Achieve at Nyack

You may be wondering how your strengths will affect your ability to be successful at Nyack College. This page is dedicated to helping you answer that very question!

Click on one of the Tips for Success column to find practical tips to combine with your strengths for success in your college classes!

The Basics of Batting an "A"
Test Taking: To Cram or Not to Cram
The Best of Note-taking
Class Preparation


The Basics of Batting an "A"

The challenge of succeeding in class is similar to that of hitting a baseball; practice the material as often as possible, seek the extra coaching you need at every opportunity and prepare so well that nothing surprises you when you step up to the plate.


  • Do you go to class?/How often?
  • When do you arrive at class?
    • Early/Late
  • Where do you sit in class?
    • Front/Back, Left/Right?
  • What do you do when you have a question?
  • How comfortable are you raising your hand?
  • How comfortable are you approaching the instructor immediately after class with a question?
  • How comfortable are you with using the instructor's office hours?
  • Do you go to the extra help sessions?


  • How do you take notes?
    • Are you busy trying to write down everything the instructor is saying or writing on the board?
    • Do you listen first to the point they're making and then write down key/important information?
  • What do you do with your notes after class?
    • Do you re-read them at home or in your room?
    • Do you re-write them-clarifying points, improving handwriting, organizing concepts/thoughts?


  • How do you read text/material?
    • Do you read the material in advance of class?
    • Do you read with a highlighter in your hand - reading a few words, think its going to be important, then highlight everything?
  • Do you read first (no highlighter), understand, then go back and highlight important areas (maybe after class) -
    • Do you go back over the text material after class cross-referencing with your notes?


  • Where do you study?
    • In your room/library/study lounge/friends room?
    • Who do you study with?
    • What else is going on when studying-TV/stereo/friends conversation/playing computer games?
  • When do you study?
    • Same time every day
    • Early AM or Late PM
    • Between classes at library, student union, etc.


  • When do you start studying for an exam?
    • Night before/3-days, depends
  • How do you study?
    • Re-read every chapter (in order)
    • Review all material and identify difficult topics/chapters etc.
    • Practice tests/questions
  • Objective (Multiple Choice) Exams
    • Focus on the questions you got wrong. For each question determine
      1. What Main Idea was emphasized
      2. Was the correct answer a major or minor detail (Remember: major details support the main idea, whereas minor details support major details)
      3. Where was the information for the correct answer contained, text, lecture notes, or other.

Question #

What Main Ideas Were Emphasized?

Did the Correct Answer Involve Major or Minor Details?

Was the Source of Information for the Question Text, Notes, or Other?




To Cram or Not to Cram, That is the Question

Cramming is defined as:
Any last minute effort to master a large amount of new information. The key word of course is "new". Cramming, despite its usefulness as a social institution, is useless as a means to pass an exam.

Final Review is defined as:
Any last minute effort to organize and brush up on previously learned material. Final reviewing is an extremely useful study tool with moderate to high success.

All-nighter is defined as:

Any effort to study or write a term-paper the night before allowing for little or no sleep. Pulling an all-nighter to finish a term-paper is common and relatively harmless, but all-nighters and exams are a deadly combination.

Pre-test Checklist

  • Get to the test early -- get comfortable, relax.
  • Think positively about the exam.
  • What to bring to the exam:
  • A watch -- keep track of the amount of time you have.
  • A snack -- will give you energy (don't take an exam on an empty stomach because stomach pains or lightheadedness can be distracting; also, don't drunk too much coffee or soda, the caffeine can make you jittery).
  • Extra pen or pencil.
  • Extra batteries for your calculator.
  • Dress properly (for cold or for hot weather) you want to be comfortable as possible during the exam.

What To Do If You Panic During An Exam

  • STOP!!! Close your eyes, breathe deeply, put down your pencil and think about something pleasant to relieve the tension.
  • Have a soda or candy bar with you in the exam, so that you can stop and take a "snack break."
  • Go to items on the test you are sure of and answer them first. Don't get hung up on a question if you can't answer it. Skip it and go back to it later, however make sure you don't leave any blank for the possibility that you may get those right.

Post-Test Checklist

  • At the end of a final exam give the professor a self-addressed, stamped postcard or envelope so s/he can notify you about the course grade -- this may give you a psychological advantage; the caring student.
  • Find out your final exam grade or when you can get it so you can discuss the final grade with your professor to see if there is a discrepancy. A professor is more likely to change a grade BEFORE he or she hands in the final grades.

Types of Tests

  • Become an expert test taker
  • Pre-test yourself before exams.
  • Build a file on exams, study old exams, read critically.


  • Write legibly, use good grammar and put facts in logical order. To help organize your ideas, write a brief list of points you have to cover in the margin.
  • Read all the questions carefully before you start writing. Start with the question that is easiest for you.
  • Allocate your time accordingly. Sometimes one essay will be worth more points than another.
  • Never leave a blank on an essay test: Write down any related information that you can think of; professors usually give partial credit for partial answers.
  • Get to the point. Avoid writing everything you know about the subject, just the stuff that pertains to the subject.
  • Professors will appreciate a concise, well thought out essay rather then a "novel" that proves you have a wonderful short- term memory.

