Your goal is to retain all of the material you study, and there are many different techniques to help you accomplish it. But some techniques are more effective than others. For example, taking practice tests is helpful ONLY if you carefully review your answers and learn why you missed certain questions. The best way to study the material in the test prep-book is to get active; instead of being a passive reader, interact with what you read by asking questions, taking notes, marking up passages, and making connections.
■ Ask Questions. The more difficult the passage you’re reading, the more crucial it is that you ask questions such as: What is this passage about? What is the main idea, or topic? What is the author’s point of view or purpose in writing this? What is the meaning of this word in this sentence? What does “it” refer to in this sentence? What is its antecedent? Is this sentence part of the main idea, or is it a detail?
■ Take Notes. Think about and respond to what you’re reading. Write the answers to the questions listed above. Record your reactions to the text, such as why you agree or disagree with the author’s point of view, or why you like or dislike his or her writing style. If you come across an unfamiliar word, look it up and record the definition (the act of writing it will help you remember it).
■ Mark It Up. Highlight and underline an important sentence when you read. When you see a main idea, mark it. If there’s an unfamiliar word or a word used in an unfamiliar context, mark it. The trick, though, is to be selective. If you’re marking too much of the passage, you need to practice finding where the author states his or her main idea.
■ Make Connections. Relate new material to what you already know. For example, if you’re trying to learn the word demographic, you may know that democracy refers to government by the people, while graphic refers to information, written or drawn. Then, you can remember that demographic has to do with information about people. Making connections is one of the things that differentiate remembering from memorizing. In the short run, it may seem easier to just memorize a word or a fact; but unless you understand what you’re learning—unless you have connected it to what you already know—you’re likely to forget it again. Then, you will have wasted your study time and not improved your test score.