5 Ways to Study for the LSAT While in College

In this guest post, Steve Schwartz from LSAT Blog gives 5 tips to help students balance their college courseloads with graduate-level exam prep.

If you have a full college course load and a decent social life, its probably hard enough to balance the two. Add studying for the LSAT to the mix, and you may feel overwhelmed. This post gives you 5 ways to balance studying for the LSAT (or GMAT, MCAT, GRE, etc.) with school and life obligations. Ill speak with regard to the LSAT throughout this article, but just apply my advice to your relevant exam.

1. Start your LSAT prep early.
Its much easier to do a little bit each week over the course of several weeks than to cram all your studying at once. Its less stressful, and it wont detract as much from schoolwork or your social life. Plan ahead and treat the LSAT as if it were another college class, and study for it over the course of the semester.

2. Fit in studying wherever you can.
Doing an LSAT Logic Game or a couple of Logical Reasoning questions between classes can keep you in the LSAT mind-set even if youre not studying for a few hours each day.

3. Set aside specific days and times each week to study.
This will ensure that a few weeks or months dont go by while your LSAT prep books gather dust in the corner. Create a study schedule and stick to it.

4. Stay off AIM, Facebook, and Gmail, and close your laptop.
I know computers and Internet are ubiquitous on college campuses, especially for socializing. However, you dont need a computer to study for the LSAT, and having one around will only serve as a distraction. Get rid of these time-suckers and stick to the books.

5. Form a study group.
If you can find people on your college campus (or in your neighborhood) who are also preparing for the LSAT, it may help to form a study group. Try to find study partners whose abilities complement your own so that you can help each other. Meeting on a regular basis will take some of the isolation out of test prep, and, like a gym buddy, a study partner will help motivate you to study.

Steve Schwartz is a professional LSAT tutor living in New York City. He updates LSAT Blog every week with free LSAT tips and tricks.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Asher

How to Add RAM to Your Brain – 8 Memory Hacks

You can instantly retrieve more information faster and easier by memorizing data in organized patterns.

Here are 8 ways to make information cement in your mind:

1. Acronyms
I’ve used acronyms throughout my college and grad school career. They’ve helped me memorize information for class presentations, and helped me memorize details for exams. An acronym is simply a word wherein each letter represents another word. For example: HOMES (The Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

2. Acrostics
Acrostics are sentences in which the first letter of each word helps you remember items in a series. For example: Zoe Cooks Chowder In Pink Pots in Miami (The Essential Minerals: Zinc, Calcium, Chromium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium).

3. Act it Out
Use your acting ability to make a connection with the material you’re trying to learn. For example: reenact a dialog between two historic figures – or carry on a debate between two different philosophers, politicians or literary critics.

4. Categories
Organize information into broad categories to help you remember information faster. For example: Types of Joints in the Body (Immovable, Slightly Movable, Freely Movable).

5. Peg Words
Develop a chain of associations between whatever list you need to memorize and a peg word. Peg words are associated with numbers (e.g. zero is hero; one is a bun; two is a shoe; three is a tree; four is a door; five is a hive; six is sticks; seven is heaven; eight is a gate; nine is wine; and ten is a hen). Here’s how peg words work with the atomic numbers in a periodic table: (1) Imagine a hydrogen hotdog on a bun; (2) Imagine a helium shoe balloon; (3) Imagine a lit tree on fire (lithium); (4) a door made of berries (beryllium); (5) a hive with bored bees (boron); and the list can go on. The odd pairing helps you memorize information quickly.

6. Rhymes
Make up a silly rhyme or pun to help you memorize information. For example: Brown vs. Board of Education ended public-school segregation.

7. Recordings
Make a recording of yourself giving a lecture about the subject you’re studying. This is especially helpful for foreign language classes or a vocabulary section on a standardized test.

8. Visualizations
Turn an abstract idea into an image of something that is as specific as possible. For example, visualize a scene from a historic period. Make it as real as possible in your mind. Use all your senses and imagine what it must smell like, feel like, etc. The more specific you are, the more you’ll remember.

What are some strategies you use to memorize information faster?

