Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

The Five Step FormulaOne simple thing that students can do to improve their grades, is to read their textbooks and read them at the right times! I am going to give you a 5-step formula that is very simple, but will make a HUGE difference in your understanding of new material and in your grades. This formula should be used every time you are tackling new material for your class:

Step 1: Consult your syllabus the day before each class, and see what is going to be covered in your next lecture. Then, read the corresponding textbook material during the 24 hours before the next class. Take notes using the Cornell method, and leave spaces between each topic, so you can add to them during the lecture, if needed.

Step 2: Go to class, and during the lecture, add to your notes any time you see things you missed, or if you need to clarify things.

Step 3: Review your notes (including the material covered in class) within 20 minutes after the lecture. (If you go to another class right after that one, review while you are waiting for the next class to start.) Edit, or add to your notes, as needed.

Step 4: Conduct another review of this material within 24 hours, and write study questions for the material.

Step 5: Review again in a week and any time you have a chance, go over your study questions. (See this post on portable flash cards.)

Keep track of these reviews in your planner, or each time you finish a review, write the day you should conduct the next review at the top of the page. After you have completed these five steps, you have established pretty solid bank of memories you can draw from during your next exam. If you will be having a comprehensive final exam, continue to skim/review the material every 3-4 weeks to keep it active in your memory throughout the semester.

This process is tight. You will learn and retain information better than ever, and will be far less stressed that you would be if you were cramming for every exam.

Good luck!

  1. Study at a DESK!You need to be comfortable, but you also need to be in a place that helps you stay alert and focused. Studying in a bed encourages sleep, not learning.
    2. Exercise helps.Studies have shown that mental function improves with exercise and results in better memory. Research also shows that listening to music while exercising boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills.
    3. Your brain needs real food. Donuts and coffee don’t cut it. The neurotransmitters in your brain are made from amino acids, which are derived from the protein in your diet. So, you need to choose high-protein foods such as cheese, eggs, meats or nuts, rather than high-carbohydrate crackers, chips, cookies or juice.
    4. Drink lots of WATER! Did you know that dehydration can lead to fatigue and lack of ability to focus? Choose more water over coffee, and keep your water chilled for added alertness.
    5. Get to know your professors! Ask questions during, before or after class. Take advantage of office hours. Ask for clarification when you do not completely understand something. Ask for suggestion on supplemental materials. These things can make a difference between an “A” or a “B”!
    6. Buy the textbook. The textbook is not optional; I don’t care what anyone tells you. If you struggling with budget, see if an older addition of the text is available, or even a digital version. But, you MUST have a textbook in order to do what you need to do.
    7. Be realistic. If you know you will consistently sleep through an 8 am class, there is no reason to sign up for it. Make a schedule you can actually keep.
    8. Use all of the helps on campus. My campus has a writing lab, a walk-in math and science lab, peer tutoring, a speech lab, and many computer/printing centers throughout the campus. And, all of these services are FREE. Find out what your college offers and take advantage. A little bit of help can easily boost your grades.
    9. You must study if you want good grades. I know you may have cruised through high school, but college is different. Instructors expect you to do the majority of work outside of class, and classes move twice as fast. Multiply the number of credit hours you are taking by 1, 2 or 3, depending on the level of difficulty. That is how many hours you need to be studying a week for each class. No, I’m not kidding.
    10. Study Groups Help. One semester, I was in a particularly difficult medieval literature class, and I was pretty sure that class was going to jeopardize my 4.0 grade point average. I didn’t know anyone in the class, but I was able to form a study group by sending a group email to class members via Blackboard, and we ended up with 8-10 people in the group. I don’t think I would have made an “A” without that group. It is a great way to clarify your understanding, revise and add to your class notes, discuss topics is greater depth, and come closer to mastering the material.

my angry professor graphicI frequently work with struggling students at the college, and many of them are having difficulty in one or more classes. When I meet new students for the first time, we discuss their classes and try to identify the root of their academic struggles. This helps me to come up with a game plan to improve his or her grades.

During the discussion, one thing i have heard many times is, “My professor hates me!”

Could it be true? Could a professor really hate a student?

The truth is, we are all flawed human beings, and it would be disingenuous for me to say it was impossible for this to happen. There certainly may be personality conflicts or relationships that get off on the wrong foot, which can create a less-than-perfect scenerio for the professor/student relationship.

