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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Steps Toward Success

"Wow! That's a lot to learn," you say after reading the section on "General Knowledge Guidelines" and thumbing through the "AP Stylebook."

"Not really," I reply. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

  1. Let a little mean a lot: The "AP Stylebook" and "Elements of Style" (and the World Almanac, if you choose to get one) are what I call "john" reading. Yep, every time you head to the "head" (that's Navy talk for the toilet), take along a World Almanac and/or your AP Stylebook. In other words, do this in small segments, not in big chunks. This is not like reading a novel or a history book. These are reference books. So, familiarize, don't memorize. As for the Internet, play, play, play. Just get on as often as you can and troll around for specific bits of info. For example, ask yourself: "I wonder when Lincoln was born." Then troll the web until you find it. Important note about the Internet: As with anything, get at least two reliable sources. One way to do that is to watch what comes after the "dot": .gov, .org and .mil are among the most reliable; .edu is next, though any Professor Tom, Dick or Malcolm can put up a site; .com, depending on what information you're seeking, but be careful; and .net, whatever that is. As with any source, including organizations and government agencies, the information is input by people -- people who make mistakes, are often misinformed or might have an ax to grind.
  2. Scanning's the best plan: Familiarize yourself with what's in each section of the AP Stylebook (and, if you're using it, with the index in the front of the "World Almanac"). Before each quiz, scan the relevant sections.
  3. Don't memorize. Just get a sense of where everything is. Because most of what you do is open book, you just need to know where to find things -- quickly.
  4. Don't memorize. Then scan the relevant sections. (With the "AP Stylebook," stop to read entries you might find the most curious or confusing or complex.)
  5. Practice makes perfect. Like the old joke about "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice. That's especially true for the Internet. For the AP, don't just look at each section once. Follow the three steps above a few times for each section.

The key to success: Don't memorize, familiarize.

A final tip: For the quizzes, get some "Post-It" notes and stick 'em to relevant sections of the AP Stylebook and, if you're using it, the World Almanac. That'll make it easier (and quicker) to answer questions on the quizzes, which are timed.

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