[Photo by Rofi]

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How to Cram for Final Exams

Its final exam time, and that means many students are having all night cram sessions right now.

Cramming isnt the best way to study, but sometimes its your only option especially if you havent been keeping up with your class readings.

Here are some cramming tips from around the web:

Divide up your time.

  • Figure out what you actually have time to do. Tally up your total study hours and estimate how much time youll need to spend studying each major concept, allotting the most time to the material you are least familiar with. Tackle the most unfamiliar concepts first, while youre still fresh, and save the material you know best for last. If you need to re-allot your time, donate more minutes to the lowest-ranked material to make sure you understand it fully.
  • Work steadily, but take frequent five- or ten-minute breaks to conserve your energy and avoid getting overwhelmed. Take a walk; get a snack and some fresh air. Move around often to prevent fatigue.

How to stay alert.

  • If youre having trouble staying alert while youre cramming, and you have no time for sleep, drink some coffee. If youre tired right before your test, drink some more. Caffeine aids mental alertness. Tea has also been proven to aid concentration.
  • Run up some stairs or do some jumping-jacks. Exercise gets blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
  • It has recently been proven that the smell of cinnamon and peppermint can help you stay alert. So chew on some gum if youre feeling worn out.

How to remember.

  • Recite, recite, recite. Recitation will burn facts into your mind like no other study method. Recite the material out loud until youre sure that youll be able to recall the information selected.

Study selectively.

  • You have to decide which information is most important to remember and concentrate upon those facts and ideas. Resist the temptation to try and learn all of the important-looking material. Youll need to use as much time as you have to remember the material youve chosen.
  • As you go through your notes, find important definitions, concepts and equations. If you dont know them by heart, write them down on a separate piece of paperyour cramming notes or, better yet, on 3X5 note cards. This will help you identify what you need to know, and youll have a handy set of flash cards. The process of rewriting may also help you memorize the content.

Eat a good breakfast.

  • Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Fueling up with nutritious foods will help keep your nerves steady and your brain engaged. Leave yourself enough time to give the test material one last review before you leave for school, but dont look at the material after that.

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. . .

The Pros and Cons of Recording Your Class Lectures

Ive only used an MP3 recorder a couple times in my college career, and these were for classes where my professor would spit out tons of information in a brief amount of time (and my pen couldnt keep up).

Here are some pros and cons of recording lectures:

The Benefits of Using a Recorder

The class lecture is complex and difficult to understand.
If youve ever had to sit through a lecture about Foucault, you know how difficult comprehending a lecture can get. And thats where listening to a lecture a second or third time can help.

Youre going to be absent.
Ask a friend to record a class lecture if youre going to miss it. Sure, you could just copy his or her notes, but a recorded class lecture in its entirely will make sure you dont miss a thing.

You want an audio archive.
If youre scared you might lose paper versions of your notes, then you might want to consider having an audio version available as a backup.

You cant keep up with how fast your professor is lecturing.
I have horrible penmanship, and my handwriting is too slow. So if you have a professor or TA that lectures fast, you may want to consider recording the lecture to catch anything you missed.

The Problems of Using a Recorder

Listening to Recorded Lectures Takes Time
The biggest downside of using recorded lecture notes is that it takes time to listen. Its another hour or two out of your day to scan through an old lecture. Its a time killer.

Recording Lectures Encourages Half-Listening
When you know everything is getting recorder, youre apt to daydream or not pay full attention to whats being said.

Recorders Require Batteries and Might Not Work Properly
You never know when your last battery dies, or when the recorder didnt capture everything your professor said. You also miss out on any notes your professor writes on the board.

Common Recording Problems
Here are some recording problems Ive encountered: batteries died, pause button left on, volume too low, and recorder microphone not close enough to the speaker.

For the most part, I never used a recorder – but what about you?

How to Deal with Crummy Professors

Spend time on RateMyProfessor.com and youll find a huge list of complaints from students about their various professors.

Thankfully, Ive been lucky to have mostly good professors throughout my college experience.

However, there are a few Profs who were lousy.

