Reading assignments are something you will have to endure during your college career. Some professors are lazy and test strictly from the book, and some are evil by testing for minor details found in the chapters. In case you did not know, such professors receive test banks from their book’s publisher and the questions are ranked based on difficulty. The “hard” and “specific” questions are usually the ones that are focused on the minor details. I personally tried to avoid such professors, but that did not always work out.

Majority of the time I did not enjoy spending an hour reading a chapter about TQM, FIFO, or some other eye sore boring topic, thereby I was determined to learn how to read faster and still retain the same information. Let me explain a speed reading technique that I have personally learned and saved hours if not days of reading time.

First, you must widen your eye span. Eye span is the critical point of any speed reading method. The second step is to refrain reading word for word. Between every blink of your eyes, you should have captured not just 1 word, but multiple words, and later even whole sentences at a time. This might sound hard for you to do, since we were all taught to read word by word, but in actuality your brain recognizes a word just by looking at it and you can train it to recognize two words and more. To clarify, in this stage of your mental development, you have probably seen the same words in different context thousands of times. Just by looking at a single word, you automatically know and associate it’s meaning. This works for numerous words just the same.

The third step is to practice your speed reading. Start with reading just two words at a time until you are comfortable. You have to read a chapter for one of your assignments anyway, why not learn how to speed read while you are at it. So next time you are sitting there and reading, remind yourself you are no longer reading one word at a time, but with your wide eye span you are taking in two words per eye focus. When two words becomes easy, try with three words at a time, and so forth. Personally I have not mastered reading full sentences per eye focus, but four to five words per focus is not a problem at all. Just keep at it and practice until it becomes natural to you.

When you have to balance school, work, relationships, and a social life it can make it hard keeping your grades high, but trust me, it’s possible, I’ve have personally done it.  While it takes is a lot of self guidance, and time management, it will be worth it at graduation time when you walk down the line with a 4.0 GPA.

The semester is about to start, or has already started, so here are some general tips for achieving that 4.0 GPA this semester.

  • Take a second and think about how much time you waste sitting around surfing the web or watching TV.  Your grades would improve dramatically if you devoted some of that time to your course work.  The Internet and the TV are not going to go anywhere, however, you only have one opportunity to go to college.
  • Do not ever procrastinate.  Always keep up with the assigned work for all of your classes.  Start your assignments as soon as you find out the due date.  A lot of stress will be relieved from your shoulders when you complete your work ahead of time.
  • Make your best effort to attend every class.  Participation counts, so go to class when you are sleepy, hungover, or tired.  Only miss class if it’s a real emergency!  If you do have an emergency and miss class, make sure to get the notes you missed from class mates, and email your professor to let him know why you missed.  The professor will think of you as a “caring student” and you will benefit from his or her pleasant view towards you.
  • Make sure to take good notes. Even if you don’t miss class at all because it is not likely you will remember everything that was said during your lecture. There are several note taking methods and techniques discussed in this blog.  Try them out, and stick to the one you are the most comfortable with.  Furthermore, taking notes and staying busy in class will prevent your mind from wandering and day dreaming.
  • Try your best to get enough sleep.  Every person is different with regards to how much sleep they need in order to function properly, so if you are falling asleep in class or not paying any attention, then you probably did not get enough sleep the night before.  If that is something you can not really control, then invest in a digital voice recorder.  Read more about the benefits of a voice recorder here.

In order to make information much easier to remember, I always highlighted for study purposes.  In fact, highlighting a document, be it a paper, book or notes, with a colored highlighter or pen and a notational method will drastically increase memory retention and the comprehension of concepts. Highlighting is usually used to enhance interesting details, similar concepts, vocabulary words, definitions or proofreading mistakes and errors.

Increased memory retention can result from combining several methods of highlighting and notation. Describe your thoughts about the text or a main concept by writing a few key words or phrases in the empty margins of your page.  Indicate a list or series of supporting information in a section or paragraph by writing lower case letters (a,b,c…) or consecutive numbers (1,2,3…) at the beginning of each word or phrase.

When you are highlighting similar concepts, phrases, and key words with the same color highlighter or pen can make retention of information much easier when studying. For example, orange for one set of similar concepts and yellow for another. If you are highlighting to mark the mistakes you have made or corrections on your paper, different color notations also work well to show the difference between small and large errors. For example, yellow for small errors or corrections and red for large ones.

In closing, do not forget to use your highlighters on all of your books, notes, and study guides.  In order to get that perfect GPA you need to utilize all methods and techniques available. Do not study hard, study smart!

Have you ever had a professor who talks really fast during his or her lecture and you are unable to keep up taking notes?

How about a professor who speaks such broken English that you are unable to understand what he or she is saying half of the time?

Or how ever been in a situation where you are so tired, sleepy, hungover, or your mind is completely in another dimension and you are not paying attention in class?

I have been in all of the above situations during my college career.  It very was frustrating taking notes, and I decided I needed a “crutch” to eliminate some of that frustration.  The crutch was a digital voice recorder, and it was the second best investment I made in college following a laptop computer.  I always carried the voice recorder in my backpack and whenever I had a professor that lectured fast, had broken English, or I was just not feeling good, I always recorded the lecture for later use.  After class I skimmed through the digital recording of the lecture and finished the notes I was missing.  Sometimes I listened through the whole lecture again, and it worked wonders.  I was able to retain much more information, fast forward or rewind to concepts I didn’t understand, and even email the lecture to classmates when they asked for it.

Before purchasing the digital voice recorded I did a lot of research.  Sony voice recorders seemed to have the best reviews, so I purchased an earlier version of the Sony ICD-BX800, which is pretty cheap now running around $40 on Amazon.  You can check it out here.

In a previous post I have discussed the mapping and outline note taking methods.  The Cornell note taking method is another method that is popular among college students.  It is officially called the Cornell System which was designed by Walter Pauk at Cornell University.

In order to take full advantage of this system, you need to have a large loose leaf notebook, thereby allowing you to insert handouts from class, remove, and rearrange your notes for study purposes.

The unique feature of this note taking method is the layout of the margins on the page.  You’ll need to create a 2.5 to 3 inch margin on the left side of the page, and a 2 or so inch margin at the bottom of the page.   The loose leaf piece of notebook paper should look like the diagram below.

  • Recall Area - is the vertical space on the left side of the margin.  This column is not for writing notes, but strictly for review purposes.  When you go through the process of reviewing your notes, you should write questions you could ask yourself in this area pertaining to the notes.  By asking yourself questions related to the notes, and answering them, you will understand and retain the information from the notes.
  • Note Taking Area - this is the largest space on your notebook paper and is used for taking notes.  In this area you will write what your professor writes on the board, or says in lecture.  It is important not to write everything down verbatim, but enough keywords and information that you could understand later during your review.  Furthermore, you should learn how to short hand and abbreviate as much as possible.
  • Summary Area - this is the area at the bottom of your notebook page.  In this area you will summarize in a couple of sentences the information presented in your notes.  It’s basically a quick review you could read to understand the broad meaning of the notes.