What Study Habits and Skills Are Useful for Majoring in Psychology?
Taking Psychology: What Students Should Know
All students who major in Psychology agree that the field of study requires a lot of reading and writing, and consequently, a lot of time and effort. This is because the field of Psychology is as complex and as diverse as its subject matter. Students will encounter conflicting issues across various aspects of human thought and action. Psychological research findings and claims abound, both having scientific and not-so-scientific background. Furthermore, new findings get discovered, and seemingly solid theories get modified. Mountains of books, and piles and piles of journal articles are required. How can the beginning Psychology student make up for these changes and diversity?
Having Problems with your Psychology subjects?
Learning takes time, especially when you are required to read a lot, and write a lot. A+ students typically report that they study 2-3 hours per hour they spend in class. So if they are taking up 20 units in a semester, they spend a maximum of 60 hours in a week studying, about 50% of the time they are awake. Thus, 2/3 of their awake time are spent only for school work, the rest are divided for the self, the family, friends and extra-curricular activities. So how can a typical student fit his or her lifestyle in 168 hours a week? A good strategy is to use a week-long calendar where you can record all your activities, including your tests. That way, you can monitor how well and in what area you spend your time, and control how much time you can devote to a particular activity. A key factor here is discipline. You have to be able to resist the temptation of scheduling too many activities at once, more than what you can realistically handle. Remember that it is better to finish a task earlier than you planned (and have more time for you to do other things), than face major disappointment when you realize that you can't follow your own schedule.
A lot of space in the campus is devoted for studying. But most of the time, these areas get used for socializing. Evaluate what type of learner you are. Are you able to concentrate more when somebody is around, or when you are alone? Because studying for Psychology requires a lot of reading on your part, a good study location is ideally a quiet environment, with sufficient light and comfortable temperature. It is also advisable that you pick the spot where you'd like to study for the whole of the semester. This is to enforce a routine and a habit devoted primarily for studying.
Effective Reading Strategies
Now that you have already scheduled a time and chosen a place for studying, how will you go about finishing the required reading for the class? Most students get too aggressive and dive in, reading the material from start to finish and assuming that they have completed the reading assignment, only to find out in class that they remember barely 10% of what they have read. The result is time wasted. Just as your favorite TV program is structured to provide you a trailer of what you are about to see, and commercial breaks to maximize entertainment and buy you some time to digest the story, so does your textbook. Utilize the way your textbook has organized information for you.
- Preview and Plan. Skim your book to have a general idea of what you will read about and how the information are organized and presented. Look at the outline of the book. Read the headings, sub-headings, sub-sub-headings, pictures and bold-faced or italicized terms. They can provide you with the necessary foundation for reading. Then identify which part of the book you are to stop and take a break for you to summarize the key points of what you've just read.
- Read to Comprehend and to Retain. After having an idea of the content and outline of the book, it is time for you to follow your plan and read the material word for word. Remember that your goal is to understand and to master the material. The best way for you to do this is to review after reading, and to evaluate yourself based on the outline and list of terms previewed in the book. If you find out that you have forgotten something, return to that page and read again. Do not try to skip. Do not forget: Mastering the material means more than superficial reading.
Attending classes is at the heart of every school education. Before you go to class, make sure that you are well-prepared. You have to have sufficient sleep and nutritious food. It is advisable that you have done some advanced reading, based on the course syllabus. (Most professors provide the class with an outline of what will be taken up in the whole semester, divided per class meeting.) Some students even maintain an exercise program to boost listening attentiveness in class. Also, try to take notes of the main ideas presented in class, especially those that did not appear from your readings. Review your notes after class, or get together with your classmates for points that you missed.
According to a survey by Meisser and Griggs (1989), almost all college students believe in channeling, clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, psychic healing and surgery, crystal power, psycho kinesis, astral travel, levitation, auras, ghosts, plant consciousness, the Bermuda Triangle Mystery, and UFOs. 75% of Americans believe and follow horoscopes, while some people practice eating ground tiger penis to enhance sexual activity. There is nothing wrong with welcoming the possibility that these things are true, but critical thinking expert Diane Halpern recommends that people, especially college students, espouse healthy skepticism before accepting and practicing any claims that lack valid scientific evidence. The same goes with the field of Psychology. Earlier I have stated that psychologists have divergent and conflicting views on the nature and causes of certain behaviors and mental processes. Contemporary approaches to Psychology illustrate the different perspectives underlying the research focus of today's Psychology experts. Furthermore, different areas of specialization in Psychology account for the vast number of institutions and practice in which psychological principles are applied. These conflicts are not necessarily negative. Instead, they foster healthy debate and controversies that lead to the advancement of the field. Although resolving conflicts in Psychology is usually done in a matter of degree, that is, one view is right only to a certain extent, while another is appropriate only in some contexts, discrepancy among psychological views gives us a more accurate representation of the human psyche.
The challenge with today's Psychology students is to be more reflective, productive and evaluative in their way of thinking. Facing to the challenge of sorting through the different claims and perspectives made in the field, Psychology students are encouraged to be creative, open-minded, intellectually curious, and scientific in studying about Psychology.
Preparing for Tests
Tests are used to evaluate how much a student has learned in the course of time. It is also the primary method of grading a student. If you want good grades, it is important that you demonstrate to your professor how well you've learned what you are required to learn about, in accordance with the specific objectives found in the course syllabus. The following suggestions can help you do well in your tests:
- Find out what kind of test will be given. Identifications are mainly used for important names, dates and terminologies in Psychology. Multiple-choice questions are for items that require sufficient recall. Because it gives choices, chances are you'll find the right answer, whether or not you are sure of it. True-or-false questions are more problematic. They are mainly used for difficult and confusing concepts. Professors usually use this method to evaluate how much you have mastered important concepts in class. Essays are a bit trickier. If they are more informative, the professor wants to know how well you have organized the clutter of information taught to you, and perhaps, how much you've listened in the class. A good tip here is to provide examples given by the professor himself, along with some of your own. If the essay calls for an argument, it means the professor wants to know how much you know about the different sides in an argument. If, on the other hand, the professor requires you to give a position, you have to be able to convince the professor, or at least have him consider, your points of view.
- Complete the required readings days before an exam. If you read well the above-listed Effective Reading Strategies, you already know that reading takes a lot of time and effort. Furthermore, test preparation includes reviewing what you have read about. So by all means, have enough time devoted not only for reading, but also for reviewing the required texts.
- Organize your notes. If you have been regularly attending classes, then you should have accumulated piles of notes here and there. A good way to make sense of this clutter is to structure them into meaningful units. Your outline will help you remember all the concepts, names, terminologies, dates and examples given by your professor.
- Test yourself or set up a group study. If you have more time at your disposal, you can make up your own practice test using all the concepts you have read about and learned in class. You can get together with your classmates for practice. Who knows, you might find out that you missed some points here and there during your own review.
Introduction to Psychology
- What Is Psychology and How Did It Develop?
- How Do Contemporary Psychologists Approach the Study of Behavior and Mental Processes?
- What Are the Positive Movements in Psychology?
- What Types of Careers are Available to Psychology Majors?
- What Study Habits and Skills are Useful for Majoring in Psychology?