Study/Survival Skills for the Sciences
- Keep yourself fit, well-fed, rested, and in a positive state of mind.
- Exercise regularly, maintain a balanced diet, and keep a consistent
- Expect some frustration and some elation, some disappointment and some
success, and keep them in perspective.
- Surround yourself with positive people who will support and encourage
- Establish short-term and long-range goals.
- Make weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly assessments of progress toward
- Reward yourself when you reach significant plateaus in your progress
- Work with faculty advisors or transfer coordinators to select courses
most appropriate for your intended goal or major.
- Make appointments or correspond with people already doing the job you
are interested in to be sure your training meets the actual demands of the
- Organize time available for study and stick to the schedule and routine
- Create a weekly calendar showing schedules for class, study, work,
church, meetings, and sleep.
- Try to study the same subject in the same place at the same time each
- Use the old rule of 2 hours of study for each class lecture hour (plan 1
hour of study for each lab hour).
- Keep a separate monthly or quarterly calendar with dates of exams,
assignments, and holidays clearly marked.
- Maintain an appropriate workload. If you need to keep a job, take a
lighter class load and plan to take a little longer to reach your goals.
- Learn to locate and use appropriate reference sources to expand upon
textbook and lecture information.
- Know your way around the campus and city library and the Internet.
- Know the metric system and be comfortable with its use.
- Purchase a scientific calculator and know how to use all of its functions.
- Be prepared for class.
- Review previous lecture and reading assignments.
- Using the course outline, anticipate the class topic for the day and
read ahead in the text.
- Take your text to class.
- Arrive early, unpack all necessary materials (to avoid class disruption
- Use class time effectively.
- When possible sit toward the front and in the center of the class. You
can connect with the professor more effectively if you feel he/she is
talking directly to you.
- Be attentive, take careful notes (use a shorthand technique if possible,
think while listening and writing, try to get the concept being discussed if
not all the factual details.
- Take notes during videos, films, or other AV presentations - if the room
is darkened, bring a small flashlight.
- Use loose-leaf binders for note taking. Additional material from the
text or other references can be more easily inserted in sequence.
- Observe proper classroom etiquette.
- Be an active, but courteous participant - ask appropriate questions, but
don't hog the discussion.
- Use the breaks for snacks or restroom stops. Eating or drinking or
leaving class for the restroom disrupts the professor and other students.
- Do not pack up books and materials until the professor has clearly
signaled the end of class.
- While waiting in the hallway outside a class, talk quietly - the walls
are thin and excessive noise disturbs the class within.
- When you read your text:
- Read the Preface, it tells you the organization of the book and the
- Note appendices which may contain useful reference information.
- Plan to read each chapter 3 (yes THREE) times. The first time, scan the
list of objectives or outline at the beginning of the chapter, the headings,
the first sentences of paragraphs, the figures and tables, and the summary
at chapter's end - all of these acquaint you with the body of information
the author is attempting to convey. The second time, read in detail,
underlining or highlighting and making notes in margins - look up words that
you are not familiar with in the glossary or a dictionary - and be sure to
master the meaning of bold print terms. The third time, scan the material
you have highlighted and the notes you have made, then try the end of
chapter review exercises, looking up answers for the questions you miss.
- If a published study guide is available, use it to apply and practice
the information you have read.
- As you read, stop frequently to explain what you have read in your own
- Take a brief break after each hour of reading. When you return from the
break, try to summarize the previously read material.
- When possible, buy new texts - used texts may be missing pages. Don't
trust the underlining or highlighting of the previous owner (use a different
color) - unless you know the grade they earned in the class.
- When you study:
- Study EVERY DAY - not just before an exam. Forget everything you may
have heard or said about doing your best work under pressure at the last
- Reorganize and review class notes weekly.
- Make summary sheets where you combine lecture and text information
- Work with other dedicated students in a study group - be sure each
student brings questions to the study sessions to quiz the others over the
material covered. Don't be afraid to drop the group or find another if it is
not working for you. Your grade will be reflected on the transcript - not
the group's grade.
- Avoid interruptions and stay focused.
- Take a brief break every hour. Eat or drink or use the bathroom only
during the breaks to avoid disrupting your concentration. Worry about your
problems only during the breaks.
- Stop frequently to summarize what you have been studying and to diagram
or explain in your own terms.
- Allow at least three days of preparation for each exam. On the first
day, you may want to work with a group to be sure you have all the
information you need. On the second day, work alone and exhaustively examine
the information in detail, summarizing to yourself frequently - this should
be the longest day of study. On the third day, review all information,
especially the trouble spots, and get plenty of sleep - you think better
when you are rested. Arise a little earlier on the day of the exam to review
- When you take an exam:
- Take a few minutes to scan the entire test and estimate how long it will
take to complete each section and budget your time accordingly. At the end
of that time, move to another section and come back at the end if time
- There are usually three groups of questions - those you know, those you
can get with a little thought, and those you will have to take an educated
guess at. Do them in that order, remembering that you don't have to start
- Try an answer to everything - the only sure way to miss a question is to
leave it blank.
- When you read a question, stop briefly to translate it into your own
terms. When you finish a question - read the answer back into the question
to be sure it makes sense.
- With multiple choice questions, rather than look for an answer,
eliminate those that don't fit until you are left with the only possible
- With essay questions, take time to jot down everything you feel is
applicable. Number the items in the list in the order you want to include
them and cross them off to be sure nothing is left out.
- If you are distracted by the activities of other students, ask the
professor if you can sit in a different location during the test or if you
can wear earplugs.
- When you take a lab class:
- Read the exercise of the day before you come to class. Plan, in
flowchart fashion, the steps that need to be taken to complete the exercise.
- Interact with lab partners freely and frequently. Explain what you
discover or learn to lab partners and have them do the same for you.
- Take notes; make sketches; use all the time available.
- Plan out-of-class time for review or practice.
- Ask the professor to preview graphs, charts, calculations before you
turn them in.
- Get to know your professors and advisors - you may need to ask them for a
letter of recommendation later on.
- Know their office location and office hours.
- Try to find opportunities to engage them with meaningful questions or
- When asking questions, try to show that you have given thought to the
problem - don't expect to be given free information that you haven't worked
- Make every human effort to attend class - call or leave a note if you
are unable to attend for any reason.
- Say hello when you encounter a professor in the hallway - be sure you
know their academic title and include it in your greeting.
- Remember that all of your performance and all of your behavior will be
part of their assessment of you when they assign a grade or write a letter.
You are ALWAYS being observed and assessed.
- There is too much information for you to remember it all - the goal of a
college education is to learn how to find and organize information and to
solve problems in a logical fashion.
- The scientific method is always applicable - identify a problem, form a
hypothesis, collect appropriate information, develop an experiment to test
the hypothesis, collect and analyze data, accept or reject the hypothesis -
if rejected, form a new hypothesis and repeat the procedure.
- The top grades go to those who work the hardest and think the most
clearly (98% perspiration, 2% inspiration). Mere attendance does not
guarantee a top grade.
- To be successful, you must make college the equivalent of a full-time
- It is possible to have FUN while you LEARN.
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Content copyright ©1997 Centralia
Questions and comments to
Centralia College, Centralia, WA, 98531-4099. (360) 736-9391.
This page maintained by Greg
Created: September 18, 1997.
Updated: September 20, 2000