Dr. Farber’s Study and Memorization Tips

Students tend to leave the subject matter they like least to the very end. Thus, they study the least enjoyable and hardest material when they’re the most tired – and fatigue interferes with memorization and learning. Instead, intersperse (rotate) the enjoyable material with the disliked material.

"Spaced" study is more effective than "massed" study. For example, three 20 minute study sessions broken up by two "rest periods" is more effective than one 60 minute study session. Make the rest periods mini-reward sessions – for 5-15 minutes - read a favorite magazine, play a video game, listen to a favorite song, send or read e-mail.

Ask instructors questions during and after class – they may "leak" hints about what will be on the test. Or flat out ask them if certain material will be covered.

Study according to the format of the exam (recall or recognition). For essays (recall) – write out essays. For multiple choice, study by recognition (reading and reviewing). Make sure you know the format going in.

When studying for "timed tests" – replicate the test under timed conditions. For example, if you know you’ll have 30 minutes for three essays – practice writing essays for no longer than 10 minutes each.

On essays – give the instructor what s/he wants (read the instructions). If it’s a list, provide a list. If asked to compare and contrast – then compare and contrast.

Know your biorhythms and study accordingly. Don’t study during your "down times" (e.g., early morning, mid-afternoon, late night). Instead, study when you’re most alert.

If at all possible, study in the location in which you’ll be tested.

Study in an environment that offers no alternatives to studying (e.g., phone calls, music, TV, food, socializing, sleeping, other distractions). Library cubicles, or vacant classrooms are ideal.

Obtain and review past tests if available (from Founders or friends who took the course) – but don’t assume that your test will be the same.

Be aware of what your instructor tends to emphasize and is most interested in – and study accordingly.

Don’t cut one class to study for another – you’re taking from Peter to give to Paul. Material that students miss on tests is often a result of class absences.

For "lower order" (rote) memorization – use mnemonic devices. For example, Acronyms (ROY G BIV), memorable associations, rhymes, etc.

Get to class early for test, but unless you have specific questions you want to ask someone, don’t talk about the test or the material before going in (others’ nervousness or knowledge will just heighten your anxiety).

If possible, sit in the front row while taking tests. Avoid the rear of the room, or sitting by first floor windows or the door. Avoid sitting near test-takers with annoying nervous habits (tapping pen, speaking to oneself, bobbing knees, etc.).