Sunday, February 7, 2010

Flash Cards

One of the primary techniques I used when I was taking AP tests for subjects that I was not taking as a class was flash cards. I would go through a book, and make flash cards for all of the important aspects. What I put on them would vary, names of important individuals in European History and all the bolded words in the Biology test prep book being the two I remember best.

This was a wildly sucessful technique. For the biology test about 500 flash cards were enough to get me a 5 on the test, while spending a tiny fraction of the time people taking the class spent.

Then I never really did it again. It was just too much work. More importantly teaching myself subjects became less important, and classes became more important. This technique can be done for classes, but typically a decent grade could be earned with far less effort.

I am starting to use this technique again though. I am once again faced with the problem of learning an absurd number of courses worth of information but don't particularly want to take any courses. So I have been going through an undergraduate text book on electrical power systems making flash cards about the most important definitions, conclusions, and equations.

Within a few minutes I remembered why I liked this technique. I have read Maxwell's equations dozens of times, but could never recite them from memory. Within five minutes of starting this, I could. Most equations can be memorized in just a few minutes, meaning it would not be hard to learn in excess of a hundred.

Before this, I never had memorized large numbers of equations. Physicists I have known typically look down on memorizing equations. They can look them up whenever they are needed. It is problem solving techniques they practice.

This doesn't really apply to undergraduate level equations as far as I can tell however. The reason is that so many books just assume you know that stuff cold. If you haven't memorized these prerequisites it is really hard to follow them.Also, a common issue I have is forgetting what all of the variables mean. Flash cards are about the best way around the problem.

No comments: