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How to create a TA-approved study guide

By Jackie Brown

With the end of a semester approaching it is time to gear up for the dreaded finals season…

 

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It's important to head into finals feeling prepared, ready, and confident, but sometimes courses contain so much information that it can be hard to tell what is important and what is not.

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During both my undergraduate and Masters degrees, I have created study guides to help condense the most important information in a course into an easily digestible format. Study guides are one of my favourite tools because creating them is a form of studying itself and then I have something I can easily review later to go over key concepts, definitions, formulas etc..

The following study guide tips come from 6+ years of making my own and 1.5 years of TA experience:

Start at the beginning (AKA your course syllabus)

Who knew that your syllabus was such a wealth of information?! Well now you do. Review your syllabus to go over both the learning objectives and key topics that were covered in your course. 

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Break down your course content

Create sub-headings in your study guide to organize it well. This helps you easily find information when you use this for review. Sub-headings can be created using weeks or topics. I usually like to include some sort of topic heading so when I'm reviewing I know what content I will find underneath that heading.

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Look at lectures

Lectures are (usually) the most important way a teacher delivers course content. Most of the questions on your exams will draw on lecture content. Go over your lecture notes and include the most important definitions, concepts, facts and figures from each one and place this information under the appropriate heading. Be sure to include things that you have a hard time remembering! 

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Expand with readings 

If you take notes from readings or make highlights, use these to add on the information you have already included from the lecture content. Try not to repeat information twice within your study guide, but rather add in interesting facts or information that you found in your readings but wasn't included in lectures. 

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Keep it short and simple

Your study guide isn't meant to be a play-by-play of your lectures. Get to the point and stick to the most important concepts!

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Review

Print out your study guide and use it to review! You can use your study guide on your own or use it with your study buddies to help go over concepts together. Read it in the library, on your commute, maybe even sleep with it under your pillow for good luck.

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BONUS: Practice Questions

If you have time, use your study guide to create some practice questions. Reflect back on the learning objectives, key concepts and information from the course and try to come up with some questions that challenge your thinking and get you using all of the wonderful knowledge you learned throughout the semester.

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Best of luck on finals! Remember to take time to take care of yourself as well as your studies!