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Take Smart Notes
Gather the Right Materials
Take Smart Notes in Nontechnical Courses (What’s the Big Idea?)
**Nontechnical course” refers to any course outside of math, science, economics, and engineering.
Format Your Notes Aggressively
Capture Big Ideas by Using the Question/Evidence/Conclusion Structure
A Brief Example
Take Smart Notes in Technical Courses (Where’s the Problem?)
The key to taking notes in a technical course is to record as many sample problems as possible.
Don’t Read Your Assignments, but Do Keep Them Handy
Prioritize Your Note-taking
First priority: Record the problem statement and answer.
Second priority: Question the confusing
Third priority: Record the steps of the sample problem.
Final priority: Annotate the steps.
Demote Your Assignments
every Sunday night and plan out the week
complete one problem a day, one hour at a time.
reading assignments—knock off a chapter a day
Don’t Read Everything
It’s important to triage your assignments: What do you need to read? What do you need to skim? And what can you skip entirely?”
Always read the assignments from favored sources
Readings that make an argument are more important than
readings that describe an event or person, which are more important than
readings that only provide context (i.e., speech transcripts, press clippings).
In a course with no favored sources, readings that directly address the specific topic of the lecture act as the favored sources for the day.
Don’t Work Alone on Problem Sets
Solve Problems on the Go
Write Solutions Right the First Time
Marshal Your Resources
Define the Challenge
• Which lectures and reading assignments (or problem sets) are fair game?
• What type of questions will there be, and how many of each? “It’s helpful to know in advance what kind of knowledge will be asked for on the exam—IDs, dates, broad syntheses of the texts’ major arguments?”
• Is the exam open note or open book?
• For a technical class, will formulas be provided or do they need to be memorized?
• How much time will be available? Does the professor expect the exam to be easy to complete during the test period or a challenge?
Build a Study Guide (Organizing Nontechnical Course Material)
Construct a Mega-Problem Set (Organizing Technical Course Material)
1. Match the lecture to the problem set that covers the same material.
2. Copy sample problems from these lecture notes onto a blank sheet of paper. You don’t have to copy the steps or the answers, just the questions.
3. Label the blank sheet of paper with the date of the lecture. This will help you later figure out where these problems came from (and more important, where their answers can be found).
4. Fasten this sheet with a paper clip to the problem set you matched it to in step one.
Prepare Memorization Aids
using flash cards
Schedule Your Organization WiselyD
on’t try to organize and study in the same day
Conquer the Material
Trust the Quiz-and-Recall Method
Using the Quiz-and-Recall Method for Nontechnical Courses
The physical act of writing and the manipulation of the material in my mind was usually enough to keep things straight
put little check marks on your quizzes next to any questions that you had trouble answering.
Using the Quiz-and-Recall Method for Technical Courses
the important equations and concepts out by hand.
Memorize over Time
Invest in “Academic Disaster Insurance”
Eliminate Your Question Marks
• Ask questions during class.
• Develop the habit of talking to your professor briefly after class.
• Ask classmates.
• Come prepared to exam review sessions (if offered).
Provide “A+” Answers
The potential pitfalls during an exam are numerous, but the most common are:
(1) running out of time and
(2) providing answers that, although detailed, don’t fully answer all parts of the question being asked.
Strategy #1: Review First, Answer Questions Later
Always read through the entire exam first
Strategy #2: Build a Time Budget
lay down very strict time limits for myself on each question
First, take the time allotted for the exam and subtract ten minutes.
Next, divide this amount by the number of questions. The result is how long you have to spend on each prompt.
For an exam with a small number of questions, mark right on the test pages the time when you should begin and finish each one. For an exam with many questions, divide the exam into equal fourths, then jot down the time you should begin and end each section
these recorded times will keep you updated on how close your current progress matches your predetermined schedule
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