Luck is what happens when preparation meets, recognizes, and acts on opportunity.
Timbuktu Academy
Southern University and A & M College
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70813
(Summer, 1995)

Entire books are devoted to the subject of studying. One of them is "How to Study in College," by Walter Pauk. The few lines below provide the essentials that, if practiced, could allow a purposeful student to not only succeed in college but also to excel. Without much elaboration, we note that these essentials are grounded into current knowledge in cognitive science, on memory, and on behavior.

  1. "Practice partly begets and certainly enhances sensory-motor (athletic), artistic (creative), and intellectual (cognitive) abilities." Hence, over the years, people develop and enhance the rational powers (i.e. intellectual skills or attributes) they apply frequently. It is through practice that expertise is developed in any cognitive endeavor.
  2. The first-time memory retention curve, well established in psychology, shows that only 25 percent (25%) of extensive and new information is still in memory after 48 hours. Of course, this means that "bright" students will tend to study their lessons, every one of their lessons, within 48 hours after the classroom lecture, laboratory, or activity. In doing so, they spend a lot less time on a lesson and it stays with them a lot longer. Naturally, they have to review what they have learned from time to time (see the importance of practice in "a" above).
With the above points in mind, essentials of a successful way of studying follow.
    1. Take complete and clear notes in class.
    2. Read the entire chapter in the textbook on the classroom lesson.
    3. Take extra time to understand anything that is unclear, in the notes or in the book.
    4. Use the chapter in the book to complete the classroom notes, if needed.
    5. Be aware of difficulties due to your background in the specific topic; consult teachers, professors, or tutors when multiple reading fails to clarify a point.
    6. After step 5 above, read/study the completed notes to find key or fundamental definitions, concepts, principles, laws, theorems, and skills (DC-PLaTS); note that the selected DC-PLaTS must be such that one can derive from them the entire lesson or lecture covered in class or in the textbook.
    7. LEARN/KNOW these fundamental DC-PLaTS to the point of recitation. (Understanding is not knowing; you can only use that which you know.)
    8. PRACTICE! USE the learned/known DC-PLaTS. See questions, homework, and problems assigned by the teacher/professor or in the book.
    9. Schedule a review of lessons from time to time.
    10. Research results in Education, Vol. 115, No. 1, pp. 31-39, Fall, 1994, scientifically prove that YOU have the intellect to excel in any field; the question is one of background, efforts, resource, and of practice in applying and enhancing your intellect and skills.
In science, the secret is to adhere to the facts and to formal logic (actual phenomena or events, definitions, concepts, principles, laws, causes and effects, theorems, and specific skills). Take what is!


We acknowledge the funding of the Timbuktu Academy by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research (ONR), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).