Posts Tagged ‘exams’

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!

myndology

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

About six weeks ago, I made a decision that may not seem very big to most people… but to me it was huge. I decided to run a 5K. It isn’t a long run by runners’ standards, but I’ve never been a distance runner, so it is pretty big to me! I’ve been using the Couch to 5K app to train and am now running almost 3 miles without stopping. There have been days I’ve struggled to keep going, but one thing I’ve learned is that I can’t allow myself to stop. At the beginning of my training, I gave up a couple of times, but I realized it made completing the run more difficult. Why? Because I had made stopping an option. So, I made a decision– no more stopping. I would keep going, even if it was a very slow jog. Surprisingly, when I did this, it was never as bad as I thought it was going to be– as a matter of fact, I learned that if I kept going, the quitters spirit went away and it got easier. Each time I finished a run, I increased my strength and determination for the next time. I developed a sense of pride and accomplishment, and because I didn’t allow myself to quit, it built my stamina, strengthened my muscles, and increased my confidence. All of this, just because I kept putting one foot in front of the other.dont stop

Are you doing something that doesn’t come easy to you? Are you entertaining the idea of giving up? Don’t let yourself believe any voice that says you can’t do something. Success is always the result of being very intentional and deliberate. I often see students who give up in a class, or even give up on pursuing their degree just because things got a little hard. The unfortunate thing is…. the point where a student begins to really struggle, is often the point where good things are about to happen. It is a moment when the student can quit, or make a decision that will build his or her stamina, strength and confidence.

When I first started my job at the community college, one of the first students I met with was taking a developmental math class for the fourth time. A few of the staff members thought he was a hopeless case…. he obviously wasn’t able to do it, or didn’t really want to do it, they said. But, I saw something different in him. When I talked with him, I learned that he had gone through some tough times and it negatively impacted his schooling. Yet, he had a tenacity most of the students I worked with did not possess. He told me that he was determined to pass the class and that he would do whatever it took to get through it. And he proved it to me by following through with the game plan I put in place for him, by attending math tutoring faithfully, and by not quitting! At the end of the semester, I got goosebumps when I heard the news…. He got an “A” in his math class! He understood that the only way that class would defeat him was if he quit trying.

So remember… don’t stop. Only volumes of hard work will close the gap between your outcome and your ambitions. It will take some time. And you may have to put up a big fight. That’s normal. You just have to keep going.

Don’t stop.

curve of forgetting“The Curve of Forgetting” is something I speak to all of my students about early in the semester. It is a powerful piece of information and it’s application can make a huge difference in grades. This chart is a visual representation of what happens to a person’s memory when they listen to a lecture. As they listen, the curve steadily increases until it reaches 100% of whatever he or she will know, however well they will know it. As you can see, after the lecture the curve takes a rapid and steady decline when the student does nothing to try to retain it. By day 2, if the information has not been revisited in any way, 50-80% will be lost!  After 30 days, only 2-3% of the original information is still hanging on. This may coincide with an exam date, and the student has to relearn almost 100% of the information that could have simply been retained with a little effort.

The reason this happens has to do with the instability of our short-term memory. This part of our memory is limited to just five to nine items, so our brains are constantly tossing items out to prevent the short term memory from getting too full. Therefore, if you want to keep a memory, you need to convert it to a long term memory. How does that happen? Quite simply, through repetition. Long term memory is created when chemical messages in the brain create a “neural network.”  The more these connections are used, the stronger the network becomes.  The author of a book titled The Brain in Action equates it with being similar to creating a path in the woods. “The first time you create a path, it is rough and overgrown. The next time you use it, it’s easier to travel because you have previously walked over the weeds and moved the obstacles. Each time thereafter, it gets smoother and smoother. In a similar fashion, the neural networks get more efficient, and messages travel more swiftly” (2). In other words, the more time you give “memory making” the easier it will be for you to access that memory.

If we apply this understanding to the lecture represented in the graph, we know that we must immediately begin giving our brains a hint that we want to retain that information. As you can see from the yellow line on the graph, a brief review within the first 24 hours gives your memory a fantastic boost, almost up to that 100% again. A week later, it only takes 5 minutes to reactivate the information and bump up the curve. If you continue to repeat regular reviews, you have worn a smoother path and given your brain plenty of hints that the information should be kept.

If you don’t do this, you will spend about an hour relearning each hour worth of lecture material. Therefore, it is actually a great use of your time to spend a few minutes reviewing material regularly. Another advantage is that this method decreases test anxiety because the information is in the long term memory, rather than the unstable short term memory.

Do yourself a favor and try this for a couple of weeks and then, do me a favor in return…. let me know what you think!