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Study Smarts


Some students are not getting the grades they want, and others spend too much time working for good grades. Any student can find useful advice in Study Smarts: How to Learn More in Less Time. Study Smarts is the most complete and lively guide to streamlined studying. In a highly readable style, the authors eliminate the confusion and anxiety often felt about keeping up with course work.

Each chapter explains a different technique, and each chapter title is a nugget of advice that summarizes that technique. For example, "Eliminate interference from your environment;" or "Never study anything the same way twice."

The writers explain how to set goals, take notes, review, cut reading time, make the most of class discussions, etc., all as efficiently as possible. Beyond refining basic study chores, there are novel tips for time management and cramming and special memory techniques. The authors also tell how to get outside help for special problems.

What the reviewers said:

"A concise, straightforward, pragmatic guide to developing effective study habits.  Gearing their advice to classroom learning--and applicable from junior high school right on through lifelong learning programs--the authors divide their suggestions between learning tips and memory techniques.  Learning tips include acquiring a course outline, mastering the jargon of a subject, teaching oneself to read efficiently, recognizing lecturers' clues, and taking organized notes.  The memory tips reinforce learning techniques and include mnemonic tricks and intensive study habits."  Booklist

Find out what our readers said

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An excerpt from Study Smarts:

Catch the Lecturer's Clues

As the lecturer speaks, your notes have to convert his words into the following:

  1. Title: main idea, topic, thesis, rule, or principle. (It's possible for there to be several titles in one lecture, or one title spanning several consecutive lectures.)
  2. Subordinate topics: the pieces that fit together to form the main idea.
  3. Supports: the definitions, explanations, examples, and proofs of all the topic's pieces.

If the lecturer follows a strict outline, your job is easy. The more he tends to ramble, the tougher it is to take notes. But his words and his style will help you, if you know what to look for.

The first clue is his overall approach. Does he stick to the textbook, following it along chapter by chapter and page by page? If so, you can outline or map what he'll cover before you go to class, and just fill in while you listen. Does he just zero in on the hard parts? If so, a preview reading of the chapter is vital. Does he focus on just the important facts or ideas? If so, skim the chapter before class and then again afterward. Do his lectures supplement the book, providing unrelated information you won't find there? Then you've got to take fuller notes, but your textbook reading can often be done at your leisure.

Time is an important clue, too. The more time devoted to an idea, the more important the lecturer usually considers it. Does she give lots of examples? Does she take the time to write it on the board? Does she bring in a film or prepared slides for overhead projection? Does she repeat one thought several times, either in the same words or in different ones? Then you can practically bet that the fact or idea she's taking more time with will show up on an exam.

Another clue to organizing your notetaking is in the material itself. Learn to recognize the three basic types of organization: chronological (in time sequence), spatial (what's next to what; for example, organizing the planets in order of closeness to the sun), and logical. The last kind of organization is the trickiest, and is used in most college subjects. To help you, we've included a chart from our textbook Good Writing.

Other clues are words that say, "I'm summarizing." Therefore and in essence are words like that. An important definition may follow the words "it means . . ." On the other hand, you may be getting just a rambling explanation, so keep alert.

When you take notes on your reading, you can put ideas into your own words. But when you take lecture notes, be sure to copy the lecturer's pet words and phrases. She'll use—and expect you to use—those words on your exams.


GROUP 1. In time sequence:

bulletin the sequence in which it was seen or done
bulletin the sequence in which it should be seen or done
bulletfrom cause to effect

GROUP 2. From general to specific:

bulletgeneral topic to subtopics
bullettheoretical to practical
bulletgeneralization to examples

GROUP 3. From least to most:

bulleteasiest to hardest
bulletsmallest to largest
bulletworst to best
bulletweakest to strongest
bulletleast important to most important
bulletleast complicated to most complicated
bulletleast effective to most effective
bulletleast controversial to most controversial

GROUP 4. From most to least:

bulletmost known to least known
bulletmost factual to least factual (fact to opinion)

GROUP 5. Giving both sides (grouped or interspersed):

bulletpros and cons
bulletsimilarities and differences (compare and contrast)
bulletassets and liabilities
bullethard and easy
bulletbad and good
bulleteffective and ineffective
bulletweak and strong
bulletcomplicated and uncomplicated
bulletcontroversial and uncontroversial

This excerpt is copyrighted. Readers may print one copy for their own use. If you want to print more than one copy of any excerpt, or would like an article on another topic written for publication, email the authors by clicking here.

Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Judi K-Turkel, Franklynn Peterson, P/K Associates, Inc. 
3006 Gregory Street, Madison WI 53711-1847.  608-231-1003. 
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