Recently, I had a student who asked me this question:
Could you share with me your study techniques and the sequence of studying, please? Personally, I have always preferred to do notes from my lecture notes first ( for chemistry, economics, physics) then try the questions. However, I feel that I always take way too long to complete my notes. (for math) I have been doing my lecture notes questions while trying to understand the concept each question is testing. However, I find it tough to comprehend certain concepts and thus unable to solve the questions.
This was an interesting question as while I always have had certain preferences for studying different subjects, I have never thought of organizing them into several categories.
There are two main parts to this question, and I shall answer them separately.
The sequence of studying
I like to sort subjects/modules into two main groups- application and memory work. While there will always exist some overlap (most subjects aren’t exclusive), I find that sorting in this manner has worked pretty well.For me, the general rule of thumb is this: for application work, don’t bother with creating notes while reading the lecture notes. for memory work, do the notes after each (sub)topic.Here’s my stand- for application work, what matters more is the ability to apply the concepts to the questions. Usually the concepts are not very tedious. The challenge lies in knowing how to apply them to the question. Memory work, on the other hand, requires sorting of knowledge. Making the link between events and theories has been shown to assist greatly in our recollection later on.
For application work, I prefer to scribble on the lecture notes while I’m reading them. The point is to be able to explain to myself what the notes are saying. If you can explain to yourself fully the content of the notes, then it is usually safe to assume you already have a decent grasp.
This is not to say that making notes doesn’t help at all. I learnt this trick at the university level, where math modules usually are very dense. Lecturers allow the students to bring in “help sheet”, usually an A4 paper whereby we can hand write on both sides. I find this effective as it forces us to really focus on what matters due to the scarcity concept.
Doing questions but finding it hard to comprehend them
For this issue, a big part is really about shortening the feedback loop. What do I mean? A lot of times we tend to try to bite off too big a chunk when consuming the notes. We go through 10 pages, feel good ourselves then… realized we can’t do a single question.The trick is then to shorten the feedback loop- ideally you can start trying out each question after going through one or two pages. By doing so, even if you can’t do the question, you can really isolate what exactly you are not sure about. Then, we can go about dissecting what it is that we are not sure- by asking ourselves what we already know. From there, either we try to link that to what we do not know or simply google around to find the answer.
I hope this helps! For more questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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