Friday, March 19, 2010

Study techniques that reduce anxiety

The stress levels are going up as students realize that there is less than half of the semester left once we return from Spring Break.  Several study techniques can help minimize your anxiety in the coming weeks:

  • Plan your study schedule carefully.  Decide what hours you can free to focus on review each week.  Designate review time by course so that you can determine whether you have prioritized time properly for each course.  Not all courses are equal - think about your level of preparedness and understanding for each separate course.
  • Study for understanding rather than mere memorization.  If you truly understand a concept, you will retain the information better and recall the information more quickly.  Also, understanding a concept will allow you to reason through a difficult question on an exam.  Instead of guessing, you will be able to consider the question logically and thoroughly.
  • Go to your professor early and often to get questions answered.  The sooner you "plug up" holes in your understanding, the more quickly you will lower your anxiety.  The same is true if you are a first-year student who has access to help from upper-division tutors or teaching assistants.
  • Think about the information at all four levels of processing when you study: global, intuitive, sequential, and sensing.  Two of these styles will be your preferences.  The other two styles are your "shadows" - you can process at those levels, but it takes a bit more effort.  You will understand the material with both breadth and depth if you consider all four levels.
    •  Global:  What is the big picture of the material?  What are the essentials that you need to understand?  How do the topics in the course fit together to make the whole?
    • Intuitive: What are the relationships among the topics, sub-topics, concepts, and cases?  What policies or theories have been discussed in class?  Do you know how to argue those policies or theories appropriately for the parties?
    • Sequential: What are the individual units that you need to understand in the course?  What steps of analysis or methodologies do you need to use for each topic or sub-topic?  How can you think through the information methodically when you answer a question?
    • Sensing:  What facts, details, and practicalities do you need to know to flesh out the material?  Are there nuances that you need to note in how the law is applied?  Can you state the rules and definitions precisely?  Do you need to know case names or code sections for your professor? 
  • Apply the concepts and rules to as many practice questions as possible.  Practice questions help you to understand the nuances in the law through different scenarios.  The more variations you see on the facts ahead of time, the less likely that an exam question will seem "alien" to you.  You will have thought about something similar previously during your practice sessions.  By doing some practice questions "under test conditions" prior to the exam, you will be less anxious about formatting essay answers, choosing the "best" multiple-choice answer, or managing your time during the exam.  (Amy Jarmon)

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