How to Become a Straight-A Student | Test (Assessment) | Lecture

Notes on How to Become a Straight A Student

Faraaz Sareshwala December 31, 2008

Contents
1 Introduction 2 Study Basics 3 Assignments 3.1 Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 Notes on Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 Problem Sets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Quizzes and Exams 4.1 Preparation . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 Studying . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3 Academic Disaster Insurance 4.4 Taking exams - A+ answers . 1 2 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 6 6 6 7

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5 Essays and Papers 5.1 Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.2 Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.3 Editing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Words to Add to Vocabulary 7 Words to Add to Active Vocabulary

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Introduction

I have just finished reading How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport (ISBN: 0767922719) which attempts to teach students about ‘secret’ methods used by Straight-A students across the country to score higher grades in classes while doing less work. The book delivered on its promise of teaching the reader unconventional strategies for approaching university level work and getting the work done on time. Newport emphasized working smart but efficient so that a student may complete all of the work in a reasonable amount of time allowing for a social life, while at the same time learning and retaining the material. While the two objectives are seemingly unrealistic, the book offers common sense strategies for an efficient approach to college level work. Here I document

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those items which sparked my interest and those items which I took note of while reading the book for future reference.

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Study Basics
• Work long and easy versus work short and hard • Prioritize and time label schedule every day with todo list as well on iPhone • Beating procrastination – Drink water constantly – Monitor caffeine intake – Choose healthy snacks (fruits, vegetables, whole grain, granola, etc) – Don’t skip meals – Change of scenery to get something done – Routine free time each week assigned to same task – Plan difficult days in advance for mental preparation • Work in small segments - the earlier the better • Maximum 1 hour without a break: 50 minutes study time, 10 minutes break. • Go to Class! For 1 hour you spend in class, you will spend 3 hours in the book trying to learn the material. • Take notes on a laptop only since you can get information much faster. • Non-technical courses: What’s the big idea? – Generally are the liberal arts courses – Question, Evidence, Conclusion format of lectures – Ask questions during class to clear up any confusions. Better now than later when you don’t have the professor. – Review notes right after class for maximum retention – Constantly look for what the professor feels is important. • Technical courses: What’s the problem? – Get as many sample problems as possible – Review what you don’t understand afterward – Bring relevant reading and follow along in class – Priority 1: Problem statement and answer – Priority 2: Ask questions right away when you get confused

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– Priority 3: Record steps in the problem – Priority 4: Annotate

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Assignments
• Work ahead if ahead of schedule

3.1

Reading

• Don’t read everything. Always read favored sources (the text or course reader) and don’t always read supplemental sources (academic papers, speeches) • For supplemental reading, readings that make an argument > describe an event read skim > provide context (speeches) skip

• Use lecture title as a clue as to which items you should read • Use subsequent lecture to confirm your choices. Go back and re-read if necessary.

3.2

Notes on Reading

• Question, Evidence, Conclusion format • Get major question of the reading (what’s the point?) • Write the conclusion (usually found in the first few or last few paragraphs)

3.3

Problem Sets

• Work in groups • Work on them constantly (a few problems a day) • Take advantage of office hours • Solve problems on the go – Read problem – Attempt – Fail – Walk around – Reattempt . . . solve • Write solutions into LaTeX immediately so can be done with that problem

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Quizzes and Exams
• Two main goals – Organize material intelligently – Targetted review

4.1

Preparation

• Define scope of exam – What’s fair game? – Types of questions – Open book? – Formula’s provided? • Study guide (Non-technical courses) – Print relevant pages – Arrange and pile by topic • Mega-problem set (Technical courses) – Pile relevant problem sets – Marry lecture notes to problem sets – Copy lecture questions with date – Add explanation questions for major topics – Sample exams • Memorization: purely flash cards • Don’t organize and study on the same day.

4.2

Studying

• Quiz and recall method (review, explain unaided. If can do it, go on. Else repeat) • Construct practice questions for each topic – Take practice quiz on paper (actually do the problems) – Checkmark those which give you trouble. Review their answers and tricks. – Take a break. – Repeat from start with only those you checkmarked. Continue until have no more check marks.

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• Previous year’s exams under timed conditions. • Review early on.

4.3

Academic Disaster Insurance

• Ask questions in class • Talk to professor after class to eliminate questions • Ask classmates • Review sessions. Come prepared. • If all else fails, skim.

4.4

Taking exams - A+ answers

• Review entire exam first • Budget total time period − 10 number of questions • Short exams: mark start and end times on each question • Long exams: break exam up into fourths and mark start and end times • Grab the low lying fruit • Don’t worry about neatness • Outline essay responses

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Essays and Papers
• An increase in thinking goes with an increase in granularity of the material • Chooing a topic - pick one early • Finding a thesis - develop an argument early. From general research to precise topic. • Second opinion on the thesis (professors opinion in office hours)

5.1

Research

• Library of Congress topics lead to other sources • Databases (LexisNexis, JSTOR, etc) • Reference librarians can show you more tools • Photocopy or print sources to annotate 5

– Add citation information – Get its bibliography for more sources • Annotate - Skim • Done? Have a source for everything you want to say.

5.2

Writing

• How to start? Read newspapers to get good thinking juices flowing. Bounce ideas off of friends. • Outline – Don’t under-outline: argumentative dead-ends – Don’t over-outline: get started already • Consult friends about your argument and outline. Especially consult professor. • May be good to read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well • Schedule for completion: a few sections a day. • Fresh mind better for writing • Revise on a different day

5.3

Editing

• 3 pass approach – Argument adjustment – Send to a friend – Final revision

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Words to Add to Vocabulary

Bleary (of the eyes) unfocused or filmy from sleep or tiredness Consternation feelings of anxiety or dismay, typically at something unexpected Debauchery excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures Dubious hesitating or doubting; not to be relied on; suspect Endemic (of a disease or condition) regularly found among particular people or in a certain area Exult show or feel elation or jubilation especially as the result of success Foray a sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory especially to gain something; a raid

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Insidious proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects Milieu a person’s social environment Posit assume as a fact; put forward as a basis of an argument Prognostic serving to predict the likely outcome of a disease or ailment Rote mechanical or habitual repetition of something to be learned Stymied prevent or hinder the progress of Tome a large, heavy, scholarly book Tortuous full of twists and turns Triage sorting according to quality Vermillion brilliant red pigment made from mercury sulfide Wistful having or showing a feeling of vague or regretful longing

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Words to Add to Active Vocabulary
• Antiquity • Arsenal • Cement • Courting • Destabilizing • Devilish • Dissipate • Distinct • Elusive • Err on the side of • Eureka • Haphazard • Harsh • Herculean • Illustrate • Incoherent • Intensity • Internalize • Lull • Manifest • Marshaling • Monolithic • Muster • Nemesis • Nonsense • Obscure • Peruse • Poring • Recount • Rigorous • Theses • Torpedo • Succumb • Syllabi • Taming • Targeted • Spouted • Succinct

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