How My Studying Strategies Have Changed Over the Years

In the past 3 years at McGill University, I have changed my studying strategies. In my first year, I wrote all my notes on paper during class and used the textbook, but did not take advantage of the lecture recordings. My first year classes such as calculus, chemistry, and physics required a lot of doing problems from the textbook. If I missed something while the professor was lecturing, it wasn’t such a big deal. Rarely, I would use the lecture recordings (not rewatch the whole thing) to take a quick look at what I missed if it was important. The only class which was more memorization based was psychology. I would retype my psychology notes I wrote in class and then supplement what I missed with notes from the textbook. My first year worked out pretty well.

In my second year though, my strategy changed drastically and I still use some of the strategies which I honed that year. All the science students have to take the infamous Biol 200 (Molecular Biology) class. We had two excellent undergraduate TAs who held review sessions for us. They told us straight up front that this class was going to be hard. It would require us to go over the material multiple times and not just reading the material, but writing it. This class would serve as the foundation for all other science courses we would take. I knew that I had to get a good grade in this class and find a study strategy which would help me tackle these kinds of memorization heavy classes. I remember before going into university that I had read a book which detailed tips for studying during university. I faintly remembered the author’s name and googled it. Here’s his website, http://calnewport.com. I looked through his website and found that he wrote an article how to study for science classes.
This is the link: http://calnewport.com/blog/2007/09/24/monday-master-class-use-focused-question-clusters-to-study-for-multiple-choice-tests/. In addition to Biol 200, I took anatomy, organic chemistry, and physiology. Organic chemistry consisted of a lot of problem solving. However, biology, anatomy, and physiology are all memorization heavy. This technique would be perfect. To summarize the technique, you take your notes and you make questions which cover all the material. Your questions should be personalized, but since I did IB in high school, I remember that the syllabus had questions like “state three things, describe this, outline that, compare, etc…” I used those command words to make my questions.

For example in the immunology class I just took last semester, one of the questions I made was “Explain how NK cells can directly kill target cells when they are activated.”

In my second year, I used the lecture recordings more. I didn’t use them for every class however. I mainly used it for Biol 200 since I couldn’t write down everything the professor said. After I formatted my notes this way with questions and answers (my notes), I would cover up my notes with only the question visible and then test myself. I felt like it took a lot of time to make the questions, but it helped me while studying to know how much material I mastered and how much more material was left to master.

In my third year, I reshaped my strategy just a little bit. This time, I would take notes from time to time by pen, but not everything that the professor said. Once I got home, I would watch the lecture recording (for every class this time) and type out most of what the professor said and then write the questions. If a class did not have lecture recordings, I used my phone to audio record it. It was painful to type out almost everything the professor said so probably for my last year, I will only write down the important points as I rewatch.

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