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Study Tips

How to Study

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In the Classroom

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Underlining Effectively

Ten Steps

Test Taking

In the Classroom

Listening and Note Taking



  1. Sit as close as possible to the instructor on the first day of class. There is some evidence that, regardless of ability, you can increase your chances for a good grade by sitting as close to the instructor as you can. The closer you sit, the fewer the visual distractions and the easier it is to concentrate and take notes. You are much less likely to daydream, read a paper, or write letters if you are under the instructor’s eye. So, sit as close as you dare! Seating position tends to be a habit, so use it to the best advantage. Sit down front and establish the habit early.
  2. Review previous class notes occasionally. Let’s be honest...everyone gets bored occasionally in class, even the teacher. If you’re bored in a lecture, don’t doodle in your notebook or write letters. Flip through your previous notes. You are in the classroom anyway, so you may generate some interest and help get yourself back on the track. Even if the instructor continues to ramble and you continue to be disinterested, reviewing previous notes will be a good way to get ready for upcoming examinations. The more you review, the better able you will be to retain material later for exams.
  3. Copy down everything on the board. Did you ever stop to think that every blackboard scribble might be a clue to an exam item? You may not be able to integrate what is on the board into your lecture notes, but if you copy it, it may serve as a useful clue for you later in reviewing. If what the instructor says doesn’t seem to agree with what he has written on the board or if you can’t see how it related, jot down a word or two from the board in the margin of your notes. A single word may be useful to you later.



  1. Introduction. From a student’s point of view, the opening remarks that a professor makes when starting a lecture may have no instructional purpose. The instructor in an academic situation may use the few opening minutes of his lecture to tell you about a book he has read or an article he has seen or some warm, personal, and fairly delightful little human incident that happened to him on the way from the parking lot. If he is a real swinger, he may even tell a joke or two. These introductory remarks serve no particular instructional purpose. They get your attention and inform you that he is ready to talk,
  2. Thesis. This is the sentence or the statement that the instructor makes which gives you the topic for the rest of the hour. You should be listening for the thesis sentence because it is really the key to the whole presentation. He may, for example, summarize briefly what he said in the last lecture and make a few short remarks as to how that development will be continued today.
  3. Body. This is the largest part of the lecture and demands your most active listening. In a typical class hour the instructor can only get across five or six main points to support his thesis. Most of the time is used presenting examples, illustrations, experiments, or data—subpoints that prove each of those main points. How are the main points and many subpoints organized?
    1. Deductive Organization — the instructor gives the main point first and then examples to support it
    2. Inductive Organization — the instructor gives details and examples that lead into the main point or generalization. This approach may be used in argumentative situations or to draw conclusions in a discussion situation.
    3. Mixed Organization — the instructor seems to give generalizations, facts, illustrations, and principles with no particular organization imposed. This is basically a mixture of 1 and 2.
  4. Summary. This occurs at the end of the lecture when the instructor wraps up all he has said and restates the main points of the hour. Often students have a tendency to tune out this part of a lecture, but the good listener knows that it is here that he’ll get a chance to check his understanding of what the lecture was all about.
  5. Irrelevancy. Side remarks may be interesting but are not meant for instructional or grading purposes. Be able to discern whether these are relevant or not.


  1. Play the role of a good listener by looking at the person who is talking. Listening is a two-person game—it takes one person to pitch and another to catch if the game is to be mutually satisfying. Lecturing and listening are acts of communication involving both you and your instructor. If he is not doing his job effectively, evaluate your own behavior. Is his lack of communication a result of your lack of communication?
  2. Get into the habit of categorizing a lecture into its parts: introductions, thesis, body, summary, irrelevancy
  3. Look for clues from the instructor that indicate what he considers important.
    1. Vocal clues—e.g., "In the first place," pauses in the lecture.
    2. Postural clues—e.g., leaving the lectern and looking down at a student.
    3. Visual clues—e.g., material on the blackboard, a display, or a demonstration.
  4. Control your emotional responses.
    1. Try to withhold evaluation of the speaker or the course at least until the end of the hour. Try not to be judgmental while listening.
    2. Write down carefully and precisely anything with which you disagree.



  1. There is no necessity to use outline format when taking notes. As you listen, categorize the lecture according to its different parts, that is, introduction, thesis, body, summary, and irrelevancy. Take notes accordingly, organizing your pages so that material relating to a particular topic is on one page.
  2. Attempt to summarize the instructor’s words as he/she is speaking—condense what he says and restate it in your own words. Attempt to summarize the instructor’s words as he/she is speaking—condense what he says and restate it in your own words.
  3. Try to take at least one page of notes per lecture hour. If you have trouble taking notes, this gimmick will increase the amount of information you write down—better too much than too little. Use abbreviations as much as possible to increase your note taking speed
  4. Edit your notes as soon as possible after class.
    1. Review notes and fill in any gaps you may have missed.
    2. Make up questions for the main points.
    3. Summarize the lecture in a brief sentence or two at the bottom of the page.



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