Here are some suggestions to anyone new to college, new to the semester system, or just having trouble.
1. Come to class. Results of individual exams and course grades are always clear evidence of what the sylabus tells you: people who don't come to class won't do well on exams. Coming to class doesn't guarantee high grades, but not coming pretty much guarantees low grades.
2. Take good notes. Don't just write down only what's written on the black board. The black board gives you the outline, but the key ideas, and the logical links between them, may not get written there as the professor tries to explain the key points.
3. Look over those notes soon. Review your notes, and ask your professor about things that you realize aren't clear to you. Notes left unread for three weeks are not going to be of much use.
4. Read the assigned readings in the textbook or on the World-wide Web, either before the topic is covered in class or just afterward. This will help you understand what we've covered in lecture. Some things not covered in lecture but in the readings may show up on the exams too.
5. Don't let people mislead you. If you've heard "UGA classes are so easy you don't have to study" or "1000-level classes are so easy you don't have to study", it just ain't so.
As you prepare for an exam:
6. Don't wait until the night before the exam. If you've been following Item #3 above, your normal routine will just grade into pre-exam preparation.
7. Don't just stare at your notes or at the book. You may need to make up flashcards to drill yourself. For example, you might have a card on which one side would say "predictions of the Big Bang theory subsequently corroborated". The other side would list "time dilation, background/afterglow radiation, cooing of galaxies, compositions of unevolved matter". That way you could quiz yourself and help yourself learn.
8. Don't just stare at your notes or at the book. Close your notes and imaging trying to explain the material to someone else. Don't just list things to yourself - explain the linkages in causality or in time.
9. Read the assigned readings again. You may want to take notes from the reading or use the flashcard approach again. Every time you write something, you become more likely to remember it.
10. Don't let "study groups" fool you. Students commonly meet to study in groups. Those meetings inevitably evolve into conversations about anything but the subject matter for the test. Students walk away feeling good and thinking "I studied three hours", when in fact they spent 5 minutes thinking about the exam material and spent 175 minutes hearing about their friends' cars, pets, parents, high schools, etc.
11. If you are in a study group, quiz each other and ask each other to explain things. There's no better way to understand something than to try to explain it in your own words to someone else. It seems odd, but many people who teach will tell you that they didn't really grasp a particular idea, or set of ideas, until they taught about it.
As you take the an exam:
12. Keep calm. Virtually everyone has plenty of time to finish Railsback's 1122 exams. For each question, read the entire question carefully. Be sure to answer the question itself - many responses on exams are counted wrong not because the response is untrue but because it isn't an answer to the particluar question asked.
13. After you've finished the exam, or made a first pass through it, stop and relax. Close your eyes and let your mind drift for a while. Then go through the exam with a fresh approach to check for problems or to fill in parts you left blank.
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