5 Ways to Study for the LSAT While in College

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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

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 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]

Recommended Reading

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.

How to Proof Your Paper Like a Pro – 8 Proofreading Tips

I used to work as a proofreader.

It wasn’t the most exciting job in the world, but it helped me become proficient at proofreading ads and documents very quickly.

Whenever possible, it’s always best to have someone else review your essay.

However, it’s not always convenient to get someone to edit your paper at the last minute (when most papers get finished).

So here are 8 tips to help you proof your own paper like a professional:

1. Read your paper backward
A surefire way to find misspellings is by reading your essay backward to yourself. This makes every word stand out. And this is a great way to focus on the punctuation of each sentence.

2. Read your essay out loud
One simple way to proof is to read your essay aloud. This will help you focus on the rhythm of your writing, your punctuation, and any glaring errors in your sentence structure. If any sentence sounds confusing, you should revise it.

3. Cut the fat
Eliminate passive verbs whenever possible.

4. Proof in stages
I always proof my papers in stages. This means that I’ll typically plan on proofing my entire paper in a variety of stages. For example: (1) Focus on every word; (2) Focus on punctuation; (3) Focus on subject/verb agreement; (4) Focus on argumentation; (5) Focus on pronouns . . . etc. You get the idea.

5. Pay attention to apostrophes
Examine every word that ends in “s” and ask yourself if an apostrophe belongs there. Remember that apostrophes should never be used to make words plural.

6. Focus your attention on every comma and semicolon
Scan your paper to find every comma and semicolon. Make sure you’re using them properly in the sentence.

7. Proof headers and subheads
You’d be surprised how often headers and subheads get misspelled. This is because most people who are proofing are focusing on the details, and they often miss the big glaring error right in front of them.

8. Proof in the morning
You won’t catch as many errors if you’re proofing right after you’ve finished writing. So take a long break before editing the paper.

Recommended Reading

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

Super-Sized List of Online Academic Databases

Ive been spending a lot of time writing and researching this semester.

Im actually having dreams about one of my papers – and I have so much more research to do.

Anyway, here is a list of online databases that Ive been using to find journal articles for my lit reviews.

Most of these databases require a student ID and password, but Im listing them here because its quick access if youre in a school library:

Where to Find a Librarian 24/7

If you ever have any research trouble, you should seriously consider contacting a librarian.

They can cut your research time in half – and help you find exactly what you need.

And you never need to visit a library to talk with them.

Simply chat with them online with one of the following online services:

Amherst College Librarians
Amherst College librarians are available to chat through ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, Trillian, and AIM. Check out their website for details on how to contact them.

Ask a Librarian
The Memorial Hall Library allows you to email one of their librarians or call them at 978-623-8401 x31 during their library hours. Ive never tried emailing them, but their websites says theyll respond within 24 hours.

Ask Here PA
Ask Here PA is a library service based in Pennsylvania. They promise to answer your question within 15 minutes.

Brown University Librarians
This library chat service is intended for students at Brown University, but Im sure theyll help you out if youre nice.

Cornell University – Ask a Librarian 24/7
Cornell librarians are available to chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also email them with any questions you might have.

Florida Ask a Librarian Service
This website connects you with Librarians in Florida. This online chat service is available until midnight (Eastern Standard Time) Monday through Friday. They are also available to chat with you on Saturday and Sunday until 5 p.m.

Internet Public Library
The Internet Public Library allows you to email your question to a librarian. The only problem is that it takes about 3 days to get a response.

Library of Congress – Ask a Librarian
Librarians at the Library of Congress can also assist you with your research. They promise to respond by email within 5 business days.

MassAnswers.org
MassAnswers.org allows students to chat with a librarian online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After youre done chatting, theyll email you a transcript of everything youve discussed. I found this service very helpful.

Peoples Network
The Peoples Network will hook you up with a librarian in the United Kingdom. They have a real-time chat and email system to help you answer your questions.

Princeton University Library
Chat with a Princeton librarian on AOL, Yahoo, MSN, or ICQ. They arent available 24/7, but you can catch them online during the day.

Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Public Library also provides a 24/7 online chat program to help you with your research. Theyre chat system is connected to librarians across the country.

Please leave a comment if there are other library websites people should know about.


10 Foods to Sneak into the Library to Improve Your Productivity

When I visit the library for research, I’m most efficient if I plan on staying there for as long as I can.

I don’t want to leave until I accomplish certain research goals – which mean I’m usually there for at least 4-hours at a time.

I usually get hungry, so here are a bunch of foods that I often sneak into my backpack to make me more productive:

Trail Mix. I like to get a good trail mix – the ones with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and craisins. This can keep me going for hours.

Oat bran muffin. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying the vegan oat bran muffins at Trader Joes. These muffins are filled fiber, and have raspberries mixed in. It’s low in sugar, and provides a great energy boost.

Raisins. Raisins will definitely give you a boost of energy – and they’re full of antioxidants.

Soybeans. Soybeans taste great, filled with nutrition, and easily mobile.

Bag of Carrots. Carrots aren’t for everyone, but I really like to munch on them. Very healthy – but you have to try and keep quiet when you crunch them in the library.

Beef Jerky. Protein-rich foods like beef jerky can give you more energy.

Peanut-butter & honey sandwich. These sandwiches are delicious, and packed with energy, protein, and vitamins. You just need to have a drink on hand or water fountain nearby.

String Cheese. Cheese contains calcium, vitamins A and B12, potassium and riboflavin. A great energy boost – and tastes better at room temperature.

Cheerios. A bag of cheerios is packed with vitamins – and tastes great. Besides, who doesn’t like cheerios?

Dried berries. I’m not talking about Cap’n Crunch Berries – I mean: dried blue berries, dried cranberries, dried gogi berries, etc. These berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins.

These foods will help you stay much more productive – and are far healthier than anything in your school’s vending machine.

What foods help you stay more productive?

Recommended Reading

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.