Monday, December 5, 2011

Finish the Course—Tips for Finals Week

Finish the Course—Gordon's final examination support program for students—begins today. 

Now in it's 11th year, everyone at Gordon participates in the Finish the Course program—staff and faculty donate home baked snacks and refreshments to study halls, additional tutors are available, lounges become study halls and silent study areas occupy rooms within the library. This year, the Academic Support Center is adding final exam clinics during the lunch hour in Lane to gives students a place to stop by, ask questions, speak with academic support staff and learn additional study skills during this time of year. 

"In the Academic Support Center, we often say that studying is an act of the will," said Ann Seavey, director of academic support. "This implies that studying is not always something you will want to do or feel like doing, but something that you must do as it relates to the task you have been given at this moment in your life."

Last week faculty and staff were asked to share with students study techniques from their days in undergrad and graduate school programs. We share a few of them here:

"Your task is not to memorize. It is to care—about the aspect of God's creation you are studying, and about the persons (textbook writers, professors) who are guiding your efforts to study. Dialogue with God, his world, and your fellow-learners (including the ones called 'teachers'), and you will pass the only test that counts." 
-Bert Hodges, professor of psychology

"Read through your notes and summarize the main points on separate pages using an outline form so that you can see how smaller ideas connect to main themes. Study these summary pages. Then test yourself by trying to write out the main ideas and sub points. Go back and check this against your summary outline. Put important facts on 3x5 cards and work to memorize these. Take heart! Hard work pays off!" 
-Megan K. DeFranza, instructor, The Great Conversation 

"Stop every 3 minutes and ask yourself what you just read/learned: sum it up in a few words. This reinforces the pathways in the brain. Then repeat it again later and again much later—even if you only review a few items out of many, you'll know those things well." 
-Stephen G. Alter, associate professor of history

"Study the most difficult course material first since you are motivated to study and your mind is sharp. Organize your time creating significant periods without interruption. When you take a short break to stretch/eat an apple/drink water be intentional about going back to your studies. Also, fast from social networks (including the telephone) during study time."
-Sybil Coleman, professor of social work 

"Start by gathering all of your books and notes and settling into a comfy spot with a warm mug of tea or hot chocolate. Settle into the mindset of sitting in one place for a time and focusing on the work at hand." 
-Katie Madden, administrative assistant, Center for Outdoor Education, La Vida

"Start early and study for the same amount of total time over several days. (Remember: Eight hours studying between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is not the same as studying between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. for four nights.) Also get together with other students in your class to talk about topics that will be covered to make sure you understand them as much as you need to." 
-Richard Stout, professor of mathematics

"Pace yourself and set a series of small goals that will lead to completion of the larger tasks before you. Give yourself some kind of reward when you finish each small goal (food, a 10-minute break, a short walk/run, whatever works for you) and be disciplined about not taking your reward before you've met each goal."
-David Starbuck, director, W.I.L.D. Semester Program

"Space. Give yourself space to do the one thing you’re doing well. Schedules, just like rooms, can become cluttered and claustrophobic, so give yourself the space to do what you’re doing well." 

-Ryan Groff, program coordinator, Jerusalem & Athens Forum
"Get some sleep and study during your best waking hours. You’ll be more productive and get better results. Those papers you write in the middle or at the end of an all-nighter… I can tell." 
-Casey Cooper, managing director, Center for Nonprofit Studies 

"Study somewhere that is not too comfortable or like home. The library stacks are great… very quiet, and others are suffering along with you!"
-Debbie Drost, program director, Center for Christian Studies

"For those who tend to think of a million things they need to be doing while they are trying to concentrate—keep a pad of paper and a pencil next to the computer or book and every time your mind strays to all the things you need to do, write them down (don't put the book down) and get back to studying. When you’re done studying, start on the to-do list you created."
-John Soucy, environmental safety officer

"Get up earlier. I'm a much better writer early in the morning, so I get up earlier when I have to write papers."
-Stan Gaede, scholar in residence

"I would hold a stress ball in my hand and eat a peppermint candy when studying for finals. I would do the same while taking the test to connect my memory from studying to what was on the test. Also get plenty of sleep so your mind gets rest. It helps the material to sink in." 
-Elizabeth Lyon, resident director, Wilson Hall

"Exercise. It may seem like it's taking away precious study time, but I never regret taking extra time to exercise in the midst of busyness. Exercise makes me more productive for work or study."
-Abram Kielsmeier-Jones, director of Christian life and worship

“In college, I could not study in my room or at the library due to distractions and wanting to be with people. I'd find a classroom and go there every night of the week from 7-10 p.m. My friends knew I didn't want to be disturbed during that time but at 10:00 they could come find me for some adventure. Once you find that quiet place free of distractions and competing activities, go there for a certain number of hours per day. Once it becomes a routine it will help with concentration and productivity." 
-Rich Obenschain, director of outdoor education, La Vida

"Get enough sleep. Being able to think clearly is just as important as knowing all the facts." 
Jonathan Senning, professor of mathematics & computer science

"Write it down—trust yourself to paper. Even if you just jot down a very incomplete idea about what you've just read or what you want to say in a paper or on an exam. Once you've actually committed yourself to a comment, it will be easier to go somewhere with it." 
-Ann Blackwill, adjunct, English

"Start early. Start studying for finals a week before your exams. Study for a significant chunk each day and try and cover all the material from each class 2-3 times that week. Then, during the week of exams, you’ve 'saturated' yourself with the material and merely have to review. This is much more effective that cramming one subject on any particular day." 
-Josh Wymore, director of orientation

"Study in advance to ensure a full night of sleep and turn off all screens (Facebook, TV and other media) and find a solitude place without distractions. Exercise, eat healthy food and avoid foods and drinks that claim to provide energy." 
-Margaret Hothem, professor of recreation and leisure

"Imagine you are the teacher. What questions would you put on the exam?" 
-Dale Pleticha, professor of physics

"Keep a calendar—as assignments are given in class, write down in the calendar when you plan to do it. Study at the allotted times, and cross assignments off when done so you can feel good about your progress." 
-Sue Trent, adjunct, art

"Find a study partner. This can be a classmate or a roommate whether they are in the class or not. If the buddy is from class, ask each other questions you expect to be on the test and provide feedback on the answers. If they are not in the class, tell them what you expect to be on the test and ask them if they understand your explanations of the material. Be sure it is someone who will give good feedback and hold you to a high standard in terms of articulation and understanding of the material." 

-Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of English and education

"Use color coding when writing a long paper. Using a different color for each part of the outline/topic and coding the notes you want to include in that section the same color. This method helps sort out all the yellow notes or all the green notes together, read them over and then synthesize them into a paragraph." 
-Carol A. Herrick, assistant dean and registrar

"Don’t panic: God does not ask you to do more than is possible. Your job is to glorify Him in the present, making wise, prayerful choices. If you can do this faithfully, God will be pleased." 
Leasa Lutes, professor of foreign languages

"Stretch—standing, gently roll your spine down so you are relaxed and dangling your head and arms over your feet. Make sure your knees are loose. Gently roll back up, focus on your breathing to make sure it's relaxed and deep. Changing your position like this gets your blood moving to your brain and relaxes the brain and body so you can absorb more. Give yourself a neck massage and your scalp a scratch. This further relaxes your body and wakes up your synapses. A foot massage will help too."
Kristina Wacome Stevick, artistic director, History Alive! 

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