If you are in a situation where you feel the professor does not like you, here are some tips for survival:

1. Don’t gossip about your professor! Nothing good that can come from this! If you absolutely need to vent, keep it within the circle of your closest confidants.

2. Don’t lose your temper in class. I remember being in a class where a professor was being incredibly hard on a particular student’s written work during the class discussion. The student didn’t take it well and began a heated debate with the instructor. Other students in the class were uncomfortable, nothing about the conversation helped the situation, and in the end, the student was kicked out of the class. As difficult as it is, take the high road and bite your tongue.

3. Don’t purposely bug your professor. I know… it is kind of like you have an itch that you want to scratch… but, it is a path to self-destruction and escalation.

Instead, here is what you DO:

1. Do start with a little self-examination. Has your attitude been good? Do you arrive at class on time? Have you been doing your work? Are you cooperative and helpful class? Do you pay attention (or do you text or otherwise goof off in class)? If you are behaving in ways that are distracting or are disrespectful, then the first thing you need to do is change yourself and your own attitude. Admit where you are wrong and fix it.

2. Do look at the BIG picture… Look at the impact it will have on  your academic progress. Is it early enough in the semester to drop the class and take something else? Or, can you take the same class with a different instructor? What impact will dropping a class have on your financial aid, your timely degree completion and other things?

3. Do talk to your professor in his or her office. Avoid being confrontational, but tell the professor your perception and see what kind of reaction  you get. If the professor really does not like you and admits it, you might be better off just dropping the class. If your professor denies it, and especially if he or she is apologetic, you may want to hang on to the class. Trust your gut.

4. Do your best. If you have to stay in the class, keep your nose clean, make it a priority to keep up with the work, and you may want to keep your mouth shut as much as possible, especially if you can see that your participation just annoys the professor. Document everything by keeping assignment sheets, your returned work, and any written feedback you receive from your professor.

5. Do try to stay positive (or fake that you are). A negative attitude, a scowl in class, or not completing work will only hurt yourself.


The Myndology flash cards are my favorite flash cards. I used them exclusively for my college classes. Why do I like them so much? They are especially great if you are frequently on the move, if you have to memorize a lot of facts or vocabulary words, and if you like to have an easy way to study during short breaks throughout the day.

  • The ring on each set, keeps the cards all together, which makes them extremely portable, even when you are truly on the move! I kept all of my current cards in my purse, which allowed me to pull them out and study whenever I found myself with a few spare minutes. When I was taking Spanish classes, I used them to help me memorize vocabulary and verb conjugation charts, and I took them with me when I took my daily walks. I also used them at the gym when walking on the treadmill or using the stationary bike. Because of the rings, I didn’t have to worry that I would drop the cards and have them blow away, jam up the treadmill or get mixed up.
  • The cards also lend themselves well to organizing by color or sections. The Muse card sets have both white and accent colors. The Ergo style cards are white and include two colored cards that you can use as dividers. The Neon card set has five different colors of cards in each set. When I was memorizing Spanish vocabulary, I used the colors to group together different types of words. When memorizing Historical Geology terms I color coded them with these cards, as well.
  • The cards can be secured with the cover. This keeps them from sprawling out in my backpack or purse, which prevents them from getting bent up, and also keeps my bag neater. When I am finished with a set of cards, I can write a description of the contents on the spine, and thenstore them neatly in a small storage box I keep on my desk. If I need the cards again for review or for a comprehensive exam, I have them handy and well-organized due to the neatly closed packaging these card sets provide.

These little cards worked so well for me, I earned “A’s” in my classes. They come in different sizes, so if I’m learning something that doesn’t take much space, like vocabulary words, I can use the 1″ X 3″ cards. If I need to put something larger on the cards, like verb conjugation charts, I can use one of the larger sizes.

Myndology Flash Cards

The new semester just started at the college where I work as the Study Skills Development Specialist. Things are busy and even though we have only been back to class for a week, many students are already requesting one-on-one tutoring sessions.

These students have done something that I wish more students would do. They ask for help and they ask for it early. On the other hand, we often have students who wait until the last few weeks of school, asking for a tutor, and then wanting to learn everything they were supposed to learn throughout the entire semester in just a few days.

Sorry folks… but that would require an parting-of-the-red-sea type of miracle.

While I cannot hand you a miracle strategy, I can share a formula that equals success for students who apply it consistently. Here is it… the formula for success:

Time + Repetition = Success

There is no substitute for it! So, you have a choice to make. The easy way or the hard way. The easy way is to be actively engaged in the process of learning on a daily basis. The easy way consists of being prepared for class, being actively engaged in class, reviewing class notes and text material on a daily basis, and allowing at least five days to study for each exam.

