Smart Studying – Shitio Shitiri, Head of Department Political Science

Summer break is over for many institutes in Nagaland and its now back to books! This summer marks the entry for freshers into their new College life and the resumption of classes for others. Learn some tips on how to cope with the new college experience and more on how to study effectively.

Smart Studying

When it comes to studying, majority of the students take it for granted. There are actually some ways to get the best out of studying by employing useful strategies, but which students often fail to put into practice. A good Army General, before advancing into new territory will first gather and analyze information on the terrain, the weather, outlook, enemy position and so on. As a student embarking on a course of study, similar research ought to be done beforehand. Here are some ways that can help you get started:
• Speak to other students who have already taken the course. Gather information about the topics, the quality of the teachers, the challenges of the course, and the most useful textbooks.
• Shop around first, if your institute offers an array of courses. Attend the first class or lecture of several subjects (for B.A. Ist Semester students), more than you actually plan to register for and then make your selection. You might find yourself enjoying a subject you never liked much or opting out of a subject that does not interest you anymore. However, first check if your institute offers such flexibility of courses and the stipulated deadline.
• Try to get an official copy of the full syllabus for each course beforehand.
• Find out about the marking system. What proportion of marks do the final exams command, weightage of assignment, class test, term test, research project and so on?
• Read before the course starts. Read some broad introduction of the subject, such as general textbooks. This will help you understand the subject faster as the topics are covered in lectures and in subsequent reading.
Once you have done preliminary preparation for your course, the next steps can help keep you up to speed in your studies:

1. Right Attitude: The object of study is knowledge and not just qualifications. Approach your course with the intention of learning the subject and improving your mind, rather than merely passing the exam.

2. Maintain balance: An over stretched work day produces greater boredom, fatigue, resentment and reduces the level of concentration and commitment. Of course, the threshold varies from person to person, and you will have to discover your own optimum. You should fit in the routine chores of daily life, without seriously reducing the overall quality of your studies.

3. Adopt a businesslike approach:
 To live your student life to the fullest, you must live it efficiently. Develop a routine and maintain it. For some students, your mind might be sharpest in the morning. If this is the case, try to organize an hour reading, writing or ordering of your notes in the early morning hours.

4. Stay ahead of the Game: Don’t let big backlogs build up – whether its essay assignments, background reading or studying notes.  Remember, there are drawbacks if you ever fall behind your work. Each succeeding lecture will be much more difficult, since it requires knowledge of previous lectures.

5. Notes: Students can compile two kinds of notes – records and study notes. The trouble is that most students confuse the two: what they compile is records alone, but they treat this as study notes. Records are essentially a summary of a lecture while study notes are self written notes to aid you while studying. In science stream, a lecturer or textbook may supply a full and accurate account of a topic. Detailed and precise information of the subject is made available. This should be recorded along with study notes, and once you have studied and learnt them, you can truly claim to be a master of the subject.

In Arts and Humanities things are more fluid. Political philosophy or literary theory can never really offer ‘the last word’. Such subjects are open-ended. You can never hope to give an exhaustive, cut and dried answer to such questions. So it is not necessary to record everything you hear or read in class, as long as you can reproduce the answer in your own words. Where there is no gospel truth, you are perfectly entitled to pick and choose. Let your notes reflect this freedom; record only what seems valid or enlightening.
A typical procedure can be adopted for compiling a useful set of study notes. First, accept that note making is a central, rather than incidental part of studying. Set time aside for updating and upgrading your notes. Rereading your notes intermittently during the course is naturally a very good practice; rewriting them is even better. Secondly, accept that study notes are quite different from the record-type notes discussed above. Study notes need not be or should not be written in elegant lines of consecutive prose. They are for studying, not for reciting on stage. Thirdly, approach your note taking as a twofold task: grasping the general and particular, mastering the big picture and the detail.

6. Memorizing: Studying consistently throughout the course, will enable you to enter the exam hall with a confident mind as knowledge will be stored away in your long-term memory. However, if you cram for your exams overnight, your knowledge resides in your short-term memory. Of course, you might just get away with a last minute study session overnight and even pass quite adequately. But once the exam is over you will forget almost everything you have learnt. Why throw away something you have taken pains to acquire, when with long term efforts you can keep it forever?

Long term memory draws on four basic sources. First, understanding the material is crucial. Think how much easier it is to memorise a line of English poetry than a line of poetry in an unfamiliar foreign language. Unless you really understand the underlying meaning, sooner or later you will lose the ability to recall the surface formulation. Secondly, familiarization with the material is essential. This comes from repeated exposure to it, for instance, rereading the novel or mentally repeating the main points of history topics. Thirdly, anchoring or attaching the material to your existing knowledge can forge strong and lasting mental associations. When studying economics, sociology, history or political science, for example, try to relate the material to your own life and surrounding rather than thinking of it as an abstract self-contained body of knowledge. Lastly, a regular and conscientious programme of study will produce good long term memory (daily regiment).

7. Swotting: One of the most common afflictions suffered by students is exam panic. The symptoms are all too familiar- snappishness, overconsumption of black coffee, red eyes, and long face. For most students, even the most conscientious exam period is a time of stress. Learn to recognize the signs yourself and find time for some leisure activity each day to disperse any tendency towards obsessiveness in your swotting. Seek reassurance from your friends and family, and advice from your tutor. Don’t become a hermit.
In today’s scientific and competitive world, studying smartly is a requirement for survival if you wish to understand things in a rational manner. Begin today and let your student life have a lasting impact.

Reference: Study Techniques. accessed on 07/07/13

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