• Evelyn Fraser

Study routines: the unknown unknowns

So, that week turned in to a month, plus - my apologies.


I laid out spaced repetition study details in my last post, noting it's the best technique for memorizing discrete items: vocabulary, formulas, and who, what, when, where. But it's not great for studying more complicated ideas. The first thing you need to know is your reading speed, or words-per-minute. I'm betting this is an unknown unknown for most of us: didn't know you needed to know it, and what is it, exactly?


It's a simple exercise: pick a paragraph, count the words, set your stopwatch and read. When you finish, and stop the clock, divide the number of words by the minutes. So, for 1200 words in six minutes, you'd have 200 WPM. Why? Reading is the foundation for most studying. Math? Yep - you have to read over a textbook, or example problems. Bio/physics/chem? Yep. Same deal. Languages/language arts? Totally.


Your WPM is not a constant across all your study subjects, but it's a great starting point. Doing a quick one-paragraph count and averaging a reading assignment based on that, you now know generally how long it'll take to read an assignment. Armed with this information, you'll schedule more accurate reading blocks.


The next step is reading vs. skimming. Check your syllabus and note if the reading source is assigned weekly, i.e. a novel or textbook. If it is, reading is your game. If the assignment is a one-off, i.e. an news article or scholarly paper, skimming is your game.


Skimming means you focus your reading on the last sentence of the first paragraph, the first sentence of the detail paragraphs and the entire conclusion. Write these details down or record them in your phone; these are the bits you'll need for your upcoming class.


Check back next week - for real - for my post on reading.


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