Becoming an AWESOME Student
© Mike Splane December 2005
Hello Mr. Splane!
I was a student of yours a few semesters ago
and thought it would be good to check out your website again. I came about your
transcript and noticed you were an AWESOME student, I was just wondering what
kind of studying techniques you used to do so well?
Thank you in Advance
I'm sure other students would be
interested, so I'll put my reply on the website. – Mike
- Getting good grades should be an
extremely high priority. The best jobs, those that come with a great deal
of personal freedom and that pay the best, are only accessible to people
with Masters degrees (or higher). People get these jobs by being in the
network, the network accessible only to the elite. To get into this
network you need to attend a great grad school, but you can’t get in
without great grades. That means making sacrifices today.
- Not all instructors and classes are equal.
Three credits in one course may take twice as much work as three credits
in another course.
- Decide what you want from the class.
Some classes are probably largely irrelevant to you, like Art History.
Others are very important to you. Look for harder courses in your
important areas, easier courses in the others.
- Look up the professor on www.ratemyprofessors.com.
- Look up the syllabus on the
professor’s website. If the professor doesn’t have a syllabus
online, maybe you don’t want to take their class. Are they lazy? Are
they computer illiterate? Are they too busy with other projects to give
attention to teaching? Do they really care about you, their customer?
- Go to the first day of class. If you
don’t like the professor, drop the class. You need to be able to
interact comfortably with your professor to get the most out of any class.
- Don’t be shy about going to the
professor if you need help.
- Go to every class. Pay attention. Nod
and smile at the professor.
- Asking good questions shows you are
motivated and paying attention. The professors will remember you better,
which can pay off in the long run.
- Asking bad questions (long and unfocused,
overly detailed, or relating to your personal experiences) will make
everybody in the room dislike you, so keep questions short and focused.
- Don’t volunteer to answer every
question the professor asks, the other students hate that, but try to answer
a few in each class.
- Just do it. Turn in every assignment,
you’d be surprised how many students don’t.
- Carefully read and follow the
instructions. Check off the steps as you finish them.
- Don’t do assignments in a creative
manner. Follow the format the instructor asks for and you can’t go
too far wrong.
- I often used flash cards to learn formulas and terminology.
- I underlined key passages and re-read them just before exams.
- If I was working with a list, I would try to make a word using the
first letter of each item in the list, or make a phrase that would start
with those same letters. For example, Office 2007 uses a hierarchical
system for arranging icons – Tabs, Groups, Categories, and Icons.
I remember the sequence as The Great Computer Interface.
This technique was very useful in studying for essay exams.
- I rarely took notes in class. I found
that I got too distracted writing things down and often missed what the
professor was saying next.
- I always read the textbook chapter
BEFORE class so I could follow the professor better and ask intelligent
questions to clarify gaps in my understanding.
my advice online at http://bus91.altervista.org/Ideas/PresentationTips.htm
- NEVER give a presentation without
practicing – you’ll ramble and discover you spoke far longer
than you thought.
- The professors notice the faces of the
people who sit in the front rows and in the center of the room. This
creates a subconscious bias in your favor that may make the difference
between a B+ and an A-.
- I always tried to sit in the second row near
the middle of the room. You can hear and see better from this location.
- Another thing to consider, teammates are
selected from people sitting next to you.
Reading the textbook puts you way ahead of
most of the other students.
- Textbooks are written in outline form.
If you try to read a chapter straight through, it is very confusing.
Don’t do this. Read the headings, the first sentence of each
paragraph, and examine the charts and sidebars. When you know what the
chapter is all about, then you can read it straight through, to pick up
the detail. I always tried to read every chapter twice, in this way.
- Try the sample questions and quizzes
that are included within the chapter. If you can’t answer those
questions, you don’t know the material.
- Almost every textbook has a glossary and
an index. Use them! If you don’t understand a technical term, write
it on a flashcard. Look up the definition in the glossary and write it on
the back of the card.
- If I knew I was going to have to reread
a chapter at a later date for an exam, I would use a yellow highlighter
pen to underline key sentences and phrases. Then it was easy to scan
through to quickly recall the main ideas.
- If you have trouble staying awake, stand
up and try reading that way.
- If you have trouble staying focused, use
a kitchen timer to control the length of each study session. Gradually
increase the time over several weeks. Your ability will improve.
A good team can make or break your grade so
learning how to manage teams is vital.
- Step One - have great
- This is simple really. Try and take
classes with people you have worked with before that you know you work
well with. I started this process early, and recruited my teammates ahead
of time. In my senior year I had a half dozen people taking classes with
me that I knew I could rely on.
- Whenever you have a problem, talk to
the instructor for guidance.
- Step Two – resolve the
leadership issues quickly.
