Outcome 3: Retrieval Practice Self-Study

I have quite the issue studying for my tests in Perishable Packaging due to the huge amount of information that is tested on in several different ways: the most crucifying of the methods is the free response that often accounts for 60% of the exam. These exams have roughly 10 hours of class time between them, of which 10 hours is lecture with detailed notes. With this much lecture time it is not uncommon to have 10,000 word notes. I know this because I don't use the fill-in slides shows and instead type them all out myself, it's an exhaustive practice to sustain through each 3 hour lecture but I feel that it helps me absorb more of the information instead of just entering a few facts when prompted. However, on my midterm I was caught flatfooted when although I used study techniques like self-testing and recite and record, I received a 60. Inspired to make a change, I decided rather than scrapping the note writing entirely I would like to add a new step. Apparently hand-writing notes has a 50% better retention rate so in the three days before my next perishable exam I took my time to re-write the notes on paper in addition to my other study techniques. Writing the notes out by had really helped me see literally everything that could possibly be on the test, which in this class you can be tested on the most minute detail so its critical to miss nothing. With my new technique, my exam grade was an 85 instead of a 60, success!

Based on my improved grade in the class and getting one of my best exam grades of the semester I think I will continue to rewrite my notes for classes where a large amount of information recall is required, but I don't see it being as helpful for classes like statistics where process is the main part and most of the notes are steps in the process. Rewriting the notes helped me see all the material again before the exam and that alone made me feel better about not seeing something I hadn't seen/studied since the class.

Sample of my handwritten notes

For my next technique I chose to do self testing. In my Packaging Prototype and Design class we have test that aren't given on recalling facts or answering questions but we do have to create things in CAD programs that are graded according to a rubric and they are time constrained (must complete in class). On my first exam I went in fairly blind and just recalled what I had learned in previous classes, it was fairly easy and only involved one program. The second exam, however, contained multiple programs with parts needing to be moved between not only the programs, but the operating systems under which they ran (iOS and Windows). This was a much more rigorous test of skill and knowledge and so required preparation. I chose to self-test. Five days before the exam I sat down at a computer terminal to test my skill. I spent three hours easing myself through the steps until I was confident that I could repeat the same process on test day. On the day of the test I did even better than I had practiced and received a 97! This was improved from a 95 on a much easier first test.

It's not as easy to see from my grade that it was a big help over my last test, but without testing myself the week before I would have been lost on the test. Instead I was very confident in what I was doing and was able to spend more time polishing my design instead of stuck on one of the simpler processes, I believe that having that extra polish on my test insured a better grade. I intend to do the same for my final design test as well so I can finish the class strong and maintain my 'A'.

Self Test

My third technique was the use of flashcards. As I stated above, my Perishable Packaging class has a massive amount of information to be memorized for the exams, with it being important to know nearly everything that is taught in lecture or it is paid for on exam day. I knew from my previous tenure in the class that I would need to memorize all polymers used in packaging and their different properties and be able to distinguish them from one another given only one property. This called for complete memorization and thus flashcards were my first choice. I studied my flashcards as an auxiliary to my normal study for the exam and treated them as a completely different part, this allowed me to compartmentalize the knowledge as to not confuse it with the large amount other information on the exam. I used the flashcards over the three days that I studied as sort of a study break to build confidence as I slowly learned them all.

I didn't miss a single problem on the polymer section of the test so I'd say the device I used was 100% success. Flashcards are definitely indispensable in learning a large amount of terms in a short amount of time. I've used flashcards before but I tend to not use them regularly. In seeing my results here I intend to make them a staple of my study habits.

Flash Cards


Created with images by Mike Cattell - "Hampton Court Astrological Clock"

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