I don't give extra credit, so if you want to do well, you must study!
Dr. Simpson's Advice on Studying:
Read the book. A lot. I suggest reading each chapter 3 (yes, three!) times. Look at the Learning Goals at the beginning of each chapter - they will help you know what's important as you read. Look at the Big Picture bullet points (Putting the Chapter into Context) at the end of each chapter; they review the most important concepts in the chapter. Don't expect to understand them at this point (before you've read the chapter); but as you read, when you run across these concepts, you'll be more likely to recognize that they're important. These are the ideas you should focus on learning.
Once you've done that, start reading the chapter. Do it one section at a time. First, just look over the section, seeing what material is covered, and looking at the figures. Then, read the section very carefully, referring to your class notes if you have some. The last time, take notes as you go along. If you've read the section before, you'll know which material you should be taking notes on, and which material is less important.
Then, close the book and put away your notes. Take a blank piece of paper, and write yourself a short summary of the section you've just read. This will force you to use your own words - I've discovered that you don't really understand something unless you can explain it in your own words. Trust me on this one.
What will happen as you write is that you'll come to a point where you're uncertain or don't remember something. This identifies an area you need to learn better. Check the book and your notes to clarify things, shut them all again, and keep writing.
If writing isn't your thing, and you can find a willing victim - oops, I mean classmate, friend, or family member - use the same method, but talk about the section instead of writing. Explaining things to someone else is the best way to learn anything.
Rewrite your class notes, using the book to help you, within 24 hours of each lecture. This way, you will be reviewing the material when it is fresh in your mind from class, and you will be creating a nice organized set of notes from which to study for the exams.
Memorizing how an idea is presented will not do you much good. On an exam, I will be approaching the concepts differently from the way they are presented in the book, usually. Don't focus on "what", but "why" things are the way they are. Sometimes, looking things up in a different astronomy book will help, since you will find a slightly different explanation.
Summary: YOU ONLY UNDERSTAND SOMETHING IF YOU CAN EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE ELSE IN YOUR OWN WORDS WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR NOTES. When you take notes, read over the section, and try to write your own version of it, without looking at the book. Putting things in your own words is the best way to learn a concept. If you can, get together with other people in the class and study together. Take turns explaining things to each other.
Use the assigned homework and practice quizzes effectively. Really spend time with them; they are built to help you learn the concepts.
This all takes time. This is not an easy class. You will only do well if you spend a lot of time going over the material.
Feel free to stop by my office - I can look over your notes and help you if necessary.
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