Condensed Study Notes to the Rescue

studyguideThis semester, in addition to taking an independent study Calculus course, I’m also taking a “hybrid” General Chemistry I class.

What is a “hybrid” class you ask?  It basically means that we meet once per week to take exams, quizzes, and do the required labs.  To put it another way, the class is basically directed self-study with four hour a week lab session. 

At first, I struggled with the online and self-directed courses.  It rankled me that I was paying a premium for a course and I wasn’t being taught; I was left to my own devices, so I spent a lot of time thrashing. 

It took me a while to figure out how to study for these types of courses, then I finally had an epiphany.

I read countless blog posts on how to study, and I watched dozens of hours of videos of regurgitated study tips.  But it wasn’t until I started researching how medical students cope with a fire hose of high yield information did I finally pick up some usable actionable study tips.

The best technique was to create a set of condensed study notes.

Your goal is to create a set of condensed notes, a minimal study guide and study that, not a verbose textbook or plow through videos, class lecture notes or study guides.

The process is incredibly simple:

  • Reading (and highlighting) a text book is a passive activity.  For scientific text books, chances are that simply reading the book will result in very little retention of the information.  Taking notes is a more active form of studying and will increase the amount of information you retain.
  • Start by reading the textbook and take note of information that you don’t know or is important.  Start fleshing out a document with condensed, high yield information. 
  • Read through the power point presentation or lecture notes and add more information and focus on items or concepts that overlap in the book.  Same for lecture notes.
  • Do the same for any supplemental information.
  • Take multiple passes to revise the condensed notes.  Remove stuff you know and add supplemental information you want to review later.