Open Book Tests

The announcement of an open book test often lulls students into a false sense of security. However, professors will expect more detailed answers since you have access to your notes and textbook. To save time, you should:

  • Organize your notes so you know where to find the information you need.
  • Put book marks in your text.
  • For specifics use the index.

On all tests use the entire period to complete the exam. Don't compare yourself with other people who may finish early. Don't forget to always check your test at the end to eliminate careless errors.

Take Home Tests

These kinds of tests usually have essay questions. They require a level of polish above that expected in a regular test. Treat these tests as if they were mini-papers, formulate an approach, and organize your thoughts. After the essay is typed make sure it makes sense and is free from all spelling and grammar mistakes.

Educated Guesses

Study skills Guru Claude Olney of Arizona State University suggests using the following methods to help eliminate choices:

  1. Multiple Choice. When 2 out of 4 choices are opposites, pick one of those 2 as the best guess.
  2. B, C, and D answers are the best in 5 answer multiple choice questions.
  3. Avoid pairs. If question 28 is known to be B, avoid guessing B in 27 or 29.
  4. Non-answers (zero, none of the above, etc.) are usually poor guesses.
  5. In questions asking for the most or the least, pick the answer next to the most or the least.
  6. "All of the above" is generally a good guess.
  7. Longest multiple choice answers are good guesses.
  8. If 2 of the 4 choices are almost identical, pick the longer of the two.
  9. If a few questions have five possible choices instead of four, pick number five.
  10. If a question asks for a plural or singular answer make sure you pick the plural or the singular.
  11. When limiting words are used (all, never, always, must, etc.) "false" is usually the better answer.
  12. When general terms are used (most, some, usually, could, might, etc.) "true" is usually the better answer.
  13. Exaggerated or complex answers are generally "false."
  14. As you go along put check marks next to questions you're not sure of so you can quickly go back to them as time expires.
  15. All fill-in-the-blanks should be answered. Your answer might be correct or you might receive partial credit.
  16. With essay exams say as much as you can, but use short paragraphs and write legibly.
  17. Answers often pop up in other questions. Keep that in mind.
  18. First impressions are often best. When in doubt go with your initial response.
  19. When a question is difficult to visualize draw it out.
  20. Assume a possible answer, then work backwards to see if you are right.
  21. Eliminate all possible wrong answers first then make an educated guess.
  22. Sit in front of the class. Ambiguous questions can be cleared up much easier.
  24. Stay until the end of the exam. Questions may be clarified by the instructor as an after thought.


Take notes for a purpose, not just to fill up your note book. You don't get credit for the amount of notes you take, but it pays off if they are used properly.

  • Successful class notes depend on good listening skills and concentration.
  • Develop your own personal note-taking style and stick to it. Use what works for you, not what works for someone else.
  • Write neatly and quickly. Make sure you can read and understand your own notes.
  • The purpose of taking notes is to get the KEYPOINTS. A keypoint is a main idea; an answer to an exam question. Do not attempt to copy every word of the lecture. Concentrate on the topic, and then fill in the specifics.
  • In taking notes, try to organize what the lecturer is saying. Look for organizational clues from the professor:
    • Listen for phrases like "another important factor" and "a third point".
    • Be alert to the professor repeating a phrase or idea.
    • If the professor writes something on the blackboard consider it very important
  • If it is difficult to organize your notes in class, then review and re-organize them soon afterwards.
  • Leave a 2" margin on each side of your notebook page. Write notes on one side of the page and use the other side of the page for comments, observations, and questions. Use the margin space for putting notes from your textbook and other readings.
  • If you do not understand something in your notes, go see your instructor. S/he will be happy to clear up any questions you may have.
  • Review and edit your notes after each class period. This will help transfer the information from short-term to long-term memory.
  • Do not depend on other peoples notes. They, like you, have there own personal style and you may run into trouble trying to understand their writing and terminology.
  • Indicate the date at the beginning of each series of lecture notes so if you miss a class you will know exactly what you have and what you have to get.


  • Sit in the front of the classroom. Why?
    • You get more attention for the instructor.
    • It's easier to get help during an exam.
    • It's easier to pay attention -- less classroom distractions.
    • Thus, It's easier to pay attention to the material being presented.
  • Do not miss the first and the last minutes of class. You usually receive vital information from the instructor at these times. This is the time when work is assigned, and reminders are given out.
  • Zero absences improves grades. Professor Claude Olney of Arizona State University, a study skills guru, surveyed some of the classes and found that the "A" students missed an average of .5 days of class, while the "C" students missed an average of 4.5 days.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions of the faculty. Utilize office hours if you need extra help or explaining. Office hours are a good way to meet your instructor and help your advisor match your name with your face.
  • If the instructor offers an extra credit project for your course make the extra credit mandatory. It could be the difference between an "A" and a "B". Ask the instructor if there will be extra credit and then DO IT!
  • Try to get reading lists early.
    • You might get burned out with all the reading you have to do during the semester.
    • You might get burned out with all the reading you have to do during the semester.
    • You might get sick & tired during the semester and not able to keep up with the reading assignments.
    • Once the semester begins it may be more difficult to keep up with the readings.
  • If your instructor follows the book you can follow along in your notes instead of trying to write everything down.