Studying: Not All Subjects are Created Equal

As most students know, the best way to learn material presented in class varies according to the subject being studied. While there are undoubtedly further divisions possible, let’s look at the two major types of subjects and how to best study each one.

#1 – Information-based subjects: These are subjects that require you to memorize concepts and factual information, and then recall this information on tests. Some classes that would fall under this subject area include history, sociology, biology, literature studies, and philosophy. You may be asked to include your own observations and opinions to support some test answers, but the test questions will mainly focus on the material presented by the professor. The best study method for these types of subjects is regular review in order to develop a thorough understanding of essential topics. Study sessions might involve reading textbooks, reviewing notes, or answering practice essay or short answer questions.

#2 – Process and problem-based subjects: These are subjects that require you to use formulas and perform calculations to provide correct answers to quantitative questions. Math, physics, and statistics are all courses that would fall under this broad category. While some amount of memorization is necessary to do well on these types of tests, knowing which approach to take to solve certain types of problems is what will actually earn students an excellent grade. Therefore, once the necessary formulas and theories are memorized, most study sessions should be devoted to actually answering practice problems instead of reading and reviewing them. Only through active practice will the student be able to develop the type of understanding necessary to do well. Memorizing practice problems is not an effective approach since the wording of problems and the values that they contain will almost certainly be entirely different on the actual exam.

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