Human brain is a peculiar thing, and we have yet to discover how it gathers information and memorizes it. The author of the book “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens,” Benedict Carey claims that majority of our instincts about learning are incorrect and “rooted more in superstition than in science.” This may sound disconcerting, at first, but when you come to think about it, we see studying as an act of reading and memorizing, but it has to be so much more. Effective studying strategies tap into other views of learning, more appropriate for modern students. Here are five of them that truly work.
If you think that flashcards are just for kids, you are wrong. They are a very effective way to learn and retain factual knowledge, especially for already motivated students. One of the biggest advantages of flashcards is engaging active recall. This means that they are perfect tool for repetition, if you have already learned from books. Flashcards also enable you to study anyplace when you have a window of spare time (e.g. while waiting in a doctor’s office, riding the public transport, etc.). You can stick them to your bathroom mirror and read while you are washing your teeth or applying makeup. Also, since they are not tied to a book or a document, you can separate them into piles based on how well you’ve mastered them.
Did you know that where you study plays a huge role in the effectiveness of your studying? The appropriate studying setting includes a familiar space, similar time and doing so every day. It should be a space that encourages you to study, free of distractions and equipped with all the studying materials you need. Distractions like noise can be a huge problem, especially in dorms, but you have to find a way to deal with them. There has been an increase in popularity of noise cancelling headphones in Australia, where students are facing this problem. The old-fashioned way is to study in a library.
What do you need to write notes for when you have books, the internet and possibly some other hardworking student notes? Well, this may come as a surprise, but while writing down notes, you are already memorizing some of the study material. Also, there is no way other student will be able to write notes in a way that you will understand, the same way you could do. Finally, good notes are essential for last-minute reviewing before the test, because they help you recall the main points in short time.
What do you do when you think you have mastered a lesson? You just finish with it and move on. That’s what most students do. However, scientists suggest that you should continue to practice at the same level of difficulty even though you feel like there is nothing more to learn. This extra effort can lock in your hard-learn material. If you find repetitive recitation of the studying material boring, you can try to learn it through many different methods, ranging from writing and reading to hearing and saying it.
We process visual data much better than we process text, and while it is impossible to translate all of your studying material into images, videos and charts, it can be useful to use diagrams, infographics and photos that trigger your memory and help you understand the material better. Once you get your thoughts in these brief visual formats, it will be easier for you to remember the topic when on the exam.
Studying doesn’t have to be a torture. With these techniques you can improve the way you are learning and translate it to every future exam. The results will be visible through better knowledge and better grades.