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Tips for Academic Success

(Adapted with permission from San Jose State University)

  1. Read through your course catalog. It is helpful to know and understand the rules and regulations of the university.
  2. Review your course syllabi and make sure you understand your instructors' course/assignments expectations and responses regarding academic integrity violations.
  3. Ask your professor about what constitutes cheating and plagiarism in their classroom.
  4. Meet with your professor when you don't understand an assignment.
  5. Manage your time wisely. Good time management usually means good grades.
  6. Invest in your work. Remember why you're here and that is to get an education!
  7. Focusing on the end result should not be the only goal. The process of how you get there is just as important. Integrity counts!

Listening Skills

(Adapted from Texas A & M University, Student Counseling Services)

In The Classroom

  1. Develop a consumer-wise and positive attitude. You are taking that class for some reason and therefore you have an investment at stake. You have the opportunity to make the most of your investment, to benefit from that class-it is your choice.
  2. Sit near the front of the class where you can easily see and hear the teacher. If you are assigned a seat, and you cannot hear well, ask the teacher to move you right away. Sitting near the teacher allows you to focus more closely. It also gives the teacher the opportunity to more easily get feedback from you, and you'll have incentive to stay awake.
  3. Review previous class notes, assignments, and texts before you go to class. This will help you understand how the day's lecture relates to previous material and assigned readings. You will also have a better understanding of the material, and this will enable you to ask thoughtful questions for clarification (professors will certainly appreciate this!).
  4. Be aware of what your mind is doing and be alert. If you practice observing your mental activity, you'll be less likely to spend the entire class daydreaming about a burger at the Chicken. This takes practice, but you will benefit if you learn to bring your mind back to the classroom. Staying alert is not always easy, so avoid eating heavy meals before class, wear comfortable clothing, and constantly monitor your focus of attention.
  5. Use an efficient note taking system. Not only will this help keep you awake and organized, but your efforts will pay off when you study for exams and quizzes later.
  6. Ask questions to help you clarify concepts and to get you actively involved in the learning process.
  7. Focus on the content of what the teacher says, not the delivery.
  8. Listen for the main points of the lecture and try to determine future test questions.
  9. Be responsive. Can you imagine how it feels to speak to a sea of blank faces? Put some energy into your listening, and your teachers may have more energy and enthusiasm as well.
  10. Since you can think faster than the speaker can talk, take advantage of the speed of thought and mentally summarize main points, look for underlying assumptions, anticipate what is coming, evaluate the evidence that is being given, and compare and contrast the ideas with your knowledge. This is active, critical listening.

A Few More Tips

(whether in the classroom or one-on-one):

  1. Empathize with the person and try to put yourself in his or her place to help you see the point.
  2. Don't interrupt; give them time to say what they are trying to say.
  3. Leave your emotions behind and control your anger. They will prevent you from listening well.
  4. Get rid of distractions.
  5. Don't argue mentally.
  6. Don't antagonize the speaker. This could cause someone to conceal important ideas, emotions, and attitudes.
  7. Avoid jumping to assumptions. They can get you into trouble. For example, don't assume that the speaker is using the words in the same way that you are interpreting them. Ask for clarification if you are unsure.

Aiming for A's

(Adapted with Permission from Tulane University, Center for Educational Resources & Counseling)

Making a Study Plan

  1. Set specific objectives (for example, 50 pages per week).
  2. Study the same subject at the same time on the same day.
  3. Avoid adjacent study times for similar subjects.
  4. Use pre-set study blocks and remember to take a break.
  5. Give yourself rewards for achieving study objectives.

Success Summary

  1. Study at fixed times
  2. Find something in each subject that interests you
  3. Review your notes frequently
  4. Start to review at least one week before each test

Studying for Technical Courses

Text Reading

  1. Scan chapter
  2. Read chapter summary first (if there is one)
  3. Use subtitles to produce questions & definitions
  4. Underline and outline prudently
  5. Use summary sheets to collect important diagrams & groups of terms, formulas, etc.

Problems

  1. Get fast: practice solving at least three times the number of assigned problems in half the allotted time.
  2. Categorize problems by type.
  3. Visualize solving each type of problem.
  4. Use another text.

References: A. Eisenberg's Reading Technical Books and S. Tobias's Succeed with Math.

