Aaron Shearman
Sophomore, Biomedical Sciences, Bozeman, MT

The first step to active learning is knowing when you are most productive, setting up a designated work space, and concentrating. In order to get things done and not waste your own time it is necessary to figure out the times you will be able to get the most done whether it is in the mornings, afternoons, or late at night. By knowing this you can set up a daily routine where you always study or prepare for a class at the same time. To go along with this ritual you will need a place to expand your mind, such as the library fourth floor if you need a silent location, or the Strand Union Building if a little bit of background noise is more your style. Make sure that no matter where you choose to study though that you avoid distractions such as a talkative friend, loud music, and can block out people coughing or doors shutting. When you go to study in order to get the most out of it you need to focus and distractions will make you lose your concentration. Another tip for studying is to take regular breaks, every half hour or so stand up walk around a little bit get a drink of water, in order to break up your study time a little bit.

Now that you are set up and have figured out when and where to study let us talk about how. The first thing you should do is go through and skim the material you need to read. While doing this jot down notes that cover the main concepts and vocabulary terms that appear. These concepts and vocabulary terms will clearly be repeated over and over again until they show up on a test so it is important to begin tying everything together from the start. After skimming the textbook go back and read it, highlighting any parts that help you understand the concepts the material is explaining. If there is anything you are unsure about make sure to write any questions you have down so that you can ask your professor later on to help clarify.

This should all be done before class so that when you get to class you already anticipate what is going to be discussed. During lecture you should take notes but you do not need to write everything down because this will hinder your ability to listen and the intend of lecture is to understand the concepts. It is also important to be involved during lecture and try to think about the questions the professor is posing or ask questions that you have.

After class go back and try to piece all the fact, ideas, and concepts together, do not simply re-read hoping to understand the second time through. If you do not understand something get help by either asking the professor, a teachers aid, using one of the help centers, or get a tutor.

By doing all of these simple things together you will not waste your time staring at a page trying to memorize everything on it and instead ideas will come together and form a coherent thought that you can understand. Following these tips will give you a good idea of what is going on in the class and help you be prepared for the inevitable exam.