Column: How to succeed in a difficult class


By Tatyana Nyborg
Metro Campus Associate Editor

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ural State University, Russia.

I took a variety of courses during five years of studying at the university, including those, which require extensive reading and memorizing, such as literature classes.

Here at Tulsa Community College (TCC), I study American journalism and art.

Being an artist also, I was very excited to enroll in the Art History Survey I at TCC. It is great to learn and enjoy the Ancient art of Egypt, Greece, Roman Empire, etc. in the class.

However, I learned that the course required a lot of reading, memorizing of art work images, titles, names, historical periods’ dates and critical thinking and analysis of architectural, sculptural and painting styles. So I created a system, which allowed me to pass exams with a high score in the class.

A classmate asked me to share my system with others. I am glad to do it in this article.

In the Art History Survey course, there is a requirement to read two 250 page text books per semester. It is an enormous task. To process this volume of information, I made a rule for myself to read 5-10 pages every day or every other day. I highlighted the most important sentences in the books with a pencil in a case I needed to review it again.

Then, I created my own study guide for each chapter, based on the text books, the teacher’s power point summary, and notes which I took during the class discussions. The guide included listing of the dates of historical periods and titles of works for each period.

I wrote 3-5 or more key words, which characterized the style and specifics of the art work, next to each title. For example, a paragraph on the Colosseum, a famous Roman architectural structure, looked like that,”The Colosseum – Rome, oval, 50,000 people, amphitheater, barrel vaults, arches, 3 floors, engaged columns from bottom to top: Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian.”

A week before an exam, I read my study guides and test myself to see if I could remember all dates, titles, names, images and key words.

I think the most crucial day is just before an exam. On that day, I read the study guides and test my knowledge twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. Later,  I read and conduct self-testing 30 minutes before the exam starts, to refresh my knowledge.

Converting the vast volume of information I learned into a key-word system helped me to pass the tests successfully.

My classmate Jessie Brown, who pursues an Associates degree in art at TCC and wants to get a four year degree in art therapy, says that making flash cards helped her with studying the art history.

“I Google images of art works and print them on big pieces of paper,” she explained.

“Then, I make big flash cards with the images and write notes on the back of the cards, using the text book, power point and notes from the class,” Brown continued.

“The flash cards are mostly for memorizing titles and dates; it is visual study,” she said.

“I listen to classical music when I study,” Brown shared.

The Connection Southeast Campus associate editor, Thomas Hurt, plans to receive an Associates degree in mechanical engineering at TCC.

He states that Engineering Physics I and II, and Calculus courses were challenging.

“Science and math classes like physics are difficult because they require a lot of repetition to make sense,” he says.

“Unlike many classes where you simply have to memorize facts about something, these require you to be much more engaged mentally,” Hurt reveals.

“Going through the book’s problems and talking to friends in the class was the only way I was able up to learn how to pick out the parts I needed for the equations,” he said.

If you are a student and have your own, unique system to study, which can help other students to go through college successfully, contact me at and I will be happy to tell about your method in the newspaper.