Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success

Q & A: Mastering Question Clusters, Breaking Up with Terrible Majors, Withdrawing from a ‘B’, and Debating a Two-Day a Week Course Schedule

November 21st, 2008 · 7 comments

From the reader mailbag:Questions and Answers

I have three questions about your focused question clusters study strategy.

  1. Is the list of rapid-fire questions for one test (with answers) supposed to be nearly as long as a textbook chapter?
  2. I’m confused — what exactly are they supposed to cover?
  3. Can one go about making them without spending several days’ worth at the computer or with a pen and pencil?

Cal responds:

  1. Hopefully much shorter.
  2. Everything you need to know for the test.
  3. Try to inline the question building with your note-taking in class and while doing reading assignments. Don’t wait until right before the test to construct all of your clusters from scratch.

From the reader mailbag:

I have two majors and a minor. I love one of my majors (Psychology) and my minor (French). Most of my stress comes from my other major (Business). I dislike my business classes and find them hard. I want to go to grad school for Psych after graduation. I am using business as a “back up”… but this “back up” is taking over my life!!! If I could have things my way, I would finish the psych major, apply for grad school, and graduate.

What do I do? I am too scared to not go the B-school route…

Cal responds:

Let’s review: You have two majors. You really dislike one of the majors. This terrible major has nothing to do with what you want to do after your graduate. It’s hurting your performance in the major you like. Your only justification for sticking with this extra major is that you have a vague, unverified belief that it will somehow be a “backup.”

I wonder what I might advise…

From the reader mailbag:

Realistically, I’m going to end up with a ‘B’ in a psych course I’m taking this semester. Do you think I should withdraw from it to keep my GPA higher? On the course transcript, instead of a grade, it’ll say ‘W,’ but it won’t affect my GPA. Do you think med schools will look at this “W” and hurt my chance of admissions?

Cal responds:

Don’t withdraw. And stop obsessing over your GPA.

Instead, focus on doing quality and efficient work in each individual class. If you don’t like your performance in a particular class, do a rigorous post-mortem to help you polish your technical study skills for the classes to follow. You’ll get the best overall results if you follow this short-term, skills-oriented mindset.

From the reader mailbag:

How do you craft a good schedule? I know that it might vary from one student to the next, but I was thinking about having classes from 9:30-5:30 on just Mondays and Tuesdays next semester (with a 15 minute break between each of my 5 classes). What are your thoughts on this type of schedule?

Cal responds:

You’re right about optimal schedules being different for different types of students. The Monday/Tuesday schedule sounds interesting. It would allow you, for example, to treat Wed – Friday as regular work days during which you could systematically work through your assignments for the week. I like the control that gives you. I also like that your weekends and evenings could be free.

On the other hand, it would require hearty mental stamina. (Remember when Leena tried something similar and it didn’t work out…)

My conclusion: If you’re good at working for long periods, then yes, try this. If your attention wanders, however, you might need a more diverse daily setup. Some tactics that seem to work well for most students include: a plan.txt file, an autopilot schedule, a task management system like GTDCS to coral your stuff, and, of course, a sunday ritual.

7 thoughts on “Q & A: Mastering Question Clusters, Breaking Up with Terrible Majors, Withdrawing from a ‘B’, and Debating a Two-Day a Week Course Schedule

  1. Joe The II says:

    Thanks for answering my question!

  2. Amy says:

    @Monday-Tuesday Schedule
    The best advice regarding any school schedule is to know yourself… Seriously. I am a junior at the Univ of Wisc, and I’ve spent years determining what my real strengths and weaknesses are. I hate the internet (well, sort of.), and I’ll never take another online or mostly online-based course. I need a professor to lecture and I need to actually hand something in, versus, putting it in the D2L dropbox or emailing it. I also know that I work best with a specific deadline, if I have a 2-hour block between classes, I’ll finish more than if I have all day to work on it. If you’re one of those people that can drive yourself to actually work and not pseudo-work during any given period, then a compact schedule would be great; if you’re like the others (where pseudo-work is still occuring, sorry, Cal!), then a more spread out and structured school schedule may be advised.

  3. IQ says:

    Hey, I am a first year college student debating on whether or not to double major. Right now I’m doing business, but I’m also very interested in pursuing a math major from both an intellectual and career standpoint. Would you say that I’m justified in taking both majors? Thanks

  4. Study Hacks says:

    Hey, I am a first year college student debating on whether or not to double major. Right now I’m doing business, but I’m also very interested in pursuing a math major from both an intellectual and career standpoint. Would you say that I’m justified in taking both majors? Thanks

    If your goal is to increase your job prospects, then a math major is your best bet. Employeers see math as “hard” and often are in great need of “quantitative skills.” Business majors, in my opinion, is a fad on the way out.

  5. IQ says:

    Thanks for the reply. Although business is supposed to be my ‘main major’ (since I’m in a business school), the math program here is very well regarded and I feel that a math major connects with me more. I guess I’ll be taking it.

  6. grati says:

    Hey,i just found your page and i´m impressed.I have a loooong history of bad learning technique,this year i suddenly i realised i need a change if i really want to improve.I study psychology,in third year.Can you please suggest a way to improve studying,considering that i know read,take notes,read,read and hope to remember. I´m aware that´s terrible,i just have troubles changing things:( I´d appreciate any help;)

  7. grati says:

    and sorry for all those mistakes,i rushed…enthuziasm i think.Also my english is far from perfect:)

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