Raffi's Study Guide


Over the past four years of studying physics at UWO, I have developed and tested a couple of different study routines or habits. Some have been unsuccessful and, consequently, have received the boot. Others, I have found to be extremely effective and have been a great help over the years. Unfortunately, everyone's style of learning is different and so the techniques that I find to be the most useful might not be appropriate for you. In any case, try some of the ones that you find may work for you and see whether or not they make a difference.

Before lectures:
On my list of homework or study priorities, reading ahead or preparing for the upcoming lecture is probably near the bottom of the list. This is mainly because as a university student, there are usually more important or urgent tasks that need to be accomplished first. However, I do find that when I take the time to read the upcoming lecture beforehand (if the teacher posts lecture notes or just reading the next chapter in the textbook) it greatly increases my understanding during lecture. It really does help in absorbing the material.

During lectures
If you have questions or you're unsure of yourself: ask! Sometimes it can be embarrassing or terrifying to ask a question in front of a classroom. Usually, unless I find it to be a pressing question, I approach the prof after to ask my question. The prof is usually happy to hear that you are taking extra interest in the material and will be happy to answer. Even asking questions that are outside the scope of the course is encouraged. I find that this usually helps take my understanding of the subject to another level or truly ensure that I understand the fundamental principles of the subject.
Take accurate notes of the important information.

After lectures:
Write down portions of the lecture you find confusing (during class) and then go home and try to retrace the professor's steps or reread what you've written. You'd be surprised at how many times dismissing a point of confusion in my notes has caused further confusion in many subsequent classes. It really is worth to clear up any outstanding confusion as soon as possible to avoid this.
If any practice questions have been assigned: do them! Sometimes the professor may assign a myriad of questions and that can be frustrating. If this is the case, I skip questions that seem repetitive and take note of this. Doing these questions really re-enforces concepts taught in class and ensures that you're understanding what is being discussed. If you don't understand what is currently being taught, chances are that what comes next won't make much sense either. Out of everything I've mentioned thus far, this point is at the very top of my list. Practice questions are gold.

Studying for exams:
If practice questions are gold, practice exams are diamond. I cannot emphasize enough how useful these bad boys can be. Not only does the prof often repeat questions or variations of a question, but they almost always test how well prepared you are. However, I highly recommend studying hard before doing these. Many people study by just doing and re-doing the practice exams, and I'm not so sure this is a good idea (although as I said, everyone's learning style is different). I usually study hard a few days in advance and then two days before my exam, I take the practice exams. This really tests whether or not I know the subject well enough. If it went well: terrific! If it didn't: take the rest of the day, or the next day, to re-study the parts that didn't go well. Are you missing something? Go over the solutions (if the professor has provided them). Also, the day before the exam, I tend to just skim over the practice exams once more and quickly check in my head if I can think of the steps I would take to solve the problems.
Re-do any difficult practice problems that you may have starred or skipped. In addition, if there are topics you aren't as confident in, try doing extra practice problems from that particular section.
If I have to memorize a lot of material, I find that writing summary notes really helps. Not only do these condense the material, which makes it easier to study, but the process of writing the information down almost always boosts my ability to memorize it!
If you have good luck clothes, like a lucky pair of shoes or jeans, wear them to the exam. I have one particular sweater that accompanies me to most of my exams and it (usually) works like a charm. (Don't worry, I do wash this sweater often)

These are just some key techniques that have helped me over the years. I would also recommend rewarding yourself with breaks or snacks or whatever after accomplishing a major amount of work that you've set aside. Hope this helps! Godspeed.

- Raffi