Summer School Tips

Beach Umbrella

Image "Beach Umbrella" courtesy of Flickr User Steve Webel, Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It is finally starting to feel like summer! The sun’s shining and the temperature’s warm. Add in some Stanley Cup Fever and… well craziness ensues (*cues mad honking*).

For those unfortunate dedicated students in summer school, here are some study tips for making the most out of your time. After all, everyone wants to watch as the Canucks win the cup, right? 😛

The most distinctive part of summer school is its condensed structure. A course can be as short as 2 weeks with three hour classes each day and labs on top. Due to the short time frame, it’s generally fairly easy to retain the information learned near the beginning of the course around finals. Unfortunately, information overload is common. First, recognize it is impossible to retain everything from a three-hour lecture. Each person can only remember so much stuff in one sitting that that’s usually a lot less information than what is covered in one class. Focus on the key concepts and let the details go out of the other ear. Working too hard to remember the little details will end up obscuring the big picture. Furthermore, mental fatigue will set in and nothing from the latter half of the lecture, not even a major concept, will sink in. If the course is detail-oriented and everything the professor says could end up showing up on an exam, record the lecture and fill in the details later. However, don’t get into the trap of thinking “oh, I don’t have to pay attention, I can listen to the lecture later”. Not paying attention in class is a waste of time and a sure way to screw oneself over (if you didn’t pay attention in class, you aren’t going to listen to a recording of it after).

As the courses are short, it’s crucial to stay on top of the course work. Falling slightly behind is normal. Falling really behind is serious trouble. Missing or not understanding a week of summer school is akin to falling behind a month in the regular school year. If the professor starts making less and less sense in class, take a hint and hit the books. Usually, understanding the main ideas between each class is enough, but definitely use the weekends to get firmly back on track. If you’re weaker on the basics or is completely lost about something, go to TA/Professor office hours as soon as possible. Sometimes missing one tiny piece of important information can throw the entire course off whack. Don’t let it!

Assignments in summer school will likely be due in two days instead of two weeks. If the exams are very much like the assignments, really put in the time to do the homework well. The marks are irrelevant – gleaning information about the exams and ensuring that you’re on the right track is. If the assignments aren’t truly representant of the exams, take the homework seriously, but don’t stay up all night finishing them perfectly. The time invested won’t be worth the extra 10% of the 6% (or my favorite, 50% of the 1%).

Unlike the normal school year where there are at least 2 exams, summer school courses may have just one final that’s worth 80% of the grade. Don’t panic. Everyone’s grasping in the dark. Due to the lack of a midterm to learn from, the best thing to do is just to hunt down as many finals as possible. Summer school version are better, though normal school year versions are also valuable. Look at the format of the exam, the way the questions are worded, and the way the answer key is structured. Unless a course changes drastically, the format and the way the questions are worded will stay more or less the same. The way the answer key is structured illustrate how the exams are marked. If the answer key has mostly key words, then TA will mark by looking for those words and it’s necessary to make sure you really hit those words. If the answer key has mainly ideas or instructions to evaluate ideas, then ensure that the answers you put down are fully fleshed out with plenty of support from the course or the exam. Do a practice exam under exam conditions. Can you finish it? If yes, do another exam with only half the allocated time. If you only have one exam, do the same exam, but with only a quarter or a third of the given time. Can you finish the exam? If you can, then chances are the exam isn’t a time crunch. If you can’t, really, really watch your time on the final. Although I don’t have any hard statistics to back up this claim, I believe that summer school finals are easier or are scaled up more to compensate for the lack of a “trial run” (midterm).

Work hard, play hard. Enjoy the weather, and GO CANUCKS GO!


2 thoughts on “Summer School Tips

  1. Pingback: FYI Five: Study Resources, E-mail Help, and the National Anthem « Scratches on the Notepad

  2. Pingback: Happy First Birthday SotN! « Scratches on the Notepad

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