In fact, I dreaded going to their classes because they didnt care about teaching – and they obviously didnt care about us (their students).

Most of the time, Ive been able to avoid these Profs by dropping them, but sometimes theres no way around it. Sometimes that course is mandatory – and sometimes that professor is the only one teaching it.

So what do you do?

Well, here are some steps that Ive taken to help me get through those class successfully . . .

Ask good questions.
One way to improve your relationship with these professors is by staying active in class. Participate as much as possible and ask good questions.

Read your professors journal articles and/or books.
If you want to make an honest effort to befriend one of these professors, you should spend some time skimming through everything theyve ever published. Through reading their writing, youll get a glimpse into what theyre interested in – and will arm you with info on how to write papers theyll enjoy reading.

Visit them in office hours.
Its rare for students to visit their Prof during office hours, so youll automatically stand out. Plan on making one or two brief visits during your semester. Even one visit will go a long way. You dont have stay long. Just visit to get clarification on an assignment – or to ask a question about your reading. Youd be surprised how this can really benefit you.

Talk with your professor after class.
Be ready with one question at the end of some of your classes to ask your professor directly. Many students are scared to talk to teachers like this – so you can really make waves with him or her by stepping up and getting clarification on a paper assignment or the lecture.

Email your Prof an article you think they might find interesting.
If you find a website or article you he/she would appreciate, email it to them. They will probably thank you for the email.

What are some of the ways youve dealt with a lousy teacher?

Recommended Reading

How to Prepare Yourself for Final Exams – 5 Smart Ways

So were all about one month away from final exams.

And that means that its time to start preparing ourselves mentally for the exams ahead.

If youre taking four courses, then you probably have to write four final papers; review notes from 40 different lectures; finish reading 8 to 12 different textbooks; and find time to prepare for final exams.

It can seem overwhelming, but if you start preparing yourself now, youll feel a lot better about getting everything accomplished.

Here are 5 ways to help you prepare your mind and body for a successful final exam season:

Spend Time Studying for the Tests that Carry the Most Weight
Not all final exams and papers are weighted the same. Make sure you know what percentage each paper or final exam is worth to your grade. That will give you some perspective on how much time you should designate studying for each class.

Focus Your Time on Difficult Classes
If youre pulling a solid A in American Literature, then you obviously dont need to spend as much time studying for that class. Instead, spend most of your study time on the difficult classes where your grade is borderline.

Spend Time Reviewing Class Notes Now
Do yourself a favor and spend at least one hour per class reviewing class notes. That means youll have reviewed all your class notes in just 4-hours. Highlight all the areas that are important, and look at the syllabus to narrow down the key areas you should spend your time studying. By simply going over all your class notes, youll get a good overview of the specific areas you should start studying. This will also provide your mind with a good summary of everything youve been learning this quarter (or semester).

Organize Study Groups
Most students wait until the last minute to form study groups. And those group meetings often turn into cram sessions. To avoid this, organize your study groups now to go over class notes and areas that should get studied. Youll all feel ahead of the game if you start your study groups now – and thats a huge way to reduce stress during finals week.

Design a Study Schedule and Stick to It
Make a commitment to spend at least an hour a week (per class) to focus on the final exam. By setting aside time now to focus on the final exam, youre preparing your mind for whats ahead. And youll also find areas that you have questions about. This will provide you plenty of time to get answers from your professors.

15 Online Notepads You Should Check Out

There must be over 100 different websites out there offering web-based notepads to students.

Some of these websites are pretty cool, but most of them need a major design overhaul.

Well, were going to review each one eventually, but well provide you links to each one so that you can check them out for yourself. Check them out:

Feel free to leave a comment below about which online notepad you enjoy using. And please let us know if theres a particular online notepad that you think should be reviewed here.

The Nuts and Bolts of Time Management

If youve been reading productivity blogs for a while, you probably already know the basics of time management:

  • Making your “To Do” list
  • Focusing on one task/goal at a time
  • Creating deadlines for yourself
  • Rewarding yourself for accomplishing your goals
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • Making time to relax

Its easy to understand these basics, but its another to actually apply them in real-world situations.

