First, how to get the most out of reading a book:

(Adapted from The Psychology of Learning, by J.E. Deese)

1. Skim through the assigned reading so that you will know what it is you are to read.

2. Next, read the text carefully. Do not forget that many important ideas are presented in graphs, diagrams, or maps.

3. As you read, stop now and then and recite to yourself, in your own words, the important ideas in what you have just read.

4. Make brief notes in the margin. These will serve as cues for subsequent self-recitation.

5. Mark important or key passages for later review. (But if you mark too many passages or phrases, it becomes harder to remember which stuff is more important, so be sparing in the use of your highlighter!)

6. Cross-index your lecture notes with the textbook.

Second, some general rules for preparing for tests:

1. Prepare for the lecture by reading ahead in the text, according to the course syllabus.

2. Make lots of notes during the lecture. Stay alert and receptive. Try to think ahead of the lecturer.

3. Review the lecture within 24 hours. You tend to forget material, with a "decay half-life" of about one day.

4. Do a weekly cumulative review. Start now on the review for the next test.

5. Work problems. If you really want the grade, do all the assigned problems, then look for other problems in other textbooks.

6. Join a study group. The other people will help reinforce your own learning.

7. See the tutor, the TA, the professor. When in doubt, ask!

8. For study aids, stress reduction, and so on, check with the campus counseling center.

9. Make up a "rehearsal" test, maybe with your study group. Take it, and see how you do.

Third, some hints on how to solve problems:

(Adapted from How to Solve It, by G. Polya)


What are the data? What is the unknown? Identify conditions or constraints. Draw a figure. Separate various parts of the problem.


Have you seen a problem like this before? If so, how did you solve that problem?

Do you know a related problem? How was it solved? Can you adapt those methods to this problem?

Try to restate the problem, to make it similar to one you have already seen.


As you work out the problem with your plan, check each step. Can you see clearly that the step is done correctly?


Can you check the final result? What about the argument?

Can you get the result by another route?

Can you use the result or the method for some other problem?

Does the answer "make sense"? Does it agree with your experience and intuition? If not, is there some key reason why not?

Some key words from Bloom's Taxonomy


To produce facts, lists, names labels, tables, definitions, descriptions, reproductions.

Key words: recall, identify, describe, define, list, name memorize, match, tell who, tell what, fill in the blank


To produce a summary, interpretation, translation, extrapolation.

Key words: summarize, paraphrase, translate, explain, interpret, write a short answer


To produce an application, performance, product, illustration, demonstration, lesson, model, map, diary.

Key words: apply, show, make, illustrate, demonstrate, teach, use, tell how to


To produce a comparison, contrast, outline, chart, graph, plan, causal analysis.

Key words: compare, contrast, classify, categorize, dissect, distinguish, determine, tell why, deduce, investigate


To produce a design, prediction, hypothesis, invention, formula, solution, synthesis, project.

Key words: design, predict, hypothesize, invent, create, solve, compose, combine, infer


To produce an evaluation, opinion, verdict, judgment, editorial, critique, recommendation, decision, or diagnosis.

Key words: evaluate, rate, assess, judge, editorialize, choose, critique, grade, decide, diagnose, determine value

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