5 Effortless Steps to Seminar Success

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Wouldnt it be great to shine as the top student in all your seminars – winning attention from professors (who might well be writing a reference for you in the future) and getting a high grade?

And wouldnt it be even greater to manage this without doing a ton of extra work?

Heres how to succeed in seminars – effortlessly:

1. Read intelligently beforehand

Of course, youre already doing all the assigned reading for your classes. (If not, thats a good place to start!) But rather than just skimming over the chapter youve been given, read intelligently. Pick out a couple of points in the chapter that you could disagree with, or that relate to something the class has already studied.

When it comes to the seminar itself, going beyond the usual bland points will really make you stand out as someone whos not just read the material for the class, but who has thought about it too. Professors like to see students using their brains – its what youre at college for!

2. Volunteer to go first in the semester

Will you need to give a presentation as part of this seminar? If so, volunteer to be the first one in the running order for the semester. Your professor will be impressed that youve got the courage to go first, plus youll get an easy time of it because you wont have had so long to prepare as other students.

Youll also find that its easier to work on producing a great presentation at the beginning of the semester, when you dont have any other deadlines, instead of towards the end when assignments are piling up.

3. Speak in the first 10 minutes

If you can speak up in the first ten minutes of your seminar, itll be much easier to remain an active participant throughout. Its so easy to sit there silently, trying to work up the courage to speak – but the longer you wait, the harder itll be.

Its also a good idea to answer any easy, introductory questions that come up at the start of the seminar; that way, your professor wont be picking on you for the difficult questions later on. Whenever youre confident of an answer, put your hand up; youll reduce the risk of having to stumble through a response when the professor decides its about time you spoke up.

4. Keep the conversation going

One thing most professors hate is a long silence during a seminar. If you can, do your best to keep the conversation going. That doesnt just mean answering questions when no-one else is volunteering, it also means listening carefully to the points that other people are making, and then chiming in with something that offers a new angle on what theyve said, or that takes their point further.

Dont be afraid to disagree or offer an alternative point of view – but dont ever suggest that fellow students are being stupid. A seminar is a safe environment for you and your classmates to learn and explore ideas, and your professor will appreciate it if you help foster that supportive atmosphere.

5. Thank your professor

It might seem a bit like sucking up, but why not thank your professor at the end of the semester? Yes, youll look weird if you send a hand-written missive after every class saying how grateful you are for their seminars but a short, sincere thank you email after the last class is a nice way to put a smile on your professors face.

You might be surprised how few students ever bother to thank their professors – taking ten minutes to do so could make all the difference when it comes to asking for a reference, or negotiating an extension to your essay deadline.

Are you a seminar super-star? What are your top tips on being a great member of the class?

Guest Writer: Ali Hale is a freelance writer and postgrad student in London, UK. She launched the blog Alpha Student – helping you get the most from your time at university.

Cheat Sheets

Heres a list of some helpful cheat sheets from around the web . . .

Algebra Notes
23 pages filled with every formula and rule you need to know for Algebra.

Algebra Cheat Sheet
A down and dirty guide to Algebra – in just 4 pages. Theres even a shorter cheat sheet here.

Calculus Cheat Sheet
6 pages of Calculus notes to help you master Calculus.

Chemistry Cheat Sheet [pdf]
This pdf provides a list of math and chemistry tips.

Computer Science Cheat Sheets
10 pages of theoretical computer science formulas.

English Grammar for Dummies
Somebody uploaded the entire English Grammar for Dummies book. Get the pdf while its still available. 388 pages.

Geometry Fact Sheet
Everything you need to know about Geometry.

GMAT in a Nutshell
A helpful list of info to help you prepare for the GMAT exam.

GMAT Tips
Grad Student Mirna Safi developed this document to help others study for the GMAT.

Grammar Cheat Sheets
Franklin provides you with a quick and dirty cheat sheet covering some of the most common grammar errors students make.

Law School – Bar Exam Cheat Sheets
35 pages of notes to help students pass the Bar exam.

MCAT Mnemonics
A giant list of mnemonics to help you prepare for the MCAT.

Pharmacology Notes
A huge list of pharmacology terms.

Physics, Calculus & Astrophysics Cheat Sheets
Harvard student Friedman provides everyone his personl cheat sheets in Calculus, Multivariable Calculus, Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Optics, Relativity, Astrophysics, and tons more. Everything can be easily viewed or saved as a jpg.

Physics & Calculus Cheat Sheets
Dana provides his personal cheat sheets in Calculus and Physics. These are zip files that you can easily download.

Physics Final (Cheat Sheet)
A student posted his personal cheat sheet for his High School physics exam. Its complete with problems from the test.

Trigonometry Cheat Sheet
All the Trig formulas you need to know.

Vocabulary Cheat Sheet
This pdf is designed for those preparing for the GMAT, but will also help for the GRE. 96 pages.

Can you recommend any others?

Group Study 101 – How to Avoid Goofing Off

I love to study in group sespecially before an exam.

