Social Psychology covers an
range of material -- in fact, each major topic that we cover
(e.g., aggression) could be a graduate-level course! Because we cover such a broad range of topics,
you must master a great deal of information: new concepts, theories,
and ways of thinking. Below are listed several tips for succeeding
in this class -- none of them are new ideas, but they should remind you
how a responsible adult student takes his/her task of learning seriously.
#1: Your Mama
best way to study for my social psychology tests is to have read each chapter
before it is discussed in class and to thoroughly understand each major
concept. As the ASK center director puts it, you should know each
concept like you do your mother -- so that you could recognize it (her) from any
angle and with different clothes on. Just memorizing terms is like trying
to recognize someone you've only met a couple of times -- you're not able to
recognize them from different angles or in different clothes. My lectures
are designed to give you different angles/examples for the major concepts and in
that way build on your basic understanding of concepts introduced in your text.
The phrase "throwing like a girl" refers to someone who can move a
baseball for some short distance but apparently hasn't learned the skills to
"throw like a boy" -- move a baseball for a long distance and with good form
(the gender bias implicit here will be ignored for now). Studying in high
school is similar to throwing like a girl -- students generally do well enough
to move the ball. However, studying in college requires learning to throw
like a boy -- to succeed at the college level (to throw the ball the required
distance to graduate), you must learn some new skills. Below are some
suggestions for doing so.
Tips (in no particular order):
Study regularly. Think actively. Ask questions.
does not equal reading:
Studying involves understanding
and analysis -- not merely getting words from the text into your head.
Studying takes more time
and effort than reading.
Studying means reading material
slowly, reading it more than once, and asking yourself questions about
Do you understand the examples of the concepts
that Myers gives in the text? Can you make up your own examples for
Can you identify (highlight) the main point of
each paragraph? Can you summarize the chapter in a few sentences?
Remember: for a 3-credit class you should be working/studying
about 6 hours a week outside of class time.
Read the assigned chapters before they
are discussed in class.
Make a practice of going over your lecture notes
very soon after the lecture -- this helps you remember material and
it gives you a chance to ask the instructor or classmates about things
you missed or didn't understand.
Use small bits of time in your day -- make note
cards you can study while traveling or waiting in line.
being a human tape-recorder during lectures:
Concentrate on understanding what is being
said -- if you don't understand it when you hear it, madly writing it down
probably won't help.
Write down only the most important points and
any associated examples. One way to do this is to divide your notepaper
in half from top to bottom; write down the content of the lecture on the
left side and any corresponding examples on the right.
Reading the assigned chapter before class will
help you understand the lectures -- which means less frantic note-taking.
-- if you don't understand it, then other people in the class don't
either. Raising your hand in class will not hurt you (really) --
and willingness to ask questions is considered positively in your final
Some students find it helpful to compare their
lectures notes with those of a classmate -- you may be surprised at what
your notes -- don't just "go over" them:
Skim your notes from 1 lecture or topic, close
your notebook, and reproduce as much of your notes as you can on a piece
of scratch paper. Then compare your "scratch" notes to your lecture
notes. This way you find out how much information has "stuck" and
what parts you need to study some more.
Once you've got most of the material in your
head, think about whether you understand how your notes, class demonstrations,
and video clips all fit together and explain what's in your text. Are you
actually thinking while you're studying? You should be.
with someone else:
Write sample test questions for each other, especially
those where you must apply concepts in examples of situations
you'll learn both by writing the questions and
by answering your friend's questions
Try to explain material that you find difficult
to understand out loud to each other -- you'll find out what you do and
don't know, and talking out loud forces you to slow down your thought processes
and gives you time to put things together.
Work together on comparing and contrasting similar
concepts (e.g., sensation and perception)
mean "memorize-and-regurgitate" on exams:
The exams in this class focus on how well you
can apply concepts to new situations. Memorizing definitions
without really understanding the concepts will result in poor exam performance.
Therefore, the examples given during lectures
and in your text are important because they illustrate how the concept
can be applied in a concrete situation.
One way to reinforce your understanding is to
make up multiple choice questions and answer choices for each chapter (try
to use examples rather than definitions) -- you'll be surprised at how
much you learn by trying to come up with believeable wrong answers for
You need to correctly answer the most questions
(or most points) you can before the time is up
it is a tradeoff between the number of points
you can get and time
Look over the whole test first to see whether
some questions are worth more points than others (e.g., essays)
answer questions worth more points early, so that
you aren't spending most of your time on questions that aren't worth as
Skim through the questions and answer the easiest
ones first, skipping ones you don't immediately know
then, go through the test again and answer the
questions that take a little more thinking-- skip the hardest ones
For questions where you have NO IDEA of the correct
try to rule out one or two of the answer
choices (for multiple choice), then just guess -- IT IS ALWAYS TO YOUR
ADVANTAGE TO GUESS RATHER THAN TO LEAVE IT BLANK
Think actively on your test: cross out answer
choices that you know are wrong, draw pictures and diagrams, write notes
in the margins or on the back, use your test booklet as a scratch pad to
outline your ideas before writing the final essay
If you have time at the end, use it -- NO ONE
GETS EXTRA POINTS FOR FINISHING EARLY
go over your test and make sure you didn't make
silly errors while recording your answers (e.g., 2 circles filled in)
Special multiple-choice test strategies:
Read the question and try to guess what the best
answer would be BEFORE you look at the choices.
Read through ALL of the answer choices before
choosing -- there might be a "both A and C" option that you miss if you
just choose A right off the bat
Be careful with questions that have "not" in them
-- the logic of these is tricky