Find the Gold: Get the most out of your studies 

A standard uni subject is about 2 hours of lectures for 14 weeks. That’s 28 hours of lectures, culminating in an exam that goes for only a couple of hours. So obviously, you’re not going to be tested on everything you’ve been lectured on, just a few hours worth of gold. In this article, you’ll find out how to maximise the important information so you can zero in on the examinable information. Then you’ll have time for other things like campus ministry and fun!

Breakdown of the Examinable

20% of all the info in a subject is really important stuff to know. It makes up 80-85% of an exam
15% is good to know, but not vital. Makes up 10% of an exam
65% you don’t need to hear it; with 2 clicks you could google it if you ever actually needed to know this stuff in the course of your career.

This gives rise to the 80-20 rule: 80% of the marks in the final exam come from 20% of the subject. This means that if you study all the material in a subject, 80% of your marks will come from 20% of the course content. So if you discover what that golden 20% is and focus your studies there, you will have 80% of the exam covered!
It’s about unearthing the key principles covered in the subject and learning how to apply them. That’s a skill you will need in the workforce. While some subjects do require some rote-learning (eg. biology or law), you can still narrow down the areas you need to learn well using the 80-20 rule.

Here are some important steps to help you find the 80-20 balance in your studies

Attend every lecture and tutorial and sit in the front 3 rows – sounds basic, but studies have shown that the greatest correlation between what you do and good marks is to attend class and sit up the front. You might think you can just read the textbook or borrow a friend’s notes or Google the topic later, but you will miss all the verbal cues from the lecturer about what’s important. You have to be there in person to hear that golden 20%.

Sitting up the front means your lecturer is more likely to recognise you, remember you and be a good resource for you in the future.

Listen aggressively and mark your notes whenever the lecturer says magic words like, “this is really important” or “this will be on the exam.”

Past exam papers – these are a veritable mine of golden information. Grab the past 5 years’ worth and compare them. Take note of the recurring themes and questions. Ask the lecturer if this year’s exams will be similar to previous years. The sooner you get hold of past exams the better. Get familiar with them at the start of the term, not just in stuvac/swat week. That way, you can pay close attention to those topics when the lecturer gets round to covering them. If they don’t give them out routinely, it may be because the exam is exactly the same each year, but you can still ask for assistance in determining where to focus your study.

Subject or Unit Synopsis is usually handed out at the start of each subject and contains a summary of the course objectives and what you should know by the end of the unit, plus the assignment load.

Subject or Unit Synopsis 2 - this is like a legal document and tells you the requirements for each unit. It’s legal in the sense that the lecturer is bound to teach what’s on it, and examines accordingly.

Ask the lecturer for extra info. Usually, lecturers are thrilled to talk to students who show an interest in their subject (good lecturers actually want their students to pass).

Be proactive, don’t give up If the lecturer is being unhelpful, keep asking questions. Ask them politely, but keep at it, like the persistent widow in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:1-4). If that lecturer can’t/won’t help you, go to a higher authority.

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Power to Change has developed a range of resources for campus ministry. Some of these great resources can be found here. We work hard to make all our resources Transparent and Transferable. Transparent is about making things clear and starting with the understanding that we want this to be passed on to others. Transferable is about keeping the content simple so that anyone can grasp it and then teach it to others.

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