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What are some ways that I can not only study to retain but also to understand core concepts?

I’m currently in my Junior year in college and for this semester I’m taking abnormal psychology and molecular cell biology. These two courses have a lot of information that you must know in order to pass the class and I want a more effective way to study because I don’t think the way I’m studying now is sufficient enough. Most of the time I study by just reading my textbook and writing over my notes so that I don’t forget.

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Shiqi’s Answer

Practice problems. Study shows that by using the concepts and practice problems, you will be able to master the concepts better. You should always consider examples of how the core concepts are used and how they would vary under different circumstances when learning new ones.

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Olga’s Answer

I agree with Shiqi's advice. Spacing out study sessions has also shown to improve retention and recall. Once the concepts are read in a textbook, noted in your notes (perhaps with some paraphrazing that is easier to understand and recall), try to review the notes multiple times across a specific timeframe (several days) to ensure that you are retaining the concepts. It will also be helpful for you to determine your learning style (visual, aural, etc.) which will in turn help you study. For example, you may find that you recall concepts better when you initially learn them through a graphical illustration rather than from text. There are many free online resources which will help you understand your learning style better, not only for your current courses, but for learning any new information.

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Richard’s Answer

Go to class. Plan to spend 2-3 hours studying for every hour of lecture. Attend your professor's office hours and any TA review sessions. If there is a test bank, use that as a study tool to understand what your professor wants you to focus on for the test.