Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's triage time again

We have seven class days left.  I am meeting lots of students who are brand new to my ASP services.  These students are usually panicky.  For the most part, they are extremely behind.  We are talking no outlines or, best case, last outlined in Week 4 of the semester.  If I am lucky, they have at least been reading for class (though usually not briefing).

Welcome to ASP triage work.  I want to ask "What were you thinking?"  I don't.  First of all, we do not have the time right now for that discussion.  Second, I do not want to risk sending them "over the edge" and flat-lining any chances we have of fixing the situation to some extent.  

Here are a few of the emergency measures that I suggest to them:

  • Make every minute count.  Do not waste time.  Only undertake studying that gets results.  Always consider what the payback will be for the exam (or paper or project) when starting a task.
  • Keep up with current class reading.  Many students are tempted to stop reading for class to find more study time.  This strategy is a bad idea because then they are then lost on the current material which will also be on the exam.
  • Continue going to all classes.  Many students are also tempted to skip class to find more study time.  This strategy does not work because the professor will now be pulling the course material together, will give out information about the exam, and will test on the new material.
  • Develop a structured time management schedule.  Block out times for the week when reading for class, writing any papers, and reviewing for exams will occur.  Label each block with the course related to the task.  Spread the time for exam review among all exam courses so that progress can be made on every one of them.  Few people can work more than a few hours on a paper at one time.  Use breaks from a paper for reading or reviewing for exams.   
  • Prioritize your courses and topics within courses.  Some of the things to consider are:
    • Determine the level of understanding in each course. 
    • Determine the amount of material to learn for the first time in each course. 
    • Determine the amount of material already reviewed for each course. 
    • Evaluate which topics are most likely to be heavily tested, moderately tested, and slightly tested for each exam. 
    • Determine whether course topics need to be studied chronologically as presented (because they build on one another) or can be isolated for study in any order. 
    • Check to see the order of your exams within the exam period.  
  • Break course topics down into sub-topics.  It is easier to stay motivated and to see progress if one can cross off sub-topics quickly.  It is also easier to find a shorter block of time to complete review of a sub-topic than it is to find a block of time to review the entire long topic.
  • Condense material to the essentials for each course.  These students no longer have the advantage of learning all of the nuances and gaining full understanding.  They need to make sure they understand the basic concepts, the important rules, and the methodologies.  Unfortunately, they will be depending on working memory and may well have to re-learn everything later during bar review.  
  • Apply the law after learning each topic.  Do a few practice questions to see if you can actually use what you learned about a topic.  Once you know how to structure an answer for a particular topic, the structure can be used when you confront new facts for the same topic on an exam.
  • Get enough sleep.  Staying up late and getting less than seven hours of sleep as a minimum will be counter-productive.  Going into an exam in a sleep-deprived state will only mean being unable to focus and analyze clearly.  Cramming more material during last-minute, late-night study will not make up for exhausted brain cells.    

After we avert this crisis as much as possible, we have the "next semester" conversation about using sound study habits from the first day of the semester.  (Amy Jarmon)


     

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