Answering Exam Questions

  1. As soon as you get the exam, use the back of the question sheet (or a sheet of scratch paper) to write down facts and details that you have memorized, but are afraid you might forget. Only spend a minute or two on this.
  2. Before answering any questions, read the directions thoroughly and carefully to be sure you understand exactly what is being asked. If the directions are not clear, ask the instructor or test proctor for clarification.
  3. Read all of the questions before answering any. As you read each question, write down any relevant ideas that occur to you. Also, circle any key words (e.g., "define", "compare", "explain", "contrast") in the question that tell you what kind of answer is wanted.
  4. If you have a choice of questions to answer, answer the questions that you are most prepared for.
  5. After seeing how many questions you need to answer, quickly plan how much time you will spend on each question. Budget your time.
  6. If all questions are worth about the same number of points, begin with the easiest question (to help build confidence).
  7. If some questions are worth much more than others, begin with the questions that are worth the most points. (If possible, begin with the easiest question that is worth the most points).
  8. Answer the essay question directly in your first sentence. You can help yourself stay focused by using a partial repeat of the question (e.g., if asked "What was the significance of the Gulf War," you might write "The significance of the Gulf War was.....").
  9. Next, fill in the details, facts and ideas necessary to support your first sentence. Use transitional phrases to begin each paragraph, such as "First....," "Second...."
  10. Put your best ideas in the first few lines or paragraphs of your answer. Do not save these for a "big finish" because you may run out of time, or forget to work these in to your answer.
  11. End your essay with one or two sentences that summarize the main points.
  12. Leave a wide space (or a blank page, if possible) between answers in case you remember things later that you want to include in an earlier answer.
  13. Leave wide margins on each side for your instructor's comments.
  14. Keep track of the time. Do not spend too much time on any one question. If you find you do not have enough time to write a full essay, at least write an outline of your main points to show what you did know.

Adapted from: Pauk, W. (1984). How to study in college, (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.(pp. 292-303)

Some General Rules About Exams

Before the Exam

Type of Test

Objective: Objective exams require specific responses. The questions include multiple choice, fill in the blank, and identification.

Calculation: Problem-solving skills are a must with tests involving calculations. In this case, practice does make perfect. Doing many problems ahead of time will provide you with speed and confidence during the test. Be consistent by using the same procedure for each problem.

Essay: Although essay questions often cover broad topics, they require well organized answers with specific examples to support an argument.

General Tips For Studying:

Answering Multiple Choice Exam Questions

  1. Before answering any questions, read the directions thoroughly and carefully. If the directions are not clear, ask the instructor or test proctor for clarification.
  2. Read each question carefully. See if you can predict the answer before looking at the options.
  3. Read ALL of the multiple choice options in their entirety before choosing an answer. Avoid the temptation to mark the first option that looks good (sometimes a "good" option will be listed before the "best" option).
  4. If you cannot select the correct answer after several seconds of thought, cross out any options that you are sure are wrong, put a mark next to the question, and move on to the next question.
  5. The goal is to do all the relatively easy questions first, then come back later to the difficult ones. But don't rush. Be sure to give each question some thought before moving on.
  6. When you have gone through the entire test once, go back to the items you have marked. This time concentrate on eliminating as many options as you can.
  7. Be wary of options that include extreme words, such as "always," "never," "all," "best," "worst," "none." (If you have to guess, it's usually best to eliminate options with extreme words).
  8. Read each option as if it were a true-false question. Cross out all the options that are false.
  9. However, pay close attention to words such as "not" or "except." (e.g., "Which of the following is not true about the Civil War?"). Circle words like "not" and "except" whenever you see them, to make them stand out. (Usually these words are a signal that all of the options are true except one, and your task is to pick out the FALSE option).
  10. If you have no idea what the correct answer is, guess (as long as you are not penalized for guessing). Some tips that may improve your guessing accuracy (however none of these are foolproof, or guaranteed to work) include:
    • If two options look similar, except for 1 or 2 words, usually one of these is the correct answer.
    • If two options have the same meaning, usually both are wrong.
    • If two options consist of words that look or sound the same (e.g., "interference" vs. "interferon") one of these is often the correct answer.
    • If the options cover a wide range of numerical values, a value at or near the middle is often a good guess.
    • An option that is longer or more detailed than the other options is often the correct answer.
    • The option "all of the above" is frequently correct.
  11. If time permits, recheck your answers for accuracy before turning in your exam.

Adapted from:
Ellis, D.B. (1991). Becoming a master student, (6th ed.). Rapid City, S.D.: College Survival, Inc.
Pauk, W. (1984). How to study in college, (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton-Mifflin