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You don't have to be a genius to do well in college. Nor do you have to be a "bookworm." You don't have to be certain about your life goals to become an educated person. Nor do you have to become an "intellectual." It helps if you are at least somewhat above average in intelligence, and it helps if you know how to use your study time effectively. This book is about ways to learn college material.

When I first went to college, my grades were mostly D's with a few F's. But when I returned to college after three years of military service, my grades were mostly A's with a few B's. I surely wasn't any more intelligent the second time around. But I was wiser in the ways of learning and I have learned much more during forty years of teaching and doing research about the learning process. I want to share this knowledge in hopes of sparing others my initial failure.

However, this is not just a "learning cookbook," a list of the recipes for studying different topics. This book calls on the Psychology of Learning/Memory and Motivation to tell you WHY the WAY is effective. It turns out that you are not likely to change your ways if I just tell you about another way to learn. But if you understand why these ways may be better, you are more likely to try them out. Even if you prefer your old ways, you will have more confidence in them after exploring alternatives.

You see, my main goal is to get you to pay some attention to how you learn. We rarely stop to think about things that "come naturally." For example, take a deep breath and pay attention to how you do it. Chances are, you tried to expand your chest as much as possible. But in doing so, you have to suck in your abdomen, which decreases the space available for your lungs to expand. So now take another deep breath by first expanding your abdomen. You'll find that you can take in much more air that way.

The reason you need to know the whys as well as the ways is that what is best for me may not be best for you. Just as a good cook has to add her or his own touch to any recipe, a good student has to adapt any method to his or her own style. The more you know about how you learn, the better you will know how to learn.

Using this Workbook

Insofar as possible, I have written these materials in such a way that they can be studied in any order. However, the major topics follow a natural progression from getting started to taking exams. Accordingly, I recommend that you read the book in the given order, and then plan to study it according to your own interests and needs. Although I believe that everything included in this workbook is important, not everything is equally important for everyone. You are the best judge of what is most important for you.

Even before starting to read this book, however, I recommend that you look through the following Pre-test. The purpose of this workbook is to help you understand WHY each of the statements in the Pre-test is true or false. Your behavior as a student is guided by your beliefs about these topics, even if you are not aware of it. Let me explain what I mean.

The instructions tell you not to guess. The fact is that most students always try to guess at whether an item is true or false even when they have no real knowledge about it. If you are such a student you are behaving in a way that assumes that guessing is alright, and perhaps even a good thing to do. That may be true in a graded exam, but guessing in most other circumstances is actually very bad.

WHY is guessing bad? In the first place, part of education is knowing what you don't know. Ignorance is not the same as stupidity, and it is much wiser to admit that you don't know something than it is to act as if you do know it. Which is more, we learn our answers, right or wrong! So when you guess the first time, you will remember your answer but forget that it was only a guess. A great deal of what you think you know about the topics in this book was learned by this self-deceiving process.

Instructions: Indicate whether the following statements are True or False. DO NOT GUESS--leave blank if not sure. Explain why they are true or false.

In order to get passing grades (C), an average student should expect to spend a minimum of 3 times the number of credit hours being a student (that is, attending class and studying.)

Even after completing an assignment, good students continue until they have put in the expected amount of time in order to insure that they don't develop the habit of working too fast.

Optimistic students are especially conscious of how much they know.

A good way to increase your commitment is to keep reminding yourself of how much you have left to learn.

Most educated Americans would be functionally illiterate in Russia.

In order to learn how to learn, you need to take a course or study a book about learning strategies.

There is a maximum amount that you can learn and remember in any one day/night cycle.

In order to be a good student, you should abstain from both sex and alcohol.

A feeling of homesickness when you hear a familiar song illustrates the concept of a mental habit.

As used in the Principle of Primacy, initial learning refers to childhood experiences.

In dealing by yourself with your own personal problems, the most crucial step is to be sure that you have the true facts.

According to the Principle of Minimizing Work, the easiest way to do something will usually prevail.

Students who understand the Principle of Active Participation try to prevent information processing from becoming automatic.

Practicing paying attention can improve one's voluntary control over selective attention.

In general, it is better to rehearse course material word-for-word rather than trying to elaborate on it.

By and large, general world knowledge is not verbal.

Coding information involves making ideas meaningful to you.

Good teachers cannot teach incompetent students, but good students can learn from incompetent teachers.

In general, knowledge increases most rapidly at first, then gradually slows down.

Information processing should culminate in integrating new information with existing knowledge.

Intelligent people in positions of power refrain from judging other people by appearance.

The more times that you have processed an item of information, the easier you can process it on subsequent occasions.

Educated grammar is properly called "good" grammar because it is logical and consistent.

Mental time-sharing requires doing several cognitive tasks more-or-less simultaneously.

It would be grammatically correct to say that studying this book should be helpful for you and I.

According to the Principle of Contiguity, if your writing is illegible, it's because you learned to write illegibly.

In general, the lower your endowed intelligence, the more important motivation is.

You should only take a few written notes during a lecture, even if you're having difficulty understanding it.

If the information in a lecture is stated explicitly, you can learn it without having to process it yourself.

Improving one verbal skill tends also to improve the other verbal skills.

After a good college lecture, good students leave feeling refreshed.

Information conveyed in lecture is more likely to be on tests than information only in the texts.

A primary objective of giving exams in college courses is to identify poor students.

When reciting the ideas in your lecture notes, it is usually okay to deviate from the words copied from lecture.

In trying to understand a new idea, you should be sure to recite precisely what you read or heard.

Learning is consolidated during sleep.

Using mnemonics to aid memory is undesirable in college-level courses.

All exams at every educational level are graded on a relative basis.

The objective exam is easier than the essay exam, so you don't have to study for it so hard.

The advice to spend at least half of your study time reciting means to put the ideas in different words.

You can't have a positive attitude toward an exam until you know you know all the material.

It is hard work to prepare for an exam even if you have kept up with your studies.

If you are well prepared, you should not be apprehensive about exams.

You should study differently for true-false and multiple-choice exams compared with essay exams.

You should arrive to take an exam right at the last minute so you won't have time to wait around and get anxious.

It is a good idea to mark up the exam sheet liberally.

If in doubt, choose an answer that fits best with common sense.

A good test-taking strategy is to skip items that you find difficult and return to them later if you have time.

Only poor students use some guessing ritual, such as tossing a coin, when they don't know the answer to a multiple-choice item.

You should give the answer that you know is correct even if it is different from what the professor said.

Overall, most students are more likely to change answers from wrong to right.
You will have to read the text to find out WHY the correct answers to the above items are true for odd-numbered items and false for even-numbered items.

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Derek Hamilton