Book by Kenneth J. Sufka
Review by Comfort Sumida
Manoa Advising Center
University of Hawaii at Manoa

As advisors, we see students from all backgrounds and experiences in academia. We understand the transition to higher education is difficult, even for those who were academic stars in high school. However, from a student’s perspective, it is often frustrating to realize the study strategies previously used no longer earn the high grades to which s/he is accustomed.

The reality is that the learning process and expectations differ in college. This is often overlooked by students. They don’t realize the psychology class they took in high school is unlike the one they enroll in during college. Although the topics may appear similar, they differ in terms of depth of knowledge and the required level of understanding. To be successful in higher education, students need to learn how to adapt old study techniques and implement new ones. In The A Game, Sufka presents a collection of nine rules to help students make the most of their time in the classroom and studying.

Although Sufka’s “rules” may appear simple on the surface, such as daily attendance and timely preparation for exams, it would be a disservice to underestimate their value. He expands these basic skills and elaborates on how they are applied differently while in college. Rules presented later become increasingly complex, as he introduces the importance of identifying learning objectives and the use of concept mapping while studying. Another strength is in his style of presentation and elucidation, which are thoroughly engaging, effectively drawing in the reader, be it student or advisor.

For each rule, an introductory anecdote (usually in the form of a conversation he has had with a student) explains how to identify “bad habits” in common study strategies and clarifies why they no longer apply. Corresponding “game-changing” techniques are discussed to assist students with adapting their behavior to the expectations of college. Sufka uses examples and exercises to break down and illustrate the methods he recommends and explains in depth the reasons why they work, providing supporting results from published research.

Sufka’s style is straightforward and concise with a heavy dose of humor infused, making The A Game an enjoyable and entertaining read. As a professor, he understands the uniqueness of each student and knows the expectations they face. For each technique, he gives multiple examples in practice, teaching students to implement the suite of methods in ways that fit their individual style.

Students are the primary beneficiaries of The A Game’s lessons. They learn of ways to improve their academic performance using methods which apply to other aspects of their lives. Learning more efficient and effective ways of studying reduces the time needed to master the material and the probability they will make the effort to appropriately prepare for their next office visit, lecture, or exam. Although targeted towards students, The A Game is a worthwhile read for anyone whose students feel challenged by the academic transition to college or just wish to improve their study habits.

Advisors may already be aware of the strategies Sufka presents. However, they can still benefit from reading The A Game. It provides a greater understanding of the reasons why these techniques work and teaches ways in which to impart this information, and a better understanding of the expectations of higher education, to their students.

The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades. (2011). Book by Kenneth J. Sufka. Review by Comfort Sumida. Taylor, MS: The Nautilus Publishing Company, 80 pp. Price $12.95, (paperback). ISBN # 978-1-936946-02-0

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