How to Easily Improve Your Test Scores & Learning Skills

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How to Easily Improve Your Test Scores and Learning Skills

Session 188

In today’s episode, I talk with Dr. Saundra McGuire, who used to teach Chemistry at Cornell University and Louisiana State University.

Her passion for education drove her to not only teach chemistry itself to her students but to also teach them learning strategies and test-taking tips for the premed coursework and beyond. She is the author of Teach Students How to Learn (that’s an Amazon link).

Most premed students are struggling with studying, studying tips, and time management. Dr. McGuire now goes around different schools across the country to teach both students and teachers on how to better study and learn.

Today Dr. McGuire shares a ton of studying tips and learning strategies to help you improve your test scores and strengthen your learning skills as a premed.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

What is metacognition?

  • A term coined by cognitive psychologists back in 1979
  • The ability to think about your own thinking
  • Allows you to be a problem solver
  • Ability to monitor your mental processing and control it
  • Allows you to be more in touch with your resources
  • Involves your ability to know what you know and what you don’t know
  • Pretending that you’re teaching the information
Her passion for education drove her to not only teach chemistry itself to her students but to also teach them learning strategies and test-taking tips.Click To Tweet

How to get started when you don’t feel like studying:

  • Set yourself on a timer.
  • When you hit start, start the task and don’t stop until the timer goes off.
  • This gets you so much more done in just 30 minutes than you’ve ever imagined you would.

[Related episode: Study Habits and Tips for the Premed Student.]

What happens when you go back to the example to work on the problem?

  • Your brain is not working the problem but your book is
  • When you get to the test and changes anything around, your process is messed up

Mistakes are good:

If you make a mistake, you learn from them and be able to tell where your brain has the tendency to go wrong.

How to study the right way and master information:

  • Study the information the problem is going to be on and never skip the examples.
  • Then compare your answer with the answer in the book. If you didn’t get the answer, don’t look yet and try to figure out where your mistake was.
  • Work out all the mistakes.
  • Pretend it’s a test or a quiz, and speed up a little bit.

Mistakes students make when studying:

  • Not fundamentally understanding the information
  • Not having a firm grasp on the concept

Reading strategies to learn effectively:

  • Read the way your brain likes to operate.
  • Before you start to read, give your brain an overview.
    • Look at the bold prints and italicized words, charts and graphs
  • Come up with questions that you want your reading to answer for you to tune your brain to look for the information and understand it.
  • When you start to read, just start to read the first paragraph and put that into your own words.
  • Read the second paragraph and start putting them into your own words.
  • Go back and tie it to what’s in the first paragraph and read the third paragraph the same way.
Summarizing the text in your own words will really help you learn what you're reading.Click To Tweet

Strategies for learning at lectures:

  • Preview before lecture.
  • Go to lecture and be present in lecture.
  • Once lecture is over, go and review the information so your mind sees more things than what you saw in lecture.
Study tip: Review new material before lecture, in lecture, and after lecture.Click To Tweet

[Related episode: Building Better Study Skills for the Sciences and the MCAT.]

Learning styles for non-science or non-math based subjects:

  • Read everything using the reading strategy above.
  • Identify the overarching concepts and how they fit together.

Results of using these strategies:

  • Improved scores
  • Dramatic success
  • Increased confidence

ABC’s of Success

  • Attitude (not aptitude) will determine how far you can go
  • Behavior will determine how well you do
  • Commitment: only you determine when it’s over

Study mode vs. learn mode:

  • What the difference between studying and learning?
  • 99% of students say they’re in study mode
  • Study mode only focuses on what you need to do to ace the test
  • Learn mode: doing well on the test and still knowing it weeks after
  • Time management is critical
'Study mode' means just studying for the test. 'Learn mode' means you're going to remember and really continue to understand the concepts afterward.Click To Tweet

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Your performance in the course to date has nothing to do with how smart you are. It has everything to do with your behavior. If you can change your behavior, you can change the results.

Your performance in a course to date has nothing to do with how smart you are. It has everything to do with your behavior.Click To Tweet

Don’t give up. Change your strategies. It’s not over till it’s over. Have confidence in yourself. Implement the strategies, and you will see that you can excel in this course.

Links and Other Resources: