on the next assignment that you study, if you have these two points.
Professor Pauk mentions the four "R's." These are read, recall, recite, and review. READ the entire assignment carefully. Watch your mind as it will wander off if you do not discipline yourself and concentrate on the subject. You have a specific task before you and that is to read and to understand. Read all of the assignment. If you come to a new word which you do not know, look it up or make a note of it. Perhaps its meaning will be clear as you complete that particular sentence but it is better to look for the word meaning. When you have read the complete assignment, you should have an excellent idea of what it is all about.
RECALL all that you have read. Start with the general topic of the assignment when you make the survey. Can you enumerate all the key ideas? Would you be willing to go to class some hours later and lead a discussion on the subject? There is a way that you can test your ability and that is the use of the third 'R.'
RECITE to yourself all about the lesson. Enumerate the key ideas which the author emphasized and tell yourself about them. This will impress them upon your mind and you will be able to recall them at a later time when they are needed. This reciting is valuable to assist in recall. If you are a normal person, there will be some parts of the assignment which will be a little vague in your mind and you will have a small amount of uncertainty. This is where the fourth 'R' works into the study pattern. This "R" is REVIEW.
REVIEW the entire assignment, Read the topic sentences. If you are not certain what it is all about, read through the section carefully and make certain that you understand. This reviewing of the assignment, as reciting to yourself, will serve to impress each aspect of the lesson upon your mind. You will be surprised by the amount of retention the next day if you have followed this plan carefully.
Now, if you have been studying for about fifty, minutes, take ten minutes out for some type of physical activity. It will improve your next assignment. You can use setting up exercises, such as deep knee bends, or stretch out on the floor and bring your left elbow to your right knee and then your right elbow to your left knee. Use those exercises which have been given in your gym classes. If you want to gain strength in all parts of your body, ask your physical education teacher for some suggestions or send to the President's Committee on Physical Fitness, Washington, D.C. and request one of their exercise books. You can find a large number of helpful exercises in Your Boy Scout handbook. Spend about ten minutes to help your body, and then attack the next job with your mind.
THE OHIO STATE PLAN
Professor Francis Robinson of Ohio State University has a similar plan for studying. He calls it the SQ3R method. This is the plan which was adopted by the United States Air Force for their service schools. The 'S' is to make a survey of the entire assignment. This is what Professor Pauk refers to as the 'Overview' and which we have discussed. The "Q" is to question yourself on what main points you encountered in the survey or it is getting the "Key Ideas" of the assignment. The three "R's" are READ RECITE AND REVIEW. As you see the plans are very similar. You can make yourself and excellent student by "OK4R" or the SQ3R" plan. Just follow either one carefully and it will work wonders for you. It will work wonders for you. It will eventually cut your study time in half. Try it and see
The one thing that you must do is to tell yourself that you will study the assignment on the desk in front of you. Your mind will suggest delays, it will make excuses, it will say that the work can be done over the weekend. Do not allow your mind to run you. YOU run your mind and discipline yourself. That is the reason for keeping the TV and radio out of the room. Sure it seems as though you can study better when the radio is playing the latest song. It is not true. That is your mind making excuses for not working. So you just have a place to study at hand. Keep your mind and body in good shape.
THE TIME SCHEDULE
We have talked about a place to study. We have discussed two excellent methods of how to study. Now as soon as you have had some experience with your courses, you should prepare a time schedule. Here is one type which you might use or change to suit your own convenience:
Some students work out a plan for the entire month but experience shows that a one week period works better. Later on, after additional experience, you may not need such a schedule because the study habit will be so ingrained that your mind will be able to keep track of the plan for you. Assign time for your other activities for that is important also, as we have stressed all through these suggestions.
Another method of scheduling your time is to get a calendar notebook from your stationery store. Fill in the squares opposite the appointment time with the amount which you feel will be necessary. Fill in all the spaces--yes, even the weekends.
Your own time schedule should indicate that 2-1/2 hours per day will be spent on studying, Monday through Friday. Less will not bring any helpful results. Twenty minutes of the time period should be spent in exercises. Study the sample chart form and make your own. You have heard of 'math sharks' or those people for whom that subject is easy. If you are a 'math shark' you may have to spend less time than anyone else on math. Use the extra time to work on subjects which may be more difficult or less interesting to you. If there is a shortage of interest, try to find some aspect of the course which will be helpful to you.
About eight hours should be scheduled for sleeping and even more will be helpful to the growing high school boy or girl. If you have a job, you should work it in during the afternoon hours when sports have been scheduled. There are some of us who have to work during high school and college. This means that you will have to curtail some of the beneficial physical activities. Do not try to take on too much but schedule necessary work along with your activities, so that there will be a constant reminder. Some people do their studying for Monday on Saturday mornings, some in the afternoon, and others use the evening. It is well to keep Sunday free if possible. It is not thought that studying on Sunday is a sin or anything wrong with it, but there should be one day each week when one can read for recreation or news, or listen to the TV and be free from the pressure of studying.
It is being emphasized that each student should make a time schedule and stick to it. There should be outside activities. There will be times when you will want to watch a good TV program or go to a movie. That means the schedule will be changed but stick to it as much as possible. You will find that the study habit will grow and become stronger, just as your mind trains itself in various sports or in driving a car. It will become stronger as you force your mind to obey your will.
