- When you read the text, don't highlight the things you think are important - highlight the things you DON'T understand. After all, highlighting what you already know is a waste of time (and yellow highlighter)
- Better yet, don't use a highlighter at all. Instead, keep a sheet of paper handy and on it, write all the questions you have (no matter how trivial) as you read. Then go back and try to answer each one.
- After each class, rewrite your notes. When you do this, don't just copy them from one page to another. See if you can organize them as you rewrite them (make lists of key points, etc...). In addition, keep a sheet of paper handy during the rewrite, and write down all the questions that WILL come up as you re-write your notes.
- Take your "questions" pages (from #1 and #3) and make sure you get answers before the next class (or, at the latest, at the beginning of the next class). Many professors start each class by asking, "any questions about the material we just covered?" At this point, everyone fumbles around in their notes to see if there's anything they have questions about. However, if you have your questions organized, you get to go to the front of the line. When we ask that question, we have a set amount of time in our heads we've budgeted for answering questions. It's like a run on a bank - you don't care if there's enough money in the bank for everyone, as long as you're in the front of the line.
Professor Whitehead also has this little gem on the syllabus:
Here is a typical office exchange after a disappointing exam score:You've gotta love it - a syllabus that actually shows a personality and a sense of humor.
Student (sincerely): What can I do to get a better grade on the next exam?
Professor: Well, how did you study for the first exam?
Student: I went over the notes and thought that I understood them.
Professor: Did you read the textbook?
Professor (shouting): Read the #@$%& textbook!
Student (giving me the look like I'm crazy): I tried to read it but I didn't understand it.
Professor (calmly now, regaining his/her composure): Right on, that's why it's called "study."
Student (excitedly): Oh. I get it! I can't wait to get started!
UPDATE: The link to Professor Whitehead's syllabus was incorrect - it's been fixed.