Fast Facts are a series of study skills pamphlets on a variety of issues related to academic success. They cover such general areas as plagiarism, study strategies and stress management. Listed below are brief descriptions of each pamphlet. Below each description is a link to view or download a PDF version of the pamphlet.
You have an exam next Thursday and you want to do well. You’re a little behind in your reading, but all you have to do is set aside about two hours a day to study, take notes and then review. You’ll start today—right now, in fact. Well, maybe not this very instant. You have plenty of time to catch up. You can afford to take a break for an hour or so before you actually sit down to study. Besides, you’ve been meaning to organize your playlists for a long time now, and that’s something that really needs to be done. You’ll hit the books right after that.
Does this scene sound familiar? If so, it might comfort you to know that you’re not alone. It’s natural for everyone to procrastinate to some degree.
Group Study: Making It Work For You
Whether it’s a study group that comes together to prepare for a big test or a group that works together throughout the semester, study groups are a great way to build learning through the sharing of ideas and knowledge. Working with others who share your desire to succeed in a course fosters a working and practical understanding of the course material. We’ve outlined a few guidelines for you in this Fast Fact.
Managing Your Time
Words of Advice from Randy Pausch's Last Lecture
As is common on many college campuses, a faculty member will be invited to give a “last lecture,” imparting wisdom as if it were truly the last time he or she would speak publicly. Carnegie Mellon’s Randy Pausch, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in July 2008, undoubtedly presented the most renowned “last lecture” in the history of the practice when he spoke before a standing room-only crowd on campus in September 2007.
Managing Your Time [pdf]
Fighting Test Anxiety
Do you ever find yourself “freezing up” during exams? Do you sometimes have trouble sleeping the night before an exam? Do you question your mastery of course material even after you’ve completed all the assigned homework and have studied as much as is reasonably possible? If so, you may be experiencing a form of test anxiety.
Fighting Test Anxiety [pdf]
Plagiarism is an unhappy misfortune that anyone can fall victim to. Whether the act is accidental or deliberate, it can hold grave consequences for one’s future. It’s imperative, therefore, that you understand what constitutes plagiarism and know how to avoid it in your work. Simply put, plagiarism is the use of someone else’s ideas, words or works, representing them as your own without giving the original author due credit.
If you suspect that you have a Learning Disability
Learning disability is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities, or of social skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction.
Your Role as a Partner in Learning
At Carnegie Mellon, we are engaged in a partnership with you. As partners, we share responsibility in ensuring your academic success. Your responsibilities in this partnership include becoming knowledgeable about yourself as a learner, becoming actively involved in your learning, and being self-directed to find help when you need it.
Setting and Reaching Academic Goals
Goal-setting means consciously choosing the events you want to happen in the days, weeks and years ahead of you. Why should you want to set goals? Goals provide structure and order in your life, allowing you to focus on certain critical events and ignoring the less important ones. Careful planning is needed, however, in order to attain the goals you set. If you don’t plan well you might find yourself making arbitrary, random decisions about what to tackle and when.
Stress is an adaptive mechanism through which the body attempts to protect itself in threatening situations. A certain amount of stress is necessary in daily life; in fact, you must experience some minor degree of stress just to get going in the morning. Some studies suggest that up to a point stress can improve performance, and so is actually a good thing. Beyond that point, however, stress only makes things worse.
Preparing your Study Space
Academic success isn’t a happy accident—it takes planning and hard work for it to be accomplished. Good study skills are essential for academic achievement; innate intelligence alone can’t take the place of careful and diligent study. The way you go about preparing for your work can mean the difference between an “A” or a “C” on an English paper or between acing or failing “Intro to Computing.” It’s not enough simply to know good study strategies—you have to implement them as well. Even the best strategies can be foiled by the effects of a poor study environment. It’s worth the effort, then, to carefully plan not only how but also where you study.
Taking Lecture Notes
The college lecture is usually a novel experience to new Carnegie Mellon students. Unlike most high school classes, college lectures can be very large, with two or three hundred people attending. Although in high school the function of a lecture is usually to rehash material already covered in the textbook, college lectures most often provide an extension or enhancement of text material or introduce entirely new material.
Taking Lecture Notes [PDF]
Where is your time going? Are you using your time as efficiently as you could be? Managing time effectively requires judicious planning, prioritizing and some degree of self-discipline. It’s not an innate ability; it’s a skill that you can learn.
Time Management [PDF]
Textbook Reading Strategies
Few students receive any formal reading instruction beyond junior high school. By that time, it’s assumed you’ve mastered the basic reading skills you’ll need for higher education and that, with practice, your reading ability will continue to improve. As a result, many students never learn efficient textbook reading approaches. You’re forced to experiment on your own and, while the techniques you end up using sometimes work, usually they’re not nearly as effective as they could be. One problem with self-learned reading strategies is that they almost always are “passive” in nature. In order for you to get as much out of your study time as possible, your reading must be a conscious, organized, active undertaking.
Successful Exam Strategies
Few students receive any formal reading instruction beyond junior high school. By that time, it’s assumed you’ve mastered the basic reading skills you’ll need for higher education and that, with practice, your reading ability will continue to improve. As a result, many students never learn efficient textbook reading approaches. You’re forced to experiment on your own and, while the techniques you end up using sometimes work, usually they’re not nearly as effective as they could be.
One problem with self-learned reading strategies is that they almost always are “passive” in nature. In order for you to get as much out of your study time as possible, your reading must be a conscious, organized, active undertaking.
Preparing for Exams
How well you’ve prepared for a test isn’t measured, unfortunately, just in how many hours you’ve put into preparing; it’s measured by how you use those hours. Maybe there are some methods of preparing for an exam that you haven’t thought of that could help you.
Preparing for Exams [PDF]
How to Succeed in Calculus
Calculus plays an important part in the curriculum of students across the university in disciplines like engineering, science, business, economics, computer science and information systems. But for many it may also be perceived as a barrier. The purpose of this handout is to help students soar over that barrier. Calculus rests on only one big idea—the limit. Master that and all its big applications, and you have made a major step toward success.
How to Succeed in Organic Chemistry
It is true that many people don’t succeed in organic chemistry, and that it requires you to use parts of your brain that may have lay dormant for years. Some people find this to be difficult—and it is! But once you start to really understand the material, organic chemistry may just be the most rewarding class you have ever taken.
How to Successfully Manage CS Programming
Learning how to program is like learning a new language: you have to learn the syntax, the grammar rules, the common format and styles and, most of all, you have to practice, practice, practice.
First Year Fast Facts
These pamphlets provide practical advice from CMU students and faculty about many of the new challenges that First-Years face during the first few weeks of college.
A Strong Start [pdf]
Class Strategies • Notetaking • Working with Faculty
A Lot to Do [pdf]
Optimizing Your Time • Managing Coursework & Readings
Absorbing It All [pdf]
Understanding the Material • Studying & Study Groups • Taking Tests
More to Consider [pdf]
Understanding Grades • Academic Integrity