SOME KEY POINTS FOR PREPARING FOR EXAMS

--Don't simply memorize definitions of terms; emphasize examples instead. No one is ever going to ask you to spout off a definition of some psychological term. But if you can recognize examples of psychological concepts when you see them in the world around them, you will be able to say to yourself, "I know what's going on here, it's x", and use all your additional knowledge of x to help understand (and maybe control) the situation better.

--Be sure you can tell why some example I've used is an example of the idea or term. What makes x an example of y? The best way you can be sure is to try to generate your own examples. If you can't generate your own example, you need to think about the idea/term some more.

--Make sure you can both recognize a term or concept from an example, and generate an example when you see a term (think about learning vocabulary words in the early stages of learning a new language- you need to be sure you can generate both the English words when you see the Portuguese, and the Portuguese words when you see the English.

--Force yourself to see relations between topics and concepts; always ask yourself, how does this relate to what I just read? The more relatedness among topics you see, the more sense they will make, and the more likely that remembering one thing will help you remember another thing. Part of learning a new discipline, like psychology, is learning how to think about it, and how new information fits with knowledge you already have. The more you know, and the more organized that knowledge is, the more likely new material will slip right into place, with relatively little effort.

Think about watching a football game. If you know a lot about football, the movement of all the players usually looks organized and sensible. The football expert will remember what an individual player did in terms of how it related to what else happened on that play. Each new event fits with his/her existing knowledge of how the game works. If something totally unexpected or unusual occurs, its contrast with existing expectations makes it especially memorable. If I were to ask the football expert what #57 did two plays ago, he'd first remember the play, and then might think about what #57 should have been doing on that kind of play, and then consider if indeed #57 had acted that way. On the other hand, if you don't know much about football, it looks like everybody is just running around randomly, banging into each other. For the football novice to remember what each player did on each play is to ask him/her to see and memorize 22 separate patterns on each play, which is probably impossible.

Similarly, the "psychology novice" just tries to memorize a seemingly endless series of unrelated facts, and is bound to have problems eventually. In Psych 11, you should be learning to be a "psychology expert", who knows how the game works. As you acquire basic pools of information, you also need to learn how to think about that information, how to use it effectively to deal with new material.

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