Studying for Technical Courses

Technical courses are the math, economics, science and engineering classes focused on formulas and calcuations. (Non-technical courses are everything else.)

The following study strategy is the best one I've come across, because it maxmizes your time so you study only on the topics that are difficult for you.

All night cram sessions can be replaced by only a few hours of prep, and a few hours of practice quizzing.

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

  1. Create a folder for each type of problem set, adding your lecture notes and assignments.

  2. For each folder, copy the sample questions from your lecture notes into a blank sheet of paper, preparing it for you to practice. (Be sure to label each question with the date of the lecture, so that you know where to go for help when trying to solve it.)

  3. For each folder, also write down some questions that challenge you to explain the theory behind the topic. (This is to ensure that you understand underlying concepts and haven’t just memorized the steps.)

  4. Prepare flashcards for the memorization needed for the content in each folder.

  5. If possible, acquire a previous exam for the course. (These are often found either from the department or professor, or from the student union, library or campus copy shop.)

Step 2: Actually Study

  1. For each problem set folder, answer all the technical explanation questions, saying the answers out loud or writing them down.

  2. Work through the sample problems, solving each one by talking out loud or writing it down.

  3. After each round, mark the questions you had difficulty with, and review the relevant notes to remind yourself of the steps to solve the problem. Then take a break.

  4. Do the sample problems again, but work only on the questions you had difficulty with. Repeat each round doing only the questions that were difficult, until you finish a round without having trouble with any of the questions.

  5. Memorization works best in small doses, so use your flash cards when waiting in lines, or traveling by bus.

  6. Finish off your exam prep by writing a previous exam (and give yourself only a limited amount of time).

This strategy is taken from How to Become a Straight A Student by Cal Newport.