Midterms are upon us and many students across campus are having trouble figuring out how best to study for these cumulative, significant and all around gut-wrenching exams. But here at the University of Rhode Island, there are multiple programs that can help students to receive better marks on their exams.
The Academic Enhancement Center (AEC) helps students every single day in their classes, with their essays, and with learning better study habits.
“In college, students are expected to do a lot more teaching to themselves – not just memorizing but really learning about things [that] are presented in a lecture,” David Hayes, director of the AEC, said.
Hayes explained that many students come into college with study skills from high school but are not as effective in a college classroom. In college, most students are expected to do a lot more teaching to themselves and not just the memorizing they were so used to doing in high school. When the methods students used in high school do not work in college, they don’t know what to do and conclude that they won’t be successful.
But Hayes assures that “most of the difficulties students experience with studying in college don’t have anything to do with their ability to be successful… everything [in college] is more complex and requires different methods as well as a lot more work.” In a new and different environment, it is important for students to understand that things that worked well in high school might not work as well in college.
The AEC offers academic coaching to all students on campus. There, students meet with academic coaches, other students just like themselves, who will “help them explore how they study, manage their time, deal with test anxiety, take tests, and perform in other areas that contribute to academic success,” according to the AEC Website.
“It’s hard to give comprehensive advice about how to study, partly because there is a lot to know, and partly because everyone’s needs are unique,” said Hayes. “So, my top advice would be [to] get [an academic] coach.”
Sarah Leonard, an academic coach in the AEC, said that most students come to academic coaching with concerns about time management. Once those concerns are addressed, it is typically found that other concerns are brought up as a byproduct.
“My favorite study tip would be to take big projects and break them down into smaller steps,” Leonard said. “Make a to-do list as detailed as you want it.”
Dominque Engome Tchupo, another academic coach, said that her best tip would be first and foremost to start early. “It never makes any harm to go to a professor and ask what’s going to be on the exam,” Tchupo said. “At worst they will tell you to study everything, which you will already be doing, and at best they will tell you to only study specific things.”
Hayes suggests that students should develop a studying approach that goes day by day and in small, manageable chunks than can continually be relearned as the exam comes closer. “In college, you have to take each piece, each class’s worth, and start learning it as soon as you can, because you will generally not get to learn it nearly well enough in the classroom,” he said.
Both Tchupo and Leonard warn against cramming before big exams. “Cramming isn’t fun, nobody likes it and it’s not healthy for you,” said Leonard. “When you cram you’re just memorizing, you’re not deeply learning.”
Tchupo said that in some cases cramming is the only thing a student can do. When they come to academic coaching the day before an exam, the coaches will then try to help the student develop better study habits for future exams and assignments rather.
There is also a new course offering designed to help students learn how they learn best, called UCS 160. In this one-credit course students learn about their own study habits, how they’re, taught and what methods work best for motivation, managing their work and preparing for what exams are going to challenge them to do.
The other programs at the AEC are also beneficial for students and their studying habits. Through group and walk-in tutoring, students are able to gain extra help and understanding of their courses in math and sciences. These sessions are helpful for “just-in-time” help or when you’re doing okay in your class but are stuck in the week’s topic, Hayes said.
Additionally, the Writing Center is able to give students a consultation on their written assignments, the goal being to help create better writers for the future.
“In all our programs [at the AEC], our whole approach is grounded in the idea that you learn by doing, not by watching other people explain things or demonstrate things,” said Hayes.
“[Learning] works best when you have good methods, are actively using your brain, and have a coach watching your performance and advising you on how to get better.”