One of the greatest time savers is to jot down the main points in an assignment. Taking notes is a skill, for one will have to understand if he is to boil down the main points into a few words. If you are listening to a lecture, you will have to learn to make notes and listen at the same time.
It is helpful, if during your study period, you make a few notes as you make your review at the termination of your studying the subject for that day. A notebook may be used or a few cards may be preferred, A few notes made of the assignment during your study time will be a great time saver as you review for a quiz or a final examination. At the end of the semester or the end of the course, you will find no better way to review.
Most students prefer the loose-leaf notebook. The size depends upon the individual. Some students prefer the pocket size and others use the 8-1/2 x 11 inch size. If one is fortunate enough to own, a typewriter, he may type his notes. If he types his notes made during a lecture, it will help to accent the lecture in his mind. If he types his notes made during his study time, it will emphasize them more and there is no question about rapidly reading them when it comes to reviewing. Make notes brief enough so as not to consume too much time. Make them clear enough so that their value will not be destroyed in making the review.
There are students who have a file for each subject and use cards of the 3x 5 or the 4 x 6 size. The larger card allows a little more space, it is simply a question of taste. There are times when the cards are misplaced or lost so most use the loose-leaf notebook.
Regardless of the system you use, utilize the things you have learned in your English class such as grammar and punctuation to make your notes clear and comprehensive. It is a good practice to use proper English and it is helpful in review if there is adequate punctuation. Make things easy for yourself and be as efficient as possible.
STUDYING FOREIGN LANGUAGES
Most high school students have a choice between Latin, French, German, or Spanish and many colleges require the satisfactory completion of two years of a foreign language for admission. If you are planning to become a scientist, it will be well to take German, as that language will be of the most aid in scientific research. If you are planning on a course in the social studies or wish to take a language which will be helpful in travel, you might try French or Spanish. Latin will help you with English grammar. Spanish is also helpful if you are entering the U.S. State Department or planning on a business career. In any event, discuss this matter with your counselor and your parents.
You must remember that in the study of a foreign language, you must learn to walk before you can run. Study your vocabulary assignment carefully and repeat the words to yourself. If you have to stop and look up several words in each sentence as you translate, you are headed for trouble and you need help. The word order in a foreign language is different from English. As you start your foreign language, learn each word carefully and then THINK in the language which you are studying. The 0K4R or the SQ3R method will work as well in the foreign language as it will in other subjects. The only difference is that you are working in the foreign language of your choice. Speaking in a foreign language will bring fun and personal satisfaction.
For most of the foreign languages, there are 'ponies' and 'trots." These are translations of the books and papers which you are called upon to translate. A 'pony' is a complete translation of the pages. A 'trot" is a book which has the meaning of the word printed above it. They are all right to check your translation but do not use them as a crutch. No great value comes from their use except that you may check your own translation and make certain that you are right. Otherwise leave such books closed and out of the way. Ask your language teacher what he thinks about their use.
If you have kept notes in some manner or if you have marked some of the main points in your textbook, simply make a quick review. If there isn't an immediate recall of what the paragraph is about, read through that section in your book. if you have carefully followed the directions and practiced the rules for proper study, you will need to spend only a short time in reviewing.
A young man was faced with an important final examination in medicine to be given the following day. He skimmed through his notes after dinner, looked up one or two points on which there was a little uncertainty, and then went to a show! It was a sound procedure and a good psychologist would advise any student to carry out such a plan. When he returned to his fraternity house after the show, he went to bed and slept soundly. The next morning, he was fresh and rested. After a shower, he went to the medical college, wrote the examination and later received a high grade.
We would urge and advise that the student not stay up late at night to study. Keep your reviewing methods current. Enter the examination room with time to spare as a hasty entrance disturbs your own mind and that of the instructor in addition to the other students. Start your examination in a calm manner which means that you will not allow your mind to busy itself making such vague excuses as "I'm not good in this course anyway." If you have studied according to the system and made a short review prior to the examination, you will pass successfully.
Review the entire paper. Note the credit points allocated to each question and spend the majority of your time on those questions which your instructor has considered most important. Sketch a brief outline of the points which, you wish to cover on scrap paper and write from the outline. Instructors will be better able to follow your answer if you use headings. Check off each question as you answer it for otherwise you may unintentionally omit an important question.
Objective examinations are those which have true-false, multiple choice, and other questions of this type. They do test your ability to think, to recall, and to utilize the results of the previous studying. The instructor is able to cover more of the subject matter. It is, of course, much more difficult to construct a dependable objective test than an essay examination. They are easier to review. The grade which you earn is not as biased as an essay type may be.
The best way to prepare for any type of examination is to review your notes that have been prepared in a notebook or on cards. Sure, it will require time to prepare them. Ten times that amount of time will be saved in preparing your review for a quiz on a specific portion or on the entire course.
A FINAL FEW WORDS
The suggestions on how to study are based upon sound psychological principles. In the final analysis, it is up to you. If you will take the principles and use them, you will have the sweet taste of success. if you do not force your mind to concentrate and use the principles, then studying will become a source of tiresome labor and you will not be as successful as you wish to be. No person--your teacher or your parent-- can stand beside you and keep your mind on your work. YOU HAVE SOLE CONTROL OF YOUR MIND. Determine you are going to have self-control. We can only repeat, it is up to you.
by JOSEPH E. BARBER