Your success on the final exam will depend on your ability to use this book, your economics class, and your textbook to your best advantage. Below are the outline a strategy:
1. Take notes from the book.
Active reading is the key to effective studying. Mere highlighting is less effective than taking notes because it is too passive and therefore the material does not necessarily get "processed" through your brain. If you read about a concept and then write down a description in your own words, you create a self-contained explanation that speaks your language and will be easy to remember while studying for the exam. If you cannot explain the concept to yourself on paper, this is a clear indication that you need to study the material further. Try reading the corresponding section in this book to see if that explanation makes more sense to you than the one in your textbook.
2. Use colored pens and rulers for clarity.
Graphs drawn freehand in one color quickly become an unreadable mess as more and more curves are added and shifted. Graphs are essential to solving economic problems: Take pride in your draftsmanship and draw graphs that are so clear that they scream the answers out at you. Drawing your graphs too small can also make them unnecessarily hard for you (and test graders, come exam time) to understand. Remember the wise words of economist Erik Weissman: "If you can't solve the problem, draw a larger graph!"
3. Summarize what you've learned.
For example, you will learn about the supply curve in this book, during classroom lectures, from textbooks, and perhaps from active learning exercises and computerized tutorials. Sum-marize what you learned about each concept and curve in a central place. Summary sheets will serve you well during your final preparations for the exam.
4. Draw all of the graphs, complete with proper labels, until you know them by heart.
As we will note throughout this book, graphs can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
You need them on your side, so study them and draw them until you can draw them without looking at the book. On your summary sheets, explain the slopes, intercepts, and intersections to yourself in your own words. Be sure to learn the axis labels as well.
5. WORK ALL THE PROBLEMS YOU CAN FIND.
One of the most common mistakes students make when studying is to look at graphs and solutions to problems and think something like, "That's familiar to me; I can do that." Riding a bike may also look easy until you try it the first time. Then you discover that it takes a lot of practice. Economics is very much the same. Even after you feel comfortable with the material, it takes a lot of practice before you know how to correctly approach and conquer the problems. So get on that bike and practice!
6. WORK TOGETHER IN STUDY GROUPS TO ATTACK DIFFICULT PROBLEMS.
Explaining concepts to your classmates can be one of the best ways to solidify informa¬tion in your own memory bank and learn what you don't understand. Be sure that your participation in the study group is balanced between giving and receiving help. If you are spending a lot of time on the receiving end, you need to spend more time studying indepen¬dently before joining the group session. Watching others solve problems is no substitute for solving them yourself.
7. READ THE TEXTBOOK BEFORE CLASS.
By coming to class prepared, you will have a better understanding of the lecture, and you will be able to ask questions about the reading while that material is being covered in class. It is more awkward to raise questions on textbook material that was covered during a previous class.
8. TAKE GOOD NOTES IN CLASS.
You probably won't remember what you don't write down. A good teacher has gems of wisdom that you won't want to forget. This is also a chance to practice drawing graphs and rehearsing definitions.
9. ASK QUESTIONS IN CLASS ABOUT THE TEXTBOOK, HOMEWORK, AND LECTURE.
Don't let the lecture or the reading get ahead of you. New concepts will build on old con¬cepts and a little shyness early on can lead to a lot of confusion later. Most teachers would agree with the following principles:
• Don't worry that asking questions will signal a lack of intelligence to your teachers; it typically has the opposite effect. Those who ask questions are generally the best students.
• If one person has a question, it's likely that many people in the class have been wondering the same thing. They will be silently relieved that you had the courage to inquire.
• There's no such thing as a stupid question—you're taking the course precise¬ly because you don't already know this stuff.
10. VISIT YOUR TEACHERS AFTER CLASS FOR ANSWERS TO ANY REMAINING QUESTIONS.
The above nine steps will get you far, but sometimes you will still be unclear on a few things. Do not hesitate to ask your teachers questions after class that you could not ask during class. If they cannot help you directly, they can probably help you find the answer to difficult questions using library resources, economists in the area, the Internet, or other sources of information. Remember that economics is a broad field and even the Nobel Prize winners can't answer every question on the spot. You might get a more thorough and accu¬rate answer by not always expecting an immediate response. You might ask something like, "Could you cover this in class tomorrow?"