As you know, its very easy to lose focus on our daily goals – especially with email, Digg.com, Google Reader, yada, yada, yada.

So thats why Ive found these online resources on time management very practical:

Managing Your Time
Dartmouth developed a nifty list of online resources for time management. The article includes links to a time management video, planning documents, and free calendars to download in both Word and Excel.

Beating Procrastination
The best way to defeat procrastination is to identify it the moment its happening. This article provides 3 practical steps to overcome this weakness in all of us.

10 Tips for Time Management in a Multitasking World
Even though this article is focused on todays office environment, it definitely fits with the life of a busy student.

12 Hours to Better Time Management
Lifehack.org developed a great article on time management. Pay close attention to the first section that discusses how to set up your calendars.

61 Time Saving Tips
This article starts by saying that You DO have enough time for everything and then gives you a laundry list of ways to help you accomplish all your goals.

8 Ways to Avoid Managing Your Time Effectively
Sometimes it helps to read the opposite advice to think clearly about what were doing to waste time.

Time Management Principles for Students
The University of Minnesota Duluth compiled this list of time management strategies for students. Simple and practical.

TimeTracker
TimeTracker is an online tool to help you track the time you spend on each of your tasks. It can help keep you on focused – which is helpful when you need to write a lengthy paper.

Time Management [Video] – Randy Pausch
This lecture was recorded at the University of Virginia – and runs over an hour. Its both informative and entertaining.

The Cure for Writers Block -10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Brain

As an English Lit. major in college, I had to write dozens of essays a quarter.

And, unfortunately, I got hit with writers block on a regular basis.

I tried to combat it by spending more time researching in the library, but that just made my problem worse.

You see, even though research is important it didnt help me write my paper. In fact, Ive found that research just helped me procrastinate more.

So how do I cure my bouts with writers block?

Here are 10 ways that have helped me write when Im not in the mood:

1. Relax your mind.
The more you worry about not having ideas, the more youll freeze up your mind. You need to relax and think positively about your writing assignment. Realize that everyone goes through writers block, and the cure is to relax your mind.

2. Take a hot shower.
I dont know what it is about a hot shower, but it really helps me refresh my body and mind. The hot shower helps me relax and focus on my writing assignments. Its also a place where I brainstorm easily. Take a notepad and leave it next to your shower door for when the ideas start flowing.

3. Write freely.
Whenever Im at a loss for words, Ill just start writing. It doesnt matter what you write, just write something. The very act of getting words on a page will help you build confidence, and help your mind to start pumping out your thoughts.

4. Write what you would say to your friend.
Sometimes it helps me to pretend that Im explaining the subject to a friend. By imagining a conversation with a friend, it helps me write what I would say – and this is a great way to trick yourself into writing.

5. Dont worry about punctuation or organization.
When youre struggling with writers block, this is not the time to focus on punctuation or how youre organizing your paper. You want to eliminate everything that stands between you and getting words on a page. So just write and dont worry about anything else.

6. Take deep breaths.
There are many benefits to breathing deeply in meditation, and one of them is to help you refresh your mind. I personally like Dr. Weils deep breathing exercises when Im feeling tired and uninspired:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  3. Exhale through tightly pursed lips, creating back pressure, for eight seconds.
  4. Do this eight times, twice a day, everyday.

7. Move around.
Get your body moving and possibly even try writing in a new location. Just by moving around will get your blood pumping faster and will help you feel more energized.

8. Concentrate on a different section of your paper.
If youre stuck writing your introduction, just skip it. Start writing another section. Dont worry if you dont have the best paragraph structure – just write and the words will start to flow. You can always edit later.

9. Listen to music.
Sometimes listening to classical music or jazz can help you start writing. It doesnt work for everyone, but Ive found that it can help me block out any surrounding noises and focus on my writing. Try music when youre out of words.

10. Dont worry about failing.
Look, a lot of people get writers block because they think theyre afraid of failure – or they think they cant write a good paper. You have to get rid of that negativity and start writing. The more you write, the better your paper will be. You can always edit it later – and find a friend to proofread it to give you some suggestions.

So just start writing . . .