- The first week you should get the email
address of every team member. The first person who sends out an email
outlining what they think the group should do becomes the de facto
- Be a good teammate. Don’t argue
over minor details, your role is to encourage and support others. Stay
positive at all times.
- Step Three
create a project plan.
- Break down the project into smaller
subject areas. This should be part of your initial email the first week
of the project. Include specific timelines.
- Ask people if your outline makes sense.
- Ask them to each volunteer for a
specific subject. It creates buy-in from the other students, they chose
the role they want. Slackers become more motivated and the group will
unite behind you if you have a problem.
- Volunteer to take on the piece(s) that nobody
else wants. You often wind up with the most interesting and educational
piece and everybody is grateful to you for doing the dirty work.
- Don’t try to do all of the work
yourself. Have somebody in charge of writing the final draft, and
somebody else in charge of creating the PowerPoint slides.
- Step Four – create
reasonable project deadlines.
- Allow for slack time in the plan.
Everybody will fall behind, so build in a couple of weeks for catching
up, one in the middle and one near the end.
- Allow at least two weeks for preparing
and practicing the PowerPoint presentation.
- Insist on practicing the PowerPoint as
a group, using a timer.
- Step Five – prepare an
agenda for group meetings.
- Circulate it ahead of time.
- Remember, the person who suggests a meeting
place usually chooses it.
For multiple choice exams:
- Read all of the possible answers. Cross
out any answers that you know are wrong.
- Circle the number on questions when you
are unsure of the answer. Skip them and finish the questions you know. Now
go back and look at the circled ones. Often the later questions will give
you a clue to earlier ones.
For essay exams:
- Anticipate what the questions will be.
Look at the questions in your textbook at the end of each chapter. See any
questions that require listing several details to answer? Well, your
professor is doing the same thing.
- Write each likely exam question on a
flashcard. On the back of the flashcard, list the ten or twelve key words
that you need to include in your essay.
- Generally each item in the list is going
to be worth one point. The professors or their TA’s are grading on
the key words, not the logic of your sentences or arguments.
- Carry the cards with you and look at
them whenever you get a chance, like at a traffic light.
Definitions, Terms, Acronyms, and Formulas:
- Use flashcards to help you memorize the
- Don’t try to do too much. The
world is not going to end tomorrow; take your time to get the most you can
out of school. If you’re working full time and taking more than two
or three classes, you’re overdoing it.
- Using flashcards was an extremely
efficient way to learn. I could use them in the car at red lights, during
TV commercials, etc.
- I scheduled some quiet time for studying
when I knew I would be undisturbed. For me this was Sunday afternoon and
evening, at a minimum.
- I kept a calendar that listed each class
and when each assignment was due. I estimated how long each assignment
would take. I broke down the big projects into smaller tasks with a
deadline for each task. I tried to keep a week ahead, in case I got sick
or something unexpected came up.
found it was extremely helpful to study with another student, so I did a lot of
- If I couldn’t explain the material
to somebody else, I didn’t know it well enough.
- My study buddy’s questions helped
to clarify my thinking and exposed gaps in my understanding.
- Knowing that somebody else was depending
on me helped to keep me motivated to study, on those days when I was
- It was also fun as a social activity.
Methods for quickly selecting text
- To select a word: Double click on a word.
- To select any amount of text: Click and drag over some text.
- To select a row of text: Move the cursor
into the margin, left of the line. Click.
- To select multiple rows of text: Move
the pointer into the margin, left of the line. Click and drag up or down.
- To select a sentence: Press Ctrl and click anywhere
in a sentence.
- To select a paragraph: Triple-click in a paragraph,
or double-click in the left margin next to it.
- To select multiple paragraphs:
Double-click in the left margin. Drag up or down.
- To select a block of text: Click at your starting point.
Scroll down. Press Shift and click at your end point.
- To select the entire document: Triple-click in the
left margin, or type Ctrl + A, or hold down Ctrl and click in the left
- To select multiple blocks of text: Highlight a block of text.
Hold down Ctrl and then use the mouse to highlight additional blocks of
text. Release Ctrl.
handled these in three different ways, depending on how familiar I was with the
- If I knew what I wanted to say, I would sit
down a week or two before the assignment was due and write a complete
first draft, then edit and rewrite it three or four times.
- If I knew some of the material, I would
write an outline of the entire paper, based on the professor’s
instructions. Then I would fill in different segments, at different times,
over several days, leaving the tough parts for last.
- If I wasn’t sure what to write
or how to write about it, I would think about the paper for several days,
and then write the whole thing down the night before it was due.
- The common thread is that I thought
about the paper for several days.
- I would often copy and paste background
information into the document as I was researching, including the website
so I could cite the source.
- I also created a bibliography entry for
the website address at the same time I pasted the info into my document.
- I always proofread an assignment before
turning it in. Reading it aloud helps to catch mistakes.
- Get help with grammar and spelling if
you need it.
Comments and suggestions to