in study skills

Improving your study skills

Your brain is much better at studying than you think. You’re just not using the right techniques. What are they? That’s what this post is about. You may already know some, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Use all of the techniques together, and you will be guaranteed to massively improve your results.

It will take effort to change the way you study, so what are the benefits? Classroom learning and completing homework will be easier, you will learn to read quicker, and absorb more of the knowledge, you’ll make more effective notes, your ability to memorise and recall will accelerate, and you will improve your test and exam-taking abilities. So it’s worth the effort.

Confidence is knowing you can master a subject, and you can tackle anything school or college can throw at you. It’s a good feeling. There cannot be anything worse than the sinking feeling of being weighed down by enormous text books and vast amounts to learn, knowing the material will send you to sleep or your mind will go vacant the moment you start.

It all causes a lack of motivation. You are reluctant to study and any distraction takes your eye off the ball. Many people have bad study habits. They study when tired, stressed or there is insufficient time available. And worse, when they have a full curriculum to get through, they have no study plan.

Most students take the easy route: they read, watch, or listen. This is very passive. For a big curriculum, you quickly forget most of it. There are 6 techniques we can use to help: faster reading, memorising, smart note-taking, rewriting, summarising and teaching. Using all of them together will make a big difference.

Faster reading: strangely enough, reading slowly bores your brain, and we forget much of what we read very quickly. That’s if you don’t fall asleep first. Your eyes can move over words much faster than you think. When you learn to read faster, you will be amazed at how much more you absorb too.

Memorising: this is achieved when you revisit the same material multiple times in different ways. It can include reading, initially, note-taking, rewriting, summarising and teaching. This strengthens the connections in your head. The more you are forced to recall material, the better it sticks.

Note-taking: most people do linear note-taking, but there are other methods, which are more effective. Cornell notes and flow notes are good examples. In fact, there are lots of methods. Try a few to see what works best for you.

Rewriting: sounds tedious, right? But you rewrite in a different way from the original material. It develops the art of summarising. You can use voice recorded notes and you could try your hand at visual note-taking. So you can’t draw. It doesn’t matter. You can take visual notes without drawing.

Summarising: this is not the same as rewriting. Here you can use bulleted lists or questions to stimulate your mind while rereading. Mind-mapping is a popular technique that works the same way your mind does. That’s why it’s so effective at developing understanding and strong memory. Flashcards are very effective too. Students who learn with flashcards get high marks in tests and exams.

Teaching: the act of teaching creates a deep understanding of the topic. You have a natural tendency to concentrate and dig deep into your memory banks when you teach others. I had a student that loved teaching a newly learned topic to his grandparents. It was fun and engaging. He ended up in the top set at school.

Each of these methods helps to learn, understand, and recall the material in different ways. They all work together like magic. I will explore each method in more detail in future posts. Finally, if you are studying for an exam, don’t forget to practise by answering questions from past exam papers and workbooks.

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