*College Survival Guide*
By: Wez
22 January 2009

Classroom Survival

Ok, for basic stuff, you should already be aware of most things. Exits, entrances, how far is it to the ground from the window, will the window open? Can I lock the door, or does it take a teachers key to do it? These are all questions you should ask yourself and take note of the first day in class, now aside from that, how are you going to survive the class itself?

First step, pay attention. The biggest mistake I see people making is that they donít pay attention. During lecture is not the time to be making a grocery list, setting up your budget, thinking about paying the bills, or any of the million other things you do to distract yourself when youíre bored. You are there to learn, so be there to learn.

Second step, take notes. Along with paying attention and being in the class, take notes. Notes serve a couple of purposes, one it helps the transition from short term to long term memory, and also aids in recall by building another path to the information. Most basically, it provides a resource to study by and a way to look over what was actually said in class. In college, the importance of the lecture material cannot be over stated. Develop an organizational method that works for you. I tend to use an bulleted list, outline style format. I also switch between using the laptop and long hand in a spiral. Experiment to find out what works best for you.

Third, ask questions. Donít be scared, you wonít look foolish and you wonít slow the class down. Iíve developed a good relationship with most of the instructors in my major, and they all say that they would like more questions and discussions, not less. That being said, make sure your question or comment is relevant to the topic at hand, not so to something from the beginning of class, or something you could find by looking at the syllabus.

Fourth, speaking of the syllabus, read that thing. Professors donít make those up for their own good. You can get a good idea of the amount and type of work that will be required of you, along with important assignment due dates, just by reading the syllabus.

Fifth, do the homework and required reading. Usually to be found in the syllabus, or from the professor in class. Once again, the homework is given for a reason, usually to reinforce course objectives. By making a habit of doing some homework daily and splitting large assignments into small parts, you will steadily work through the entire semester without getting behind.

Test Survival

Youíve taken the notes, done the homework, now itís time for the test. Tests should not scare you. You should actually work to relax yourself as much as possible. In my experience, Iíve done better on tests that I was relaxed about, but didnít study for, then I have on tests where I was stressed and worried and had studied. Of course Iíve done the best on exams when Iím both studied, reviewed and relaxed.

Whatís the best way to relax? Know the material. By taking notes, reviewing them, restating them in your own words, and looking up auxiliary information, you will be as prepared as you can be.

Specific Test Taking Strategies

   You can pick up a book, or take a KAPLAN course, but here are some specific test taking strategies that work for me. Remember before you get started, make sure you relax.

  1. On a blank part of the test paper (as long as itís not a scantron) write down anything that you may have tried to cram in right before test time. If you had to cram it, then you donít know it and as soon as you start accessing other memory centers of your brain youíre going to lose whatís in your short-term memory.
  2. Do a quick scan. Check out the whole test if possible, answer anything you know for sure.
  3. Go back to the beginning and take the test. Take your time, donít rush, relax, relax, relax. If you donít know something after a little bit of thought, skip that question and move on.
  4. Go back to the beginning and answer the questions you didnít answer in Step 3. Now that youíve gone through the material, answers to other questions and even some of the other questions may provide what you need or jog the memory you need jogged to answer the question. If at all possible, do not leave it blank. (this information is for general tests, not specialized tests like the SAT, please refer to specific scoring information on the test you are taking to determine whether it is advantageous to leave a question blank or not).
  5. After answering every question you can, go back to the beginning of the test (Yes, AGAIN) and check your answers. I donít mean rethink your answers. I mean make sure that you marked the answer that you meant to mark. This is especially relevant to scantron and multiple choice tests. Itís easy to mark your answer incorrectly, or in the case of scantron, start answering your questions one number off and throw off your whole answer sheet. Also check to make sure you havenít skipped or missed any pages that were supposed to be on the test. Check both sides of the pages.
  6. Before handing in the test, make sure that you have put your name on the test. Yes, it happens, Iíve done it and seen it happen in my college classes every semester.

Things you need to know about on-campus survival

Ok, thatís it for now, this article was just to bring up some points for consideration for personal and academic survival on campus. Thanks for reading.

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