If you took an exam that you had in school over a year ago, would you pass it right now? If you think you can’t, how did you study when you were in school? Ironically in school you’re not taught how to study for long term learning. You’re kind of just expected to read your books and study in whichever manner you see fit.
I’d take a wild guess that we all did the same thing. Make notecards, study them, and read your text book. There are scientific surveys taken that show this is among the most ineffective ways to learn. It took me far too long to learn this but when I put these steps into use, I was able to achieve perfect scores in even my hardest class, *rolls eyes*, organic chemistry. So here are the best proven ways to study and learn material for the long run.
Tip 1 Don’t Make Flashcards!
You might think flashcards are the quickest way to learn terms and definitions but on the contrary it takes forever especially when you have a lot of terms to learn. I remember making large stacks of flashcards only to never get to study them because they took so long to make.
Instead when I wanted to learn quick terms I would break them into sections. Fold a paper in half and write the term on the left and definition on the right. This way you can fold the paper and cover the definition to quiz yourself. This method helped me save a lot of time and money because I didn’t have to purchase so many notecards and I didn’t have to spend the time writing them out individually.
Tip 2 Don’t Write Notes in Class
Before lyrics were a thing online I remember writing them myself. I’d have to stop, write, then rewind, and listen again. This is similar to writing notes in class except you can’t stop and rewind so you lose content. Instead, record the lecture and play it for yourself later when you can write better notes. This allows you to listen and ask questions in real time.
When professors make slides, they usually put basic points on them and more detailed content is acquired from the actual lecture portion. Being able to record those extra details is going to be important and may have been something you missed if you were trying to take notes on the lecture.
Tip 3 Print Out Slides WITH space
Powerpoint and Google Slides both have settings that allow you to print out your slides in multiples on one single page. The programs will also allow for space to write additional notes. You can either bring these print outs with you to class in order to write the extra lecture detail or you can utilize them while you’re listening to the recording of the lecture to write in more detail.
Tip 4 Study in a Pattern and Do Not Change it
You know your brain best and so you can tell when you are starting to check out or when the studying has been going on for a bit too long. It has been proven to help studying and retention if we set breaks for ourselves. In my case, I like to study or read for 30 straight minutes and then give myself a 5 minute break.
Whatever you do DO NOT go on social media. It is far too easy to take more than a 5 minute break. Instead schedule time to use social media such as in between classes, five minutes in the morning, or five minutes at night.
If you need the aid of something other than yourself for willpower, there are apps out there to help you study.
Here are a few of my favorite:
- Office Lens, this app lets you scan documents and convert them into file documents that you can edit and print!
- Istudiez Pro Legend helps you remember your study patterns, test dates, and even track your grades. This one is great for those of us who fail to look at our planners as often as we should.
- Evernote not only helps upload notes but you can add adjuncts like photos and recordings, so that all your content on that subject is in one easy place
Tip 5 Use a good ‘ol binder and dividers
I love a good accordion folder but I can’t see my notes like that and I often forget what I wrote. Sometimes the best tools are the old school tools we already have. Keep your content front and center so that you see it and are reminded of it. Remember to use dividers to separate your content as well not just your subjects.
An accordion folder is great for homework and content you need to pass in. They usually have tabs and are great to organize other papers. During clinic we had papers we needed to keep in which we would get graded on for our assessments. I would keep a plethora of these papers in my accordion folder so that I always had access to them and did not have to go digging through our class filing cabinet for these grading papers.
Tip 6 Record Yourself Reading
You’ll often be responsible for reading chapters before classes, and honestly read it! You should do every single reading they assign. I know it’s a pain, but the books are actually really good and reading does help you break the content down into digestible pieces. If there is one thing I can recommend to maximize your time is to record yourself reading.
It can be exhausting to read the whole chapter out loud but you’re doing it anyways so record it. This way you can play it back to yourself at any point to hear the reading again. There are going to be times throughout your day where you simply cannot study but a recording would really come in handy to listen to.
If you really want to maximize your time and you have another very busy friend, you can exchange recordings with them and skip some readings. Even better than this is a class facebook page where you all could post the reading recordings and divide the readings among weeks. So if every student is responsible for a particular week of readings, they could post their recordings each night on the Facebook page. The other classmates could then download the recordings and listen to it instead of reading, saving time for other studying.
7. Write, Rinse, and Repeat
I think this one is my favorite and I didn’t know it was a proven method of successful studying until researching for this post. I had always thought it was just a way that was a fast way to cram. But I was wrong! I wasn’t cramming, I was teaching myself in a way that would allow me to learn all parts of a concept.
Once again take a paper and this time write the title of a concept. Even if it’s listing bones of the skull, this works for everything. Once you have the main subject down write down EVERYTHING you know about this. If you forget, that’s okay. Write down all the bones you can remember even if you don’t remember the whole word or how to spell it.
Go back to your book or notes and fill in the blanks. Write down everything you missed. Then….repeat on a new paper. This time you will remember a few of the terms you had forgotten during the first round. repeat this process until you have mastered the subject.
This not only allows you to act in a repetitious way in order to activate longterm memory, but it also allows you to use association. In the very act of filling in forgotten information, you are associating that information with an aware thought that this is what escaped you. You will be more likely to remember this next time and be inclined to picture yourself writing it down in your head.
Studying is something we must do in order to learn and attempt to retain information. There are ways to learn quickly but may result in short-term knowledge. This post is not to say that those methods are wrong. If you do not need the information you will be tested on, I supposed traditional methods will suffice. However in order to truly learn, we must modify our studying.
When I was in high school and even on to college, I did NOT know how to study. I didn’t know that just reading the assigned work really did help, and that it wasn’t just a waste of my time. At about my second year of college I made a friend who couldn’t survive without A+’s on all her assignments. Although I did not become that extreme, I learned a lot from her methods. I went from failing to 90’s and above on my assignments. I ask that you please share your study tips, you may be helping someone else find their way in learning.