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Study & Exam Technique

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Study & Exam Technique

I sympathise with the dilemma on how one should exactly go about their studying. First, go slow. There's no rush. Second, there are some tips:

Reading and Notes

1. Read the given material.

2. Go over the text again, paragraph by paragraph, summing them into note form. Number your own paragraphs. Note the text page from where they were lifted. Extract snappy quotes and note the text page where they came from.

3. Now close the book and distill your notes into coherent running order. Author the writer's arguments and try to come up with some counter-arguments. If you find this tricky, just ask, someone in some place will help you.

4. Make sure you're kind and attentive to the given author. Try to use your own words, but don't go putting words or ideas into his/her mouth.

5: If there is vocabulary or phrases that throw you, check them out, but don't fret if you don’t understand everything.

7: Title those arguments you have in note form with big, bold, directional headings. Make sure you still have the original text page number where they came from for later reference.

8: Read them over and make sure they make real good sense to you.

Writing Time

With this promising list of author's arguments and some counter-arguments, you now have a whole load of arguments laid down which will serve for whatever is thrown at you. Only when you have your list of arguments should you read the set essay question given and then simply extract the relevant arguments pertaining to the question. If you're working on your own, make up a question, deal with something that has intrigued you and fire away. If you feel something is missing, go back to your original notes (stage 2) and if the worst comes to the worst, back to the original text book.

Then you need to weave those arguments and counter-arguments into an essay.

When writing your essay make sure that you give extremely clear directions of the set problem (question) given and your own conclusions in the introduction and make sure that your introduction is very short and very snappy. Enjoy the big entry: the problem is x, y, z, and the essay will conclude p and q.

Weave in author argument, then other source counter-argument and potential author counter-argument to that one. Make sure you offer the illusion of progress, that your essay really is working towards your conclusion. When you come to the conclusion, it ought to be just a mere elaboration of your short and snappy introduction. Don't fret about under writing but worry if you're going on and on. It probably means you're waffling or talking about irrelevant stuff, worse, that you haven't yet digested the ideas.

Whatever the event, go over your essay with a pair of scissors and chop out the crap. Crap in my eyes is the over use of adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions and adverbs.

Exam Time

Exam time is a doddle in philosophy. You can forget those fretting freaks and folder clutching students, because you're simply harmed with relatively short lists of arguments for each author, text book, and theme that you've studied and taken over the year. And that, after all, is all that counts in philosophy. It's about the arguments.

About 6 weeks before the final exam, you need to get hold of some past exam papers and see what is being thrown at you. Buy the last 3 or 4 years to get a running average of the set questions. You really need to do this and you need to sit down and practice writing them. Seriously. Exams are as much more about technique than knowledge.

Now, imagine that in the exam you have to select 3 questions from 9 and have 3 hours to answer those 3 in the exam. Well, at home, pick one, give yourself 10 minutes to plan it and write it in 45 minutes (not an hour!), leave it and then go back to it a few days later to see how you did. Recall, you will mark more severely than the examiner. Do a question exam in exam conditions every day, that is, the 9 questions mutiplied by the last 3 years of past exams papers - 27 days.

The 10 minute planning of each exam question is extremely important. It gets the brain in the mood, you scribble what may be needed, it also means in the actual exam that the examiner can see what was 'originally' going on and even if your response has failed, you will probably still be upgraded. Your plan has demonstrated a calm and reasoned response to a situation of relative stress.

Unless times have changed, write your mock exam responses by hand. Train yourself. You'll be quite amazed how messed up and painful the untrained arm can be after just three hours of continuous writing in real exam conditions.

If you're not doing exams, then write up what you're learning and send it in to the forum. You never know who may appreciate what you have done.

A few days before the exam, go over your arguments and walk into that exam hall filled with bliss and confidence. Write your exam questions like they were passionate letters and offer the examiner something exquisite to fill his/her day.

The Moon and Joints and Learning

To forget self, to numb self, is no bad thing. But don't start smoking or snorting drugs if you’ve exams and essays and serious learning to do.

A weee bit of grass or speed/coke is fine for the evening, fun for music, raves and shagging but overtime absolutely crap on the intellectual capacity of the mind. They'll make you slack and sloppy. Cut down on alcohol as well. It makes you smelly and fat. Saying that, use your common sense; paradise is also a joint, a fine made mojito, a little trance on a sunny summer beach making love to the one you love.

Watch the stars, the moon, smile at all the strangers you meet. Read everything, literature, art books, philosophies. Listen to all the music you can. It comes from another place that words and images cannot fill. Try to make love, real love everyday of your life.

I don't have time to write a philosophy but if I did I'd say, Keep your eyes open and don't spill a drop.

Edited by soleo
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