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Success Stories

Students sometimes start out doing poorly, then show dramatic improvement. This is an important phenomenon, and I thought it might prove worthwhile to ask such students what they had changed.

I asked students to write about their experi­ences in their own words, for the benefit of future students. These success stories are from students who went from getting C and D grades to getting A and B grades.

In some cases their advice does not correspond exactly to mine (for example, some of them recommend highlighting) but that is OK. No doubt different techniques work for different people.

If you try one approach and it doesn't work, try a different approach. I already told you what I recommend; I hope you will give that a try, too.

Barbara H. writes:

My average in your class had been a D for quite some time. It took me until almost the end of the semester to realize that I need to read the whole chapter.

At first I was just finding the answer to the question and that's all I would study. On the day of the quizzes the questions would be of material I barely had skimmed over, and I was so mad at myself for not remem­bering the answer. Also, to understand and not just memorize I needed to read everything.

I am very proud that I made a 100 on the last quiz. I find your class very educa­tional but I needed more discipline about studying than I came to college with.

Eddie C. writes:

I should have had an edge on everyone else that stepped into that class from day one, because this is my second time holding a seat in your class. At the beginning of the term I thought I would have an easy time and would not have to study very hard, since I had looked at the chapters before.

I could not have been more wrong. I found out the hard way that I still had to study to pass. Maybe not realizing this sooner is the reason I had to drop the class last time. Now I finally found out what works for me.

First off, I have to completely ignore the study questions as I read it all the way through for the first time.

Then, after a good complete reading, I go back to the beginning and try to see how much sunk in by trying out the questions one by one. Usually I have no trouble answering most of the questions, but there are always those few for which I have no clue.

These are the ones that I focus on. After mastering these I go back through them all one more time or until I am satisfied.

I finally leave the material alone until before the quiz on Friday when I do an intense overview of the questions and some of the material. I started this procedure only a few weeks ago and it has paid off.

Jeff K. writes:

Faced with horribly low grades at the beginning of the semester. I was forced to find a remedy to raise my ailing average. I had been relying on my keen sense of recognition to recognize key terms on the multiple-choice exams. This presented a problem when I recognized too many familiar words in the wrong choices (distracters) on the tests.

So, after a couple of failing scores, I was open to any suggestions to help my grades. I quickly applied the information presented to the class by Professor Dewey.


Jeff K.

My method is quite simple. I read the two pages that are directly in front of me. As I come to study questions I read them before I read the sections with which they are affiliated, as a guide for my attention. As I am reading I highlight key terms that will jump-start recall.

After I am finished reading the two pages I turn on Counting Crows' Walkaways. I become deeply engrossed in the music and make sure that psychology is the furthest thing from my mind. After the song (which is only about 50 seconds long) I come back to the text and quiz myself with the study questions.

I recommend this method to all. It has produced surprising results for me.

Jeff (who got 100 on his latest quiz) said as he left my office, "I also read what you said in the Memory chapter and it was really true: it is much easier to remember some­thing when you take an interest in it. That has helped me a lot."

That sort of comment led me to write Chapter Zero. I figured: If information about memory (part of Chapter 6) and reading comprehen­sion (part of Chapter 7) helps students study better, why not provide it at the start of the term?

Russell T. writes:


Russell T.

When I started taking this class, I was slightly intimidated by the large amount of information located in each chapter. I did not think I could read all the information in one week. So I just studied the questions, and I only read what was by the questions. This method worked until about the 3rd and 4th quiz. My scores dropped about 10 pts.

After that I began to read the chapter without looking at the questions, Then I would test myself with questions from each section. After that I would test myself with questions from the whole chapter. This improved my grades to the best level yet.

Shelley F. writes:


Shelly F.

I have improved my grades on the test dramatically. I went from a 50 on a test to a 90 the next week. Although last week I made a 65, I have still improved my average drastically. I changed my study habits by highlighting the answers to the questions and also reading the whole chapter twice and emphasizing the highlighted parts. I use to just highlight and read the highlighted part and not read the whole chapter.

Nathan S. writes

In the beginning of this semester when I started this course I knew that I would enjoy the subject matter, but I was worried about how I would obtain the grade that I wanted in this course. It has been a whole year since I have attempted to further my education.

Being a particularly slow reader, I was not happy when I saw how much material we were supposed to learn each week. I scored 75% on the first two quizzes. After that my grades in this class have shot up.

The secret for me was to pay close attention to what I was reading exactly the way my chapters were instructing me to do. I feel like I am not reading an intro to psychology textbook. I feel like I am reading an instruction book on how to make an A in this class and any other that involves a lot of reading. By paying attention to the advice given in the book, I have learned to study in a particular way.

First of all I evaluate what kind of mood I am in, to figure out how much I can absorb at a time. Generally if I am feeling sluggish I read 5-7 pages at a time and after I do that I get up and walk around for a couple of minutes.

At the end of each subsection in the chapter I read the summary and then go back and start answering the study questions. In this manner I hack away at a chapter. Generally by the end of the chapter I am very familiar with the information I need to know.

The night before I take the quiz I make sure I get at least 6 hours of sleep, and then the next morning before I actually take my quiz I spend a half hour to 45 minutes to review the things I highlighted.

The funny thing is: my last three scores have been 95, 90, and 95. But this learning style is not just helping me in Psychology. I have scored two A's on my Econ test and two B's on my Government test this year.

To some people it might sound like I am just a good student, and maybe I am learning to be. But I graduated from high school at the bottom 10% of my class with a 1.6.

Pam L. writes

My grades in your class are not stellar, but there is a clear difference between the ways I studied for tests where I received 45-65% compared to when I received 80% and above. Every time I got the better scores, I did the following: I read the chapter through and hand wrote the study questions and answers in my own words. This helped a lot to mentally process the information.

Lastly, on test day I take an hour or so for someone to randomly ask me questions from the text, to get my synapses fired up. Also, studying right before bed helps a lot!)

Dr. Dewey comments:

Every term there are a few students who write out answers to all the questions. I admire their dedication, and it is hard to argue with a technique that works. But it sounds so time-consuming! I wonder if it is really necessary.

As mentioned earlier in Chapter Zero, I suggest that students using print-outs of the textbook simply cover the text column with a blank sheet of paper (so the answer in the text cannot be seen in peripheral vision). Then use the study questions as a self-quiz. That should accomplish the same thing as writing out the answers, in a lot less time. But maybe for some people, the act of writing makes the information sink in.


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


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