Earlier this past week I wrote a little bit about my final preparations towards my exams and how they got me thinking about studying in general. I’ve written about the types of questions I prefer to give to my students (from the perspective of an instructor) before but I most recently wrote about studying from the perspective of the student. This is a continuation of that prior post (read it here). Today I will examin both of these methods in greater depth for their positives and negatives.
The first basic option identified was a sort of power-skimming of the texts. This doesn’t involve reading as much as it involves tring to quickly find the most important elements of a text. This method of studying would probably be better for tests that are multiple choice or based solely on your ability to know lists and definitions to terms the author deems important. You could quickly identify key terms and concepts and that knowlege would benefit you well provided you weren’t asked to apply it in a creative way. If you were asked an essay question you may want to opt for the second basic option.
The second basic option identified was to read the book as written for what it is. Start to finish, top to bottom, straight through. This method lacks the terminological precision one gets from taking notes quickly from every important page. However, your broader understanding of the way those elements work in real life examples (often skipped over during a skimming of the text) better prepares you for essay type questions asking you to apply knowledge. Rather than “what is the definition of X” you would be able to answer “how would you prepare for Y situation based on this book?” Both of these methods are obviously useful in different contexts (and in a perfect world both options could be done simultaneously or enough time would exist to read the book twice). I prefer the second mehtod that gives a broader knowledge that the student can employ in the real world rather than the terminologically driven first method myself. Use what works best for you and your situation.