How to Study like an Engineer in College

Use note cards with chapters and page number noted on the top right hand side.

Note Cards

Note Cards:
Use note cards with chapters and page number noted on the top right hand side. I use these notecards for main equations, notes and worked examples. It’s important to put the page numbers and chapters on the notes because it helps in keeping ideas together as well as gives you a direction as to where to go if you need additional material.

Learn to use your calculator:
Performing partial fraction expansion, convert fraction to integers, graphing/plotting, integration, differentiation, Laplace, converting polar/rectangular, understanding how to display imaginary numbers, and understanding how to use sinusoidal function are essential! Also know when to use Radians units vs. Degrees is important; it’s easy to get the incorrect answer.

Note: I used the Casio fx-991ES, TI-84, TI-86. I have switch to the HP Prime for the last two semesters. I like the HP Prime since it is a touch screen, colored graphic function, Laplace, Easier to read, etc. While TI is great and solid calculator, I believe that Texas Instruments is dragging its feet, while HP has already provided a 2nd firmware upgrade. What you use is up to you. For most college applications the TI-84 is a Solid Calculator. Just stick to one and learn it very well.

Complete as Many Book Examples as Possible:
Here is a little known secret when it comes to book examples. Most of the learning and understanding comes from the chapter’s problems and not from the chapter itself. They introduce new ideas, and have exercises that very in complexity. Mathematical lessons usually include unique ways to solve problems; the unique ways that professors like to present during exams.

Notes from Professors:
Read and understand them intimately. Often professors draw questions from their own notes, since they authored them. For me, I usually read theirs side by side with the book. In a pinch, I will read and study their notes first.

Use Mechanical Pencils, Forget Pens:

Use Mechanical Pencils, Forget Pens:

Use Mechanical Pencils, Forget Pens:
For some time I used the Sharpie pens. They were excellent pens that worked long after most pens died. I liked the contrast and many colors, even thou I used only three colors (Black, Green, and Red). The issue is twofold, first they are expensive at eight dollars for a set. The other reason is that I cannot erase what I write, often scuffing up my notes.
NOTE: I use Pentel P205. These mechanical pencils last long and are good at writing clear.
NOTE: Use big eraser, the mechanical pencils eraser’s are insufficient. Store some at home and in your schoolbag.

Notation Notation Notation:
If your writing is atrocious then you will have serious challenge. When learning about the Laplace Transform, 5’s and S’s tend to look alike and cause many mistakes. I’s and L’s and l’s tend to look the same. Figure out how to distinguish them using your own notation and practice them.

Note: I often write 5 like this: Five, with the little tip on top to distinguish it from an “s”.

Have Scrap Notebook:
Often is the case when you require scrap to write and practice problems. Don’t use scrap paper and throw it away! You may need to look back at it, especially problems that can take several pages to solve! Use a note book just for scrap and label on top the subject; trust me it will save you many hours during finals and exams.

Surround yourself with other successful students

Surround yourself with other successful students

Surround yourself with other successful students:
During my first year as an engineer I became an officer for the IEEE club. They informed me of difficult classes, tricks to avoid spending another semester at the university, and good ideas about teaching styles of professors and classes in general. Often they had books or other resources that helped them understand the material, as well.

Beyond that thou, studying with students who are in the same discipline or class helps you. If they are great in one class then you can learn, while you provide help in other classes where you have a strong suit. No one is great at everything. Don’t become a loner, you will suffer needlessly.

Planner

Write down when all assignment are due in a planner the moment they are announced.

Planner
Write down when all assignment are due in a planner the moment they are announced. In addition to the planner, you may want to use Google Calendar to add important assignments down and have it automatically send you a text message or email several days before the due date. I have gotten in the habit of always checking my planner every day before studying. I use a planner impart because I don’t always have an internet connection in class, and some professors prohibit phones and computers during class.

Don’t cheat.
Read this: Cheating and Its Costs

Sources I use for daily classes:
Wolfram Alpha: http://www.wolframalpha.com/
Mathematics: http://patrickjmt.com/
KhanAcademy: https://www.khanacademy.org/
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com
Paul’s OnLine Notes Paul’s OnLine Notes

4 Comments

  1. Remi R Reed

    I use the Kuru Toga from Uni as my writing utenciles of choice. Very informative article Article.

    Reply
    1. Daniel D. Wilcox (Post author)

      I discovered them while I was shopping for good notebooks. For anyone who does not know, they are good mechanical pencils because the lead rotates each time the pen is written with [a rather unique gear mechanism inside the pen]. This allows for a smaller lead foot-print; as users write words or draw diagrams the lead quickly wears down from thin to thick. Rotating the lead continuously sharpens it, keeping it at a nice point.

      Reply
  2. WIll Shephard

    Awesome Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  3. Stoperby

    this information seems very good and through. I use a different pencil, and have a fetish with different notebooks. I also use a planner; one for my work and at the other one for my school.

    Reply

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