With finals fast approaching, Penn students are increasingly more likely to be found hunched over a textbook in a secluded corner of Van Pelt. The Daily Pennsylvanian reached out to students and teaching assistants to get their take on the most effective study tricks for the overworked, overstressed and sleep-deprived student.
“For me, personally, it helps changing locations every 3 or 4 hours. I don’t like to just stay in the library all day.” — Nikita Agarwal, College sophomore in the Vagelos MLS Program
“Definitely take things one at a time. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll just get overwhelmed and stressed and not be efficient. Generally the hardest part is just getting started. Also — snack ahead of time! That way you can’t use it as an excuse to not do work later on.” — Nancy Wong, CIS 120 TA
“I sent out an email to my students earlier this semester. It said: ‘Math, like most things in life, is all about psychology. Don’t be intimidated by the question — usually it can be solved with one or two insights.’” — Jay Havaldar, Math 114 TA
“Focus on knowing the exam more than the material. If you already know a good bit of the material, you can really get an advantage if you know how to work the exam. Do practice exams, and pay attention to the types of questions the professor asks.” — Jussi Lundstedt, CIS 110 TA
“I alternate between subjects so that nothing ever gets too overwhelming. Note cards are great for science classes, listening to music always helps me feel more creative for artistic ones. Whenever I start to feel less motivated I make lists — lists of pros and cons and of goals. They give me something to work toward. I also make a lot of tea. If I associate studying with a yummy tea, it almost makes it more fun.” — Rebecca Van Sciver, College sophomore
“I always take written notes and do lots of practice problems. Staying on top of lecture materials is absolutely essential. I use things like bad exam grades to motivate me.” — Toru Mihama, College junior
“For humanities classes, reviewing readings is really important. Speed-reading is almost always better than reading cover-to-cover — it saves time and prevents you from getting boggled down by details. When you’re dealing with exams that are essay-based, cross-referencing is key. Imagine how these authors would talk to each other, and really get a good sense of the bigger picture.” — Meicen Sun, political science doctoral candidate , TA for PSCI 219 (Chinese Politics)
“Take long walks while you’re listening to lectures to shake up the boredom. And try to read new things over old things.” — Isaac Freeth, junior exchange student from University College London
“I like using a reward system — I get through a certain amount of material and then I can eat a cookie, but I can’t have another one until I make it through some more." – Julia Dasbach, doctoral candidate in comparative literature and TA for RUSS 136
“I use the app Self Control and leave my phone far away. Listening to Baroque music also helps me concentrate.” — Matthew Caulfield, Wharton junior
“Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, I go to Pottruck and do some cardio. They’re offering free classes all this week, which is great.” – Alexandra Stern, College senior
“I think defining yourself outside of your grades is really important, especially at a place like Penn where the “prestige culture” is so big. I always liked to inventory concepts – so I’d figure out the basic concepts I needed to know first, and then layer on practice problems and more concrete examples. Some of the intro classes are just raw memorization, though, and for those you just keep studying until you run out of time.” – Travis Hunt, 2014 graduate , physics
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