How to Use the Study Questions

The ideal way to use the study questions is to ignore them initially and read the chapter front to back like a story. Most students need to get started several days in advance and read one major section at a time, to avoid last minute cramming. Later on, use the study questions to make sure you are clear on the basic points of the chapter. Follow steps 1, 2 and 3 below.

After you have given yourself a chance to soak up the information naturally, then (and only then) use the study questions to check your comprehension. Follow this procedure:

What is the handy three-part technique for getting top grades?

1. Do not test yourself immediately after reading. Wait at least a minute. Turn your mind to some other subject. You must clear out short-term memory in order to determine whether you can retrieve information from long-term memory. For research showing why this is true, see the study of Judgments of Learning—JOLs—in Chapter 6.

2. Take a blank sheet of paper and set the paper over the text column, so that you see only the column of study questions. This is important to assure the answers are not visible in your peripheral vision and also to eliminate contextual cues like headings that will not be present during a quiz.

3. With the text column covered, ask yourself each study question and see if you can discuss the answer intelligently from memory. If you cannot, repeat this three-part strategy, and do not be satisfied until you can go through the whole chapter doing this, answering the questions without looking at the text. Then you should get a top grade on the quiz, because the quiz items are based directly upon topics mentioned in the study questions.

Do not simply look back and forth between the study questions and the text column. That is an ineffective study technique, because if you look at the answer you will have it fresh in your mind, and you will always feel you know the answer when the material is fresh in your mind. The real question is whether you can answer the study question a minute or two after you have read the material and after you have taken your mind off it for a few minutes.

Are there people who can skip this advice and still do well?

Not everybody needs to do this. In every class there are a few students who read a chapter once, understand it, and get a high grade on the test. This depends on the chapter. A student with a good biology background might do well after a single reading of Chapter 2 (The Human Nervous System) but might need to read Chapter 5 (Conditioning) more than once. Students show large individual differences in judgments about which chapters were easiest or hardest, most interesting or least interesting. People vary in their tastes as readers as well as their ability to assimilate unfamiliar college-level material.


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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey