The Dead Wrong Strategy

On the preceding page, I explained the supposed benefits of the quickcheck or study questions. They tell students what information is required to know for the test, and they provide a way to go back later and quiz oneself to make sure information is retained.

For about about a third of first-year college students using this textbook, however, the study questions sabotaged their study efforts by luring them into an ineffective study method.

The intuitively obvious (and dead wrong) way to economize while studying is simply to look back and forth between the study question and the text, find the answer, stare at it (or if you have a print version highlight it) and spend the rest of your time memorizing the "answers."

That is dead wrong! Let's call it the DR strategy. The DR strategy is dead wrong for several reasons:

1. The study questions point to topics. They may ask about information spanning several sentences or paragraphs. They are not meant to confine your studying to a 3- or 4-word memorized answer. (See the page titled Achieving Clarity.)

2. The DR strategy is not easier than in-depth studying. Memorizing stuff you do not understand or care about is difficult! It is tedious and boring. On the other hand, when you get absorbed in what you are reading, you will learn automatically with minimal effort.

3. The DR strategy does not give you what you came to college to obtain: in-depth learning. If you try to memorize short answers, your learning will be superficial, and it will fade quickly.

4. The DR strategy typically results in low grades. If quiz items are properly written, the correct answers cannot be guessed by recognizing familiar words from the chapter.

What is the DR strategy?

The philosophy behind my multiple-choice questions is discussed on the web at this URL: http://www.psywww.com/selfquiz/aboutq.html.

The self-quiz section of Psych Web also contains 10 sample questions from each chapter in this textbook, selected from those actually used on quizzes. You are invited to take the online self-quiz before the real quiz on each chapter, to test your level of comprehension.

In my classes, one or two of the items from the self-quizzes turned up on each weekly 20 item classroom quiz for a chapter. Needless to say, if you are reading this textbook for a school assignment, your teacher might use a different testing schedule or a different approach to testing.

If a superficial memorization strategy will not work, how should the study questions be used? You already received a summary of the recommended technique on the last page, but a little redundancy never hurts (especially when good grades depend upon it).

The next few pages will elaborate on the basic idea, which is this: questions allow you to check your comprehension. This is done after reading by attempting to answer the questions without looking at the text. That is very different from the DR strategy, which is looking back and forth and memorizing.

Incidentally, the erroneous acronym (DR for Dead Wrong) was intentional. I have been asked about that a few times. It seemed appro­priate when discussing wrong things. Funny how many people never notice it, though.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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