Start this semester right and follow the formula for success. I will be back soon, but until then, please do one thing for me.

Before each and every class, PRE-READ the material your instructor will be covering in the lecture for that day. Even if you do not have time to read the entire thing, at least survey the chapter. Read the chapter headings, read the first paragraph of each section, skim the text, look at any charts or diagrams and read any end of chapter summary or questions. See if you can answer the questions in the summary. Now go to class with this minimal preparation, and see what a difference it makes in your comprehension of the lecture. By preparing your brain with a foundation, you give your instructor something to build on.

Try it and then please share your experiences with me! I also encourage questions!


When I was in college, the term, “freshman fifteen,” referred to the fifteen pounds or more that most students gained during their first year of college. It was a true phenomenon, and I suppose we could chalk it up to a number of things. Perhaps metabolism slows down a little after 18. Or, it could be the high fat and starch diets found in many college cafeterias. Or perhaps, we should point a finger at the frat parties with plentiful booze. To top it off, it could also be the sedentary lifestyle of students who study for hours on a daily basis (is that true?). Whatever the reason, you don’t have to go to the gym every day to fight off the pounds. Making a conscious effort to stay physically active can make a big difference, not only in your body, but also in your mind. It is a well-established fact that exercise strengthens the structure and function of the brain. Many animal and human studies have “shown that a few months of moderate exercise can create new neurons, lift mood and hone memory and thinking”.

Here are some easy ways to do it:

  • Walk. Walk a lot. If you drive to school, don’t go for the closest parking lot. Park further away, and then take a brisk walk to your class.
  • Always, always choose the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you live close enough to campus to ride a bike to school, then do it!
  • When you walk to classes, do so at a brisk pace. Who cares if it doesn’t look cool?
  • Your campus probably has a gym. Go there and use the tread mill, elliptical, or stationery bike, and you can even use your study flash cards while you do it (see the previous post on this topic).

When you are studying, take breaks ever 45-50 minutes. This is good for your mind, but it is also good for your body if you use the break to move. Take a walk around the dorm, go up and down the stairs a few times, or change your study area. For example, if you have been studying in the library for the last hour, pack up your bag and walk to the café. Study for an hour while you sip your latte, and then pack up your bag and move to yet another area. The breaks and movement are great for your concentration and study power.

To sum it up…. Get moving!

ipodWhile I was in college full-time, I was working about 30 hours a week, and I was also a single mother.  It was busy, but I tried to work out every day to stay fit and to relieve stress! Last week, I ran across a list of ideas on the web for combining exercise with studying, and I thought I’d share the gist of each idea from the list and agument it with my own experiences.
1) Be prepared: Always have a notebook, textbook, or flashcards with you. I just take my school bag with me everywhere I go, so that I’m prepared to study when I have time. Many different types of exercise equipment have a book stand, so you can read or study while feeling the burn!
2) Become a multi-tasker: Audio books can be a painless way to do this. My degree is in English, and there was a semester when I had to read about 3 novels a week. I didn’t want to give up my exercise routine, so I started to download audio books to my iPod, and then listen while driving, walking, jogging, or working out. I did have to monitor myself carefully, because I would occasionally tune out. I fixed that by rewinding periodically. I also found it helpful to read a summary of the chapter before I started listening, which made it easier me to follow the audio.
3) Team Up: Do you have a study partner you can take to the gym? If so, quiz each other while working out, and let there be consequences for wrong answers. (Really? 20 Crunches for not knowing the definition of hypothalamus?)
4) Sound Off! You might also be able to memorize material while running, using the cadence of your steps to help you memorize. I can testify that this works well. When I was taking Spanish class, I probably memorized 90% of my vocabulary and verb conjugation charts this way. I used the myndology flash cards so that I didn’t have to worry about losing or dropping the cards. This of course, can also be done while working out on a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationery bike.myndology pink
5) Suffer the Consequences: Quiz yourself while on a stationary bike or treadmill and every time you get something wrong, do a 30-second sprint.
Exercise improves your fitness and well-being; college can be stressful, and exercise has some powerful stress-busting benefits, and the suggestions above are incredibly healthy for you both mentally and physically.
If you have any experience with combining exercise and study, please comment below. I’d love to hear what you have tried and how it worked for you.