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Patrick Grassick.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1983.
146pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-7715-9710-X.

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by Don Levy.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

I always have at least a small sense of excitement as I open the package bringing a new book to be reviewed, but when I glanced at the title of this one my first thought was: "Oh no, not more pontificating about good study habits!" I am happy to say that my hunch was totally wrong. Grassick's book is not only a first-rate manual for practising students, it is useful and often delightful reading for almost anyone.

Grassick's credentials are impressive. He is a counsellor with the student counselling services at the University of Calgary, where, since 1975, he has conducted an exam skills workshop that has been highly-enough regarded that he has been asked to extend his expertise to various other organizations and institutions as a lecturer or a trainer. This book, "a portable Exam Skills Workshop", he describes as including "ideas and elements that have withstood rigorous experimental and clinical evaluation."

Inevitably, the measure of students' success in their studies conies from the results of tests of one kind or another, and it is all too easy for the focus of study to become the achievement of high grades for their own sake. One of the things I like most about Grassick's book is that it minimizes this tendency. He partially summarizes his approach in an introductory note to adult learners: "If you focus on learning, the achievement will take care of itself."

Focusing on learning, though, is not always easy. We have all had the experience of working hard on a course only to find that the exam seems to be dealing with some other material. Grassick's approach is designed "to show students how to work smarter, not harder" because "thinking that you know something is not the same as knowing that you know it." From this point of view he presents, along with the more or less standard advice about systematic, on-going, step-by-step review, such strategies as studying in a way that gives practice in the skills and behaviours that the exam will require the student to demonstrate and getting feedback, before the exam, on how effectively these skills are being performed.

The book presents sixteen general strategies for studying and test-taking and seventy-nine specific tactics applicable to different subject areas and types of exam. These strategies and tactics are organized in an ingenious classification system that allows Grassick to recycle pertinent items at relevant points as the book goes forward, as well as to provide at the end of each chapter a cumulative summary, cross-referenced by page numbers. Finally, near the end of the book, there is a complete four-page summary of the key strategies and tactics that would be worth having all by itself.

Bonus features include a couple of helpful chapters on reducing test-related anxiety; a great many samples and illustrations of useful techniques and devices for developing study schedules, taking notes, studying text-books, and memorizing and reviewing; a note on speed-reading; a list of references; and finally a feedback form that the user is invited to return to Grassick so that the author can continue to revise and improve the book.

I highly recommend this book to any and all students and to teachers and counsellors who want to help students improve their performance.

Don Levy, Armstrong, BC.
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