Study Skills

Study Skills

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Essay Style Practice Questions



In this section we will examine a few example essay style/ short answer questions. It is important, once again, to understand how the questions were developed so that you might be able to construct your own example questions. As you read each question, attend to the action words which direct you and try to interpret what the question is asking you to do; you should find that this helps you apply the strategies we have been discussing.

1. Define SQ3R and discuss its relationship to the other strategies we studied in this section of the course.

This first question is probably best understood as a short answer question because of its specific focus. This question is reasonably direct and tests knowledge which was learned explicitly in the course. Note the direction words define and discuss and the emphasis on the relationship between this strategy and the others studied. Preparing for this question would likely involve elaborative rehearsal of the concept SQ3R and of its relationship to other strategies. Depending on the limits of the question, a detailed answer which involves a brief description of both SQ3R and the related strategies may be important. Not only would you want to list the components of SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, review), but you might also want to elaborate on the meaning of each of these before proceeding to related the strategy as a whole to other strategies. An appropriate way of detailing the relationship between the strategies is that SQ3R seems to involve and coordinate a series of the strategies studied.

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2. Outline the research done by Bahrick and Hall, 1991 and discuss its implications for the study of memory.

This question is more involved than the first and could appear as an essay question on an exam. Note the direction word "outline"; it indicates you must, instead of defining a concept or memory strategy, briefly review the research done by Bahrick and Hall, 1991. The next part of the question asks you to discuss implications of the research -- this would involve understanding and talking about the findings of the research (in this case, that periodic retrieval seems to strengthen long-term memories) and asking yourself what the findings imply about the memory process. In essence you are being tested on your understanding of the conclusions of the study and on your ability to see the relationships between these conclusions and the rest of what you have studied. It should be clear that you would require a solid and detailed understanding of the course material to answer this question well and that simply reciting definitions would likely not be sufficient preparation. The other, more active, methods of study talked about earlier (practice testing, question generating etc.) would be good choices here assuming your general knowledge of basic concepts was firm.

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3. In the "Improving Memory" segment of our course, we considered a series of memory strategies, including "chunking" and "organization". Describe these strategies and discuss the different ways in which they can be applied to learning different kinds of information. Is one superior to the other? Why? Why not?

This question goes beyond the first two questions in that it involves not only definition and analysis, but also critical judgement. We are first asked to describe the strategies and then to compare and contrast their application to learning different kinds of information. We are then asked to consider whether or not one strategy is superior. The answer to this question involves reliance on either course content which explicitly answers this question or on a measure of original thinking done which extends course concepts. Preparation would involve a thorough understanding of the concepts, thinking on how these concepts might be applied in various settings, and critical thinking on how one might be superior to the other.

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