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How to Study Effectively

One of the hardest parts of succeeding in school is learning how to study effectively.   This doesn’t just mean to study, but to study in a way that you actually learn the material and internalize it for later use.

Believe it or not, there are several simple keys, where if followed each day, will maximize your chance of learning the material.  Be warned, that half-hearted effort in following these tips will lead you back to the hard way of passing class.  Over the next several weeks we will post one article that focuses on each tip for How to effective study.  Follow along, and you’ll soon have all the tools you need to excel in your schooling!

How to Study Effectively Learn Step by Step

The first tips, and the topic of today’s post is “Don’t lose track of the BIG PICTURE!”   In every class that you take, the purpose is to learn a topic or subject.  It doesn’t matter what field of study you are in, the purpose is to teach about a particular topic. how to study effectively.

In an MBA program,  the purpose of a “business law” class is to teach those who will be managing a business the nuances of law as it applies to a business.   In a psychology program, a “child development” class is designed to teach the students the ins-and-outs of how human children develop emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.

Every class you take has a purpose.   The first step to success is to recognize, and never lose sight of that purpose, no matter what!

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After you know the subject, keep in mind that this larger subject is often divided into smaller and smaller pieces, and as the class dives deeper and deeper into the components of the whole, it’s really easy to get lost.

Typical Engineering Class

Let’s look at Heat Transfer (a typical engineering class) as an example.   The topic or subject is the study of how heat travels from one place to another.   For example, a fire giving off heat, an electric stove surface heating a pot, or the cool sprinkler on a summer day all are ways that heat travels.

That class is divided into three types of heat transfer:  Convection, Conduction, and Radiation.  A fire is an example of radiation, the sprinkler’s cooling effect is an example of convection, and the stove is an example of conduction.  The way heat transferred is different in each of these ways, and even within a single transfer path, the speed and effectiveness of heat’s travel is different.how to study effectively.

For example, with convection (fluid heat transfer) think of a person in cold water.   What makes the person get colder faster?  A cold swimming pool, or a cold stream?   What if there are two people?   What if the river they are in is really fast?   What if it’s really slow?   What can a person do if they’re trapped in a cold river to make sure they lose as little heat as possible?

The details of the heat transfer class rapidly get complicated, with many equations, problems, and rules that must be remembered.

However, if you can manage to organize that data into coherent groups that support the subject, you will be able to better remember the material and use it when needed on an exam, or in real life.

Thus, the most important thing you can do at the very beginning of class is to learn the structure of the course.   This is often made available through a syllabus or course disclosure handed out at the beginning of class.   Depending on the teacher or professor, the whole class might already be outlined for you.  If not, take some time to flip through the book and take note of the subject headings and subheadings.

They may give you some clue as to how you can best organize the course in your mind.  Once you see how the class is organized, the next step is to draw a diagram that you can refer to when you’re studying for a test.   Below is an example of a diagram that one might draw as it pertains to a portion of the heat transfer course described above:

Even though there are many equations and many calculations for heat transfer through convection, if you can remember the organization of the class, that each equation represents a different type of heat transfer, then it will help you when it comes time to take your test.  It will even help in your career when you have to look up the equation you’ll need as an engineer because you’ll know generally how the book or the theory behind heat transfer is organized.

So even though it seems like a bit of work for a simple and pointless exercise, there is great power in knowing what you’ll be learning in advance, and how it will be organized.

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Every time you start a new course, learn what the structure will be.  Once you know this, when the time comes that you get into the details of the class, rather than being overwhelmed with the sheer amount of material, you can be aware of where you are going.  Keep in mind the big picture, and the details will be much more simple to work out!

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