Learning how to study is learning how to learn. And that is, to me, the greatest gift you can ever give yourself...or your children.
Having stated that so boldly, I suspect I still have to convince some of you that spending any time trying to master this stuff—studying, learning, reading, note taking, writing—is worth your while.
There are, of course, some terrific reasons why you should learn how to study, why you really must learn how to study. But before I start convincing you that developing proper study skills is important—and why—let’s figure out exactly what we mean by “study skills” so we’re all on the same wavelength.
Yes, How to Study includes hints, advice, and techniques for taking notes in class, while you’re reading your textbooks, in the library, and online; how to prepare for tests; and how to organize your study schedule to get the best results in the shortest amount of time. But that’s only half of the book. There are essential skills you may think have nothing to do with studying, and important steps you need to take right from the start.
vi How to Study
Here’s Where to Start
“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as if you would be in fear of losing it.” —Confucius
Developing great study habits is like a foot race between you and your friends. Before you can declare a winner, you have to agree on where the finish line is. In other words, how do you measure your ability to use these skills? What’s good? What’s poor?
But you can’t even start the race until you know where the starting line is—especially if it’s drawn at a different spot for each of you!
One starts by explaining individual study skills and clarifying how each can and should function in your life. Then you’ll be given the chance to find your own starting line.
Also you’ll learn the importance of where, how, and when you study, and you’ll start building the study environment that’s perfect for you. Why is this important? If you’ve spent three hours reading Gravity’s Rainbow with Outkast shaking the walls, it’s not surprising you’re still on page three. Reading about and understand- ing Mr. Pynchon might have little to do with increasing reading comprehension, rescheduling your time, or changing books...and a lot more to do with just turning down the volume.
There is no magic elixir in the study habit regimen. If math and science are not your strong suits, memorizing How to Study will not transform you into a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Nobody is great at everything, but everybody is great at something. So you’ll also get a chance to rate the subjects you like and dislike, plus those classes you do best and worst in.
Also one introduces some of the “intangibles” in the study equation: your home environment, attitude, motivation, and so forth. If you are dedicated to studying and motivated to achieve certain goals, all the other factors that affect your study habits will fall more naturally into place. A belief in the study ethic is one of the keys to success.
Finally, mastering some other key components of the study process— learning to “read” teachers, developing mentors, dealing with perfec- tionism, the importance of flexibility—will help you get off to the right start.
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