The only problem is that if you dont have the right people in your group, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And thats not helpful for anyone.

Here are some tips to help you avoid goofing off when studying in a group:

Find the Right Students
There are many ways to stay productive during a group discussion, but it all starts with finding the right people. I recommend selecting the members for your group yourself. You know who in your class participates in class discussions. You know who seems to be serious about their education. Its those people that you want to join your group. The more motivated everyone is, the better off youll be. I know its fun to join a group with a bunch of friends, but those are the types of groups where its easy to goof around and not study productively.

Limit Your Group to Under Six Students
The larger the group, the more difficult it can be to keep everyone focused. If the group begins to grow for some reason, I recommend splitting everyone up into groups of 5 or 6. I tend to find that small group sizes work better together.

Set an Agenda
Once everyone arrives for your study group, decide on a quick agenda (if it makes sense). An agenda will keep everyone focused on whats ahead, and what they should be concentrating on. Set approximate time lengths for each item, and try to assign various tasks for each person (depending on what youre studying). Sticking to an agenda is a key to good productivity.

Discuss Class Notes
If everyone is studying for a particular test, have everyone make copies of their class notes. Everyone takes notes differently, and its helpful to look at a range of notes from different student perspectives. Everyone will benefit from seeing everyones notes. This could also spark some great discussions on areas that should get studied.

Discuss Possible Test Questions
Tell everyone in your group to bring a list of questions they think might be on the test. These questions are a great way to get the groups mental juices going. If possible, email your professor or teachers assistant ahead of time to get a list of areas to focus on. All the questions brought to the group are a great way to keep everyone thinking about the exam. It will also highlight particular areas that need more attention.

Everyone Should Teach
Some students are going to understand test material much better than others. If it makes sense to the group, have each person talk about the particular area they know very well. Have them explain what they understand about the particular topic, and have them field questions from the group.

What are some ways you keep your study group productive?

How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Dartmouth published a paper discussing ways for students to improve their memory as they study. These tips will help any student study smarter, not harder. Here are some of our favorite study tips:

Recite As You Study
Recitation should first take place as you read through each paragraph or section. Quiz or test yourself. This promotes understanding as well as faster learning because it is a more active process than reading or listening. It also tests understanding, revealing mistakes or gaps. Recite in your own words. Auditory learners should spend more time in reciting orally what they are learning than visualizers. Read aloud passages you find difficult.

Take Fuller Notes
Visual learners should take fuller notes during lectures and their readings, as they learn more readily by visualizing than hearing. Auditory learners should take fuller notes perhaps on their readings. Notes should be in your own words, brief, clear but succinct. They should be legible and neat. Writing notes better reinforces memory than mere underlining, which is frequently done mechanically , often to excess and does not check understanding.

Study the Middle
The best time to review is soon after learning has taken place. The beginning and the end of material is best remembered, so pay close attention to the middle which is likely to be forgotten. The peak of difficulty in remembering is just beyond the middle, toward the end. change your method of review.

Sleep On It
Study before going to bed unless you are physically or mentally overtired. Freshly learned material is better remembered after a period of sleep than after an equal period of daytime activity because retroactive interference takes place.

Connect Ideas Whenever Possible
There are two ways to memorize: by rote (mechanically) and by understanding. Multiplication tables, telephone numbers, combinations to safes, and the like are better learned by rote. ideas, concepts, theories and significances and the like are learned by understanding. Sometimes they work simultaneously.

The more association you can elicit for an idea, the more meaning it will have; the more meaningful the learning, the better one is able to retain it. Always note similarities in ideas and concepts, and put them in their proper place in a larger system of ideas, concepts and theories. A bare literal understanding is often of little valuable. Never be satisfied with a hazy idea of what you are reading. If you are not able to follow the thought, go back to where you lost the trail.

Read ways to help you study smarter. . .

How to Take Damn Good Class Notes

We’re always looking for good tips on taking class notes.

That’s why we’re in love with this tutorial on taking perfect lecture notes. Here are some of our favorite tips:

  • Summarize your notes in your own words, not the instructor’s. Remember: your goal is to understand what the professor is saying, not to try to record, exactly, everything he or she says.
  • Mark ideas which the lecturer emphasizes with an arrow or some special symbol.
  • When the teacher looks at his/her notes, pay attention to what they say next.
  • Make your notes your notes. Take advantage of how you learn (visually, orally, or actively) and write/draw your notes according to that style.
  • Consider splitting your notes into two columns — keep lecture notes on one side, and write questions that come up during the lecture on the other side. This will ensure that you don’t forget any unclear points or questions that come up during the lecture, and will enable you to associate the answer with the relevant material when you find it later. Also, if you go to office hours, your professor will notice that you were paying attention in class, which will pay off in the long run.
  • Copy what’s written on the blackboard and transparencies, especially the outline. To make sure that you get everything, get in the habit of skipping words like “the” and “a” and make use of shorthand and abbreviations.

Check out the full article on How to Take Perfect Lecture Notes.