Posts Tagged ‘Study Tips’

Testing Tips

November 6, 2008

Credit goes to Tamim Ansary of MSN.  I decided to paste the entire tips with my commentary in italics.

Okay, so you want to improve your scores. Don’t blush; I know how you feel. You’ve come to the right place: I’ve searched the Internet and talked to teachers and test makers for the very best in test-taking tips and techniques.

I’m going to skip the vanilla tips. Study hard. Get plenty of sleep before the test. Try to relax. Yeah, all that stuff’s important, but you can probably figure it out yourself. Here are a few tips that may not have occurred to you.

  • Study in an environment that is the same or similar to the one in which you will take the test.  Also try to take a practice test in the same room when it is completely quiet.  Mark the time you start and don’t take more than the time you would have on the real test.
  • Wear an unusual scent when you’re studying, and then wear the same scent at the test, because aromas tend to bring back memories. (It doesn’t have to be perfume. Peppermint, chocolate, and ammonia have all been shown to work. But don’t wear too much; you don’t want to bother the other test takers.)  I haven’t tried this yet.  However, I have tried mints/gum because it supposedly stimulates the brain.  My experience: little to no improvement when it comes to mints/gum.
  • Don’t actually cheat, of course, but make up the cheat sheet you would use. It’s a great way to bring the subject into focus.  This definitely works for me.
  • Study in small blocks of time, spaced apart. Three two-hour sessions are better than one six-hour session. (But no, 360 one-minute sessions are not best of all.) I prefer one-hour sessions to two-hour sessionsSome studies say 30-minute sessions are best.  I guess use trial and error and find the time blocks where you retain the most info.
  • Go into the test with a full stomach and an empty bladder. ‘Nuff said.  Eating a mix of carbs and proteins are best.  Carbs are good for the earlier portion of exams and when they’re used up, proteins break down slower so they’ll provide “late energy”. Worst combo: empty stomach and full bladder.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Set a pace and keep to it. First, skim the whole test, divide the number of items by the number of minutes, and calculate how much time you can spend on each item. Mark when you should be getting to the quarter point, halfway point, and three-quarter point by jotting the time in the margin next to that place. Once you start, keep moving. If you can’t answer a question within your budgeted time, put a question mark next to it and move on.  Good advice
  • Prioritize. Answer the easiest questions first, then the ones that give you the most points, then the hard ones.  The only exception is when you know the harder questions will give you more points.  These cases are really rare, I’ve never encountered them.
  • Make sure to answer the power items. About every tenth question on many standardized tests is a so-called power item. If you get that one right, you get credit for the whole block of questions leading up to it. Whereas the nine questions that precede the power question test individual skills, the power item asks you to use a combination of skills. On a map test, for example, a question like “Is Perth (north, south, east, west) of Forth?” is NOT a power item. A question like “The shortest route from Perth to Forth crosses (Smith River, Boyd Mountain, Hologram Hill, None of the above)” probably is. Never leave a power item unanswered, even if you have to guess. This tip is good for standardized tests, but not very applicable for regular college exams.  College tests rarely have such “power items”.
  • Guess. On most standardized tests, only correct answers count. If blank answers count the same as wrong answers, you have nothing to lose by guessing. Suppose every test item has four answer choices. According to the laws of probability, if you guess you will correctly answer 25 percent of the questions on which you are totally clueless. However, there is dumb guessing and smart guessing–and that brings us to the subject of power guessing.

Power guessing for the utterly clueless
Follow these tips to maximize your guessing success on items you know absolutely nothing about.

  • On a true/false test, all other things being equal, pick “true.” (The correct answer on true/false tests is generally “true” more often than it is “false.”)
  • On a true/false item, a long sentence with many parts is more likely to be false.
  • Statements with words such as “never,” “always,” or “every” are more likely to be false. (So few things are “always” or “never” anything.)
  • Statements with words such as “sometimes,” “often,” or “usually” are more likely to be true.
  • On a multiple-choice test, if “all of the above” is a choice and you don’t know the answer, pick “all of the above.”
  • On a math test, if your choices are numbers, throw out the highest and lowest ones. Pick a midrange number.
  • If one answer choice contains quite a bit more information, tilt toward it.
  • On pure guesses, all other things being equal, pick the same option every time. For example, you might always pick C. Why? Because test designers try to randomize their answers and therefore skip around. If you skip around too–with your luck?–you and the correct answer may miss each other every time. If you hold still, however, you get probability working for you.

I also want to add that if you initially chose an answer, don’t second guess and change it later unless you’re 100% sure the new answer is the right one.  Your first choice is usually right.  If the temperature of the test room is unpredictable, you might want to dress in a couple layers.  I like a t-shirt plus hoodie.  That way, you won’t be distracted by sweating or shivering.


Optimize Caffeine Consumption

September 2, 2008

Caffeine is a great study aid . . . if you use it correctly.  As the most consumed stimulant in the world, you’ll find almost wherever you travel.  Physiological effects include stimulating the central nervous system, stimulating the heart and lungs, inducing urine formation, and increasing blood pressure.  It is widely used in academics for its ability to improve vigilance.

