What % of your reading do you need to remember at post-grad level?
October 23, 2014 12:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in doing a Chinese Studies MA but I don't know how much of my reading I need to remember. Any advice?

I'd be interested in hearing from people who have MSc-s or MA-s in Chinese Studies. Approx. what percentage of each page of my reading should I expect to encapsulate in my notes? Please could you also make general recommendations on the reading strategy I should use?

Thanks for any advice.
posted by Musashi Daryl to Education (7 answers total)
Mine's not in Chinese studies, but I do have an MA in the social sciences. Could you update with what you're aiming to remember for? i.e. class discussions, papers, oral exams, background reading for your MA thesis, etc.?
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:39 PM on October 23, 2014

Do you mean reading in Chinese? Or English? I have a graduate certificate in China studies, with classes conducted in Chinese. Still, I am not sure what exactly you are asking. It's hard to break things down to a percentage in terms of what you should "remember". The best way to prepare, if you are planning to be readings things in Chinese for grad school, is to read academic and news articles and look up words that you don't know. But again it's hard to answer your question as asked- I could give more advice if you expand it a little more.
posted by bearette at 6:38 PM on October 23, 2014

Response by poster: I'd be interested in doing an MA on the Chinese Economy. Not too sure what form the assessment will take yet, but I think there probably is a thesis.

What I'm most interested in actually is remembering background reading when writing an essay under timed exam conditions. I suppose I have two inter-related queries:

1) When I write notes based on my reading, what % of the reading should I try to understand and then include in my notes?

2) When I'm preparing for a timed exam, should I aim to remember a little of a lot of books, or just focus on a few key texts in a lot of depth? Which makes for the better argument?

Thanks for your interest in this query.
posted by Musashi Daryl at 4:08 AM on October 24, 2014

Given your update, I'd say that the "remember a little about a lot of books" test versus the "in depth study of a few texts" exams are going to be very different beasts, and you should get instruction from your professors as to which type you are preparing for. If it's not clear, you should definitely ask. (Sometimes professors can be less than helpful about this sort of thing, so that's where older students in the program are going to be super important -- use them as a resource!)

Either way, I would not think about it as remembering/including in your notes a certain percentage of each page of reading. Rather, I would think about each book or article as a whole, and aim for an outline of this sort:

Main Argument:



My Thoughts/Critiques:

How Related to Other Readings:

etc. Your categories may change depending on the type of class/readings/etc. but this is the basic idea. It's about figuring out and remembering the big ideas, what's used to support those ideas, etc. rather than a certain percentage. So, an author with a really elaborate/rambling writing style may have a lower "percentage" translated into notes than an author with a spare, simple writing style.

As for remembering a lot of stuff for a timed exam, flashcards were the only thing that did it for me! I had a HUGE stack for my comps in grad school. Aim for the bigger-sized ones so you can fit more in since you're needing to remember more than just definitions.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:32 AM on October 24, 2014

MA in Japanese Literature here. I'd echo Rainbowbrite's recommendation. You'll want to remember key arguments/ideas, and be able to compare/contrast them in reference to the exam question. A demonstration of broad reading/understanding is generally better than a deep understanding of a few texts.

For more in-depth explanations on how to take notes well, look at systems by Cal Newport and Tim Ferriss.

FWIW, in my graduate program all of my exams were take home, including the comprehensive exams for my degree. One Classical Japanese Literature final exam took 5 hours. The expectation seemed to be that as a graduate student you would read more, work more, and know more, so the exams needed to take longer, hence take-home exams and not 'sit in a classroom and sweat it out' exams.
posted by sazanka at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

And one more thing: knowing what I know now, I would have also done some sketch noting.
posted by sazanka at 9:08 AM on October 24, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you to Rainbowbrite and Sazanka for their very informative replies. I don't have time to try the links at the moment but it seems like you've really helped me.
posted by Musashi Daryl at 4:04 AM on October 25, 2014

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