‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink;’ this is exactly how I sometimes feel while thinking about everything I have read and how I will write about it effectively. I really enjoy Coleridge’s poem and sailing; I have sailed the Amazon a few times, through the Drake Passage twice, and canoed across Lake Champlain. Spending time on the open water makes a very big impression. You notice things like currents, winds and the limits imposed when you are surrounded by water. Pardon my metaphor, but during the long winter my imagination can get the better of me; and I am reading the Romantics. I was reading Coleridge on Ground Hog Day and realized it is a perfect time to adjust my strategy before exams.
My strategy changes from reading to expressing arguments about what I have read. The ocean of information about texts must be turned into meaningful knowledge. My organization and note taking system is very effective for me, but I now must refine essay writing skills, time management, and consider how I select questions in exams. For me, taking time to really think about how I manage primary texts, writing and analysis skill sets is important. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of studying with the University of London International Programmes.
The biggest changes I have implemented so far this term involves study of primary texts which can be ‘giant time eating monsters,’ to quote a very productive colleague. Time constraints forced me to approach study very differently this year. As a result I cover more material, have better retention and improved analysis skills. I read a text completely one time then concentrate on very short amounts of primary text and always read with a specific question in mind. I read the same exam and study guide questions along with short sections of texts several times a day then make notes one time each day in the form of summaries with textual references. Close analysis is also a big focus this year; I spend at least thirty minutes a day with close reading exercises. An unexpected result is the ability to manage exam questions more confidently.
A review of my past exam essays tells me I tend to answer the same type of ‘discuss’ questions. This is very limiting and contributes to my feeling a bit like Coleridge’s mariner. I also did not fully answer the questions I selected in past exams. On Tuesday, Ground Hog Day, I implemented seasonal adjustments to my study strategy. I am managing my ocean of information by engaging with a wide range of exam questions. This is a very deliberate strategy to transform information into knowledge and develop specific skills.
Ground Hog Day is a great day for my annual study strategy tipping point. Adjusting my study strategy now allows plenty of time before exams to gain a command of some marvelous language and the day is wonderfully symbolic. Approaching exams does not have to feel like the doldrums or a williwaw wind; and according to my local ground-hog, Punxsutawney Phil, we have smooth sailing into an early spring. For me, it is a great tipping point toward exams.