Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chapter quiz strategies

A student asked me, in an email a couple of days ago, about the best way to read for taking a chapter quiz. Do you read the chapter like a novel? Good question. My answer below:

I recommend the following approach, which you can adapt your own reading and comprehension level:
  • First take a fairly quick look through the chapter, paying attention to the opening matter at the beginning of each chapter wherein the author presents his overview of the topics and time period at hand. Look at the subheadings and glance at the first paragraph of each subheading just to get an idea of what this portion of the material is about. Remember: most academic writing follows the same structure: 1) Tell them what you are going to tell them; 2)Tell them; 3)Tell them what you told them. In English classes, this might have been presented to you as 1) Introduction; 2); Body;  3) Conclusion. Either way you look at it, it works to the advantage of the reader who has a limited resource of time. If you invest time reading the Introduction carefully, you can study the body of the chapter much more efficiently. Look at the charts, tables, and images. They were all chosen for a reason. They signal what the chapter is focusing on. In this way, you can avoid getting bogged down in the details of the narrative but retain your focus on the major themes. After you have gone through the chapter in this way, start the quiz. By the time you have finished it the first time, you will have gained some familiarity with the narrative.
  • Begin the assessment and look up each question in turn. If you have printed the outline from Study Space, you can use the outline as a roadmap to locate that topic in the textbook. Doing this also helps create a roadmap in your mind. This is the mental map you will follow when you take the exam later. Some answers will be obvious, and others might require more careful reading and some thought. By the time you finish the quiz, you will have familiarized yourself with all the main points of the chapter. You will retain much of this knowledge when you retake the quiz and, later, when you take the exam. If your score is lower than you'd like, just relax--you'll get another try at it, and the highest score will be recorded.
  • Retake the quiz. You'll probably find yourself well in command of the material by this time, especially if you've used the flashcards and outlines from Study Space.

  • All of these steps are designed to give you confidence and help you do well on the exam. That is what studying is. Good luck!