Caffeine extends the total amount of time you stay awake if you’re pulling an all-nighter.  It helps you stay alert during the lull times of the day.  Besides aiding mental tasks, it treats some physical symptoms.  “Caffeine  is used in treating migraine because it constricts the dilated blood vessels and thereby reduces the pain.  It also increases the potency of analgesics . . .” (Encarta).  This is the reason why it is an active ingredient of Excedrin.

Many people binge drink caffeine and don’t get its full effects.  This post will show you the best way to drink caffeine to improve studying.

1. Choose your caffeine source.

My favorites are those Starbucks Double Shot cans.  A close second is No-Doz tablets with fruit juice .  Double shots seem to have this perfect amount of glucose to caffeine ratio.  A few minutes after the first gulp, I can feel more alert but not jittery.  It also tastes great chilled or at room temperature.  Another plus is the portability.  The only thing that prevents me from drinking double shots is the hideous expensiveness.  If I remember correctly, its $2 a pop.  That’s why I can only buy these during midterms/finals.

A cheaper but less effective alternative is No-Doz tablets with fruit juice.  The No-Doz provides the caffeine and the fruit juice provides the glucose.  The reason why I have caffeine with glucose is because together both enhance the effects.  I use this method when doing normal studying and the other Starbucks method for big exams.

2. Take the right amount.

The magic formula seems to be 0.3mg per kg per hour.  To find how many kg you weigh, just divide the amount of pounds you weigh by 2.2.  So if you’re 140 pounds, then you’re 64 kg.  Then multiply that by 0.3.  So for this example 64 kg x 0.3 mg/kg = 19.2 mg of caffeine PER HOUR.

A 6.5 ounce Starbucks Double Shot can contains 120mg of caffeine.  That is 18.5 mg per ounce.  So ideally, you could just drink 1 ounce/hour.  However, I start by drinking about a fourth of the can in a single gulp for my “loading dose” (I learned something in pharmacokinetics).  This way I can get more caffeine in my system quickly.  Then I start drinking the rest of the can ounce by ounce.

**Note: I found my loading dose through trial and error.  I’m sure that’s a formula but I don’t want to dig through my pharmacokinetics notes.

For No-Doz, its a lot harder to dose accurately because of the tablet form.  One tablet is 200 mg, so half a tablet is 100 mg.  The most convenient thing I do is take half a tablet with a glass of juice.  Then a few hours later, take another half tablet with a glass of juice.  I know its not as exact as Starbucks Double Shots . . . oh well.

3. Take it at the right time.

Due to its high lipid solubility, caffeine crosses the blood-brain barrier quickly.  This can be affected by other drugs in your body as well as what you ate/drank with the caffeine.  Usually, from experience and via sources on the web, 20 minutes prior to activity is a good time to start caffeine.  Under normal circumstances, the caffeine levels will peak at 1 hour before starting to clear.  It takes about 3-4 hours to clear.

**Make sure not to take caffeine within 4 hours before you sleep.

Next up, Ritalin and Adderall.

High Yield vs. Low Yield Studying

June 6, 2008

Ok everbody, I’m back. It’s been a while since I posted. Probably b/c I’ve been lazy and I’ve been mourning for my Spurs. This offseason the team needs to make some changes. Keep Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. Everyone one else is expendable. We should keep Bowen for his defense and Barry b/c he’s a reliable shooter. Definitely get rid of Horry, Finley, and Damon S. Bring in an athletic wing and a good center. This will keep us with the Hornets and Lakers.

So, to the actual point of this post. What is the definition of high and low-yield stuyding? I tried to find a good definittion online but could not. My basic definition of high yield is efficient studying where you study less but actually it leads to better performance. An example is attending review sessions where the professor tells you EXACTLY what is on the exam. In this case, bring a voice recorder and then study everything the professor says is going to be on the exam.

Unfortunately, not all profs are kind enough to give you the questions to the exams, so the next best thing is to study old exams. Old exams help you in numerous ways.

  • They give you the format of the test. You will know whether to study for MC questions or be prepared to give in depth answers to essay questions.
  • They tell you what area to concentrate on. For a pharmacokinetic test, you will know whether to worry about conceptual questions or working out actual problems.
  • Questions being reused. Teachers are lazy. They reuse old test questions. Normally you would get 10-20% of questions from an old exam. Just by looking at an old test, you’d be gaurenteed to know up to a fifth of the test.

What about low yield stuyding? One deadly example is studying when you are tired/sleepy. When you are looking at your notes or textbook but you’re not processing anything. STOP. You’re just wasting time. If it’s early in the day, take a 20 minute nap or go exercise. Then try studying again. If it’s late at night, take a shower. If a shower doesn’t work, just go to sleep. Another example is studying while watching TV/instant messaging/talking to somone. Doing two tasks at once is not efficient. Do one thing at a time. Check out the following link for proof that multitasking can be counterproductive.

What about group studying? It can be high or low-yield depending on the situation. I find small groups of 2-4 are good if you need help or to review. Groups of 5 or more generally are very bad. It’s too easy to socialize. Also, if you’re going to be in a group, make sure there’s at least one person who understands more than you in that course. That way, if you have a question someone else will probably know the answer. If you’re the one doing best in that course, you will be asked many questions.

In conclusion, study smart not hard. It’s better to study efficiently 2 hours a day than to study poor 4 hours a day and still end up with the same grade.