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Tips for Success in PSY 101

Psychology, the field that carefully, scientifically focuses curiosity onto how and why we act and think, is an extremely interesting subject with many fascinating topic areas, as well as a popular major in undergraduate programs. The introductory course in psychology, exploring much of the broad discipline, is a challenging course and a necessary prerequisite to further study. We want you to succeed when you take PSY 101, and many of you will have to work harder at it than you expect. The material in Introduction to Psychological Science is scientific, detailed, precise, and frequently explained in a language of its own. In addition, the course moves quickly from topic to topic, so we ask that you come prepared to focus and work hard. We think you need to invest an average of around six hours each week outside of class time on reading, studying, and reviewing material, plus time to get additional help and take supplemental tests in the Psychology Learning Center. If you are prepared and committed to succeeding, consider the following advice:

Read the book: Seems obvious, doesn't it? But remember that all the material you will be tested on in this course comes straight from the textbook. If you know and understand what's in the book, then you will be prepared for the tests. Read the material before class, so that lectures will seem like a review, and if something in the book isn't clear you can ask your professor about it in class. And read carefully, preferably taking notes as you do: we don't test you only for highlighted material in the textbook; if you're reluctant to write directly in your book, use post-it notes, 3X5 index cards, a notebook, or a print copy of the study guide to write notes pertaining to every page of assigned reading. The more actively you read the book (meaning: taking notes while reading, quizzing yourself after sections, etc.), the better you'll score on the tests. If the material is in the textbook, and mentioned in the study guide, then it might show up on your test, so you need to do everything you can to understand it and commit it to memory. Active reading is a big part of that. If your reading skills are weak, we strongly recommend taking a reading skills course alongside or prior to taking PSY 101.

Go to class: It also seems obvious, but it needs saying. Very few students can read the book and take the tests and get A's, and for them this is fine. Almost all students, however, perform better on tests when they attend class. And if you aren't doing well, and you aren't going to class, there's probably a connection. We've seen a strong correlation between the number of classes students attend and their grades. In other words, students who attend class regularly tend to get higher grades than those who don't, and this pattern is verified by test score data. Coming to class will allow you to get a better understanding of the material in the book. Besides, if you miss more than three class hours you can be withdrawn from the course by your professor, which could lead to a loss of financial aid, full-time status at school, etc. While in class, take notes, even if you feel that you don't need to.

Use the study guide: It will help you navigate through all the material in the book. The study guide lists the 20 objectives for each unit, and there will be one question on each objective on each unit test. The textbook is completely customized, so we cover the entire content, front to back, however some sections are more important than others, and this is reflected in the questions in the study guide. The study guide is also designed for your practice: it asks questions that you should be able to answer after thoroughly studying the material. Use it wisely: if the questions make no sense or are unanswerable, read the book carefully to understand both the questions and their answers; if you have to peek at the book while following the study guide, you don't know the material well enough; if you find yourself reciting definitions without understanding them, you don't know the material well enough.

Use the practice tests and tutors: There are practice tests you can take on the computer that cover our specific learning objectives. And there are instructors there much of the time who can go over material and clarify things you aren't sure of, whether from the book, a practice test, or a real test.

Use MyPsychLab: Specially designed by the textbook publisher, MyPsychLab is an online study tool, and we have modified it as much as possible to aid your learning of material that appears on our graded tests. Complete the unit practice quiz for each unit in MyPsychLab before you take the actual tests for the unit. MyPsychLab can be accessed through your class Blackboard page, if you purchased a new book with an access code.

Take lots of tests: You typically have three opportunities to take tests on each unit; one in class (the B test), and two in the Psychology Learning Center (the A test, which is usually taken before the in-class test, and the C test, which is usually taken later; Summer and Intersession classes have only an A test available in the Learning Center). We've seen a strong correlation between the number of tests people take and their grades in the course. Those who take more tests tend to have higher grades. Actually, the strongest correlation is between the number of A tests a student takes and their overall grades in the course: students who take more A tests wind up with higher grades, on average. Even if you're not ready to take a test, take it by the deadline anyway: whatever you get will be better than zero, and it will help you learn the material for the next test (this "practice effect" seems especially to apply when taking an A test). And don't forget the practice test, which you can take only in the Psychology Learning Center.

Go over the tests: After you take a test, in the Learning Center or in class, you will have opportunities to go over that test with a tutor in the Psychology Learning Center. Bring in your feedback sheet if it was a B test, and the tutor on duty can find a copy of the actual test you took. For A and C tests taken on computer, the tutor on duty can find it without a feedback sheet. (You can review the practice tests with a tutor as well.) This will help you understand your mistakes so you won't make them again. But if you took a test without studying, study first before reviewing the material with a tutor.

Ask for help: There are other things we can do to help students who are trying hard but not getting the kind of grade they want. Ask your professor or any of the professors in the Learning Center for help BEFORE too many tests go by. We can help, but we can't undo weeks and weeks of poor scores. And help yourself: study skills are generally universal; what works for one professor's students typically works for another's. Google "study skills" and read through the advice you find (if you have a little time, take a look at this "How-to-Study" video series).