Don’t worry! You are normal!
No one is born with the knowledge and ability to know how to study. It is something each person has to learn. Let’s accelerate your learning by sharing some of the more popular ways people study and see if you can pick a few things up. The aim of this article is to help make you more efficient and productive with your studies – saving you time and boosting your grades. I have found the best way to study is a mix of understanding, repetition and with variation. The key to this is making your learning active and not passive.
- Firstly understanding concepts;
2. Secondly repeating the concepts and examples; and
3. Lastly varying the way in which you repeat the concepts (written, verbally, graphically as examples).
Study to learn; not memorise.
Before we begin, it is important to note that you should study to learn; as opposed to studying to memorise. By studying to understand concepts, you will learn it more thoroughly. That means that when the test time comes, you will be better equipped to solve problems related to that concept. If you purely study to memorise, your chances are much slimmer to be able to remember the concepts; particularly under stress and when tested in new questions. It might take more time in the short-term to understand concepts and fully grasp them, but in the longer-term it will save you an enormous amount of time and stress as once you understand something, you will not need study it again and again like you will when you study to memorise.
Ways to study
Get someone to test you using your notes
I used to make summary sheets (handwritten) and then hand them to one of my three sisters, who would then proceed to ask me questions about the topic areas or make me try to guess things. If I was unable to guess the right answer, I would then be given hints. This is a surprisingly good way to reinforce your learning. Perhaps because it combines taking your own personal notes with the idea of being tested on the spot by someone you know and trust. But perhaps you will need to give them a chocolate for helping you…
It is said that the best way to learn something, is to teach someone else. Like the above method, try to find a sibling, friend or family member that will take a few minutes out of their busy day to be taught by you. Perhaps you can do a short speech or presentation to them. I found that although doing this feels strange, it is a solid way to verbalise what you have just learned. This mixes things up a bit for you and works other areas of your brain. So instead of reading and writing all day, why not read out your notes out loud to a mirror or yourself, or if you are lucky enough to find someone to listen to you then give them a chocolate for helping you to reinforce your learning. Perhaps you can even find a friend who also needs to study that topic and you can offer to teach them what you have taught yourself.
Cover the notes with your hands and try to remember
If you cannot find a friend to help you with the above two methods, then you can always use your trusty hand or book to cover notes whilst you try to guess the remaining part of the sentence or part of the concept you are studying. This age-old trick might work well; you’d be surprised. And if it does not work for you, then find something else that does! That is what learning is about – experimenting, discovery and reinforcing the methods that work for you.
Type notes, write notes
Some people type out their notes and print them out, others handwrite their notes in a specific book or pieces of paper. Whatever you find works for you – keep doing this. You might even want to make notes of your notes, or create condensed summary sheets for you as you get closer to the test date. Don’t rely on others notes including your instructors. Create your own personalised set.
Try this style of note-taking:
Main idea 1
– Detail 1
– Detail 2
– Further Detail 2.1
– Detail 3
– Further Detail 3.1
Do practice papers and be resourceful
Sometimes past papers are not always readily available, but if they are, they are an excellent way for you to practice for the real thing. Ask your professors or teachers, ask senior students, ask your friends and search everywhere for past papers (preferably with answers too). This way you can practice for the real thing and if you are game, try doing one of part of it under timed circumstances. Try to do the practice questions without your notes first too; you’d be surprised what you can squeeze out of your brain. Other resources are out there too – go online, go to a library, ask around.
Turn the TV off, go to a quiet place. Loud noises and other interruptions are not good. Remove all distractions as much as you can so you can focus, even for as little as 15 minutes. Some students play classical music, others listen to ‘white noise’ to block out sound. Try anything and everything and see what works best for you.
Study hard stuff first
When you first start studying is usually when you have the best attention span and energy. Therefore, tackle the topics you find hardest, first. Give it a try!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – talk to your teachers, successful seniors or other friends
Sometimes in life you can get to your destination faster by learning from what others have done who have previously walked down that path. Ask them how they study, ask them how they initially got their heads around certain topics and ask them how they did so well. You might pick up a few things here or there that can help you look at things a bit differently.
Ask questions and make comments in class
When I did this previously, it automatically zooms in your attention. Try not to be shy and ask a question or make a comment each class. Just one. If you are shy, build yourself up by perhaps asking the teacher before or after class. By showing you want to learn, teachers often want to help. Try this and see.
Build a strong mindset of positivity, ambition, resilience
Studying is not easy, let alone achieving successful study outcomes. It is a rollercoaster, so make sure that you are prepared for the ups and many downs that you may experience. You will not always understand concepts the first time. In fact, many people take hours and hours to understand single concepts; so don’t stress out comparing your learning abilities to others. If you are not a fast learner, develop yourself into a hard worker and this will pay off in the end, I promise. Try to be your own coach – be positive, talk to yourself and give yourself pep talks when needed. It is not about how many times you fall down, it is about getting up so make sure that early on in your study life you develop a mindset that is formidable – full of positivity, resilience and ambition.
To be continued..
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