study method revamp

Elyssa Favis - November 27th 2020 - 3 min read

Hello, Brilliant Minds!

As University students wrap up reading week and K-12 students approach winter break, it’s hard not to think of the inevitable: exams. With final exams so soon, many of us may feel worried that our study methods aren’t efficient or effective enough. Rewriting notes becomes tiresome and repetitive, highlighting the same piece of text makes the words look jumbled, and re-reading the same PowerPoint is utterly exhausting. Limited time and a full course load rarely go hand-in-hand, so here are 5 effective study tips and techniques you can adopt to get the most out of your study period:

1. The Feynman Technique: this method involves explaining concepts in simpler terms and teaching it to yourself. Making up your own definitions is sure to help you understand and remember a set of complex items. Here’s how to use it:

+ Identify a concept to learn. Make sure that you have notes on this topic available for later comparison!

+ Teach the concept to somebody else (don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be another person. Simply explaining the subject to yourself or a pet or stuffed toy is just as effective). Don’t aim for word-for-word recall; just try to explain the concept as best you can.

+ Now go back to your notes and compare what you taught to the original material. What were the areas that you couldn’t explain too well? These are the areas that need more careful review.

+ Tip: if you could explain a complex concept with simpler language, modify your notes, so they’re easier to understand later.

2. SQ3R Method: understanding what you read is important, especially in subjects like biology, psychology, and history. This method is perfect for discerning important facts with the goal of retaining information. Here’s what the acronym stands for:

+ Survey: Don’t read through the whole chapter on your first go; instead, skim it. See if there’s anything that sticks out (headings, subheadings, or diagrams) or appears difficult.

+ Question: Ask yourself questions about the chapter. What do you already know about this topic? What do you expect to learn more about?

+ Read: Read through the full chapter, making a note of standout features you identified before and answering the questions you posed earlier.

+ Recite: After you read a section, summarize. Identify key points and answer any questions posed earlier.

+ Review: Review after completing the chapter by quizzing yourself or re-reading portions of the text that was not confidently understood.

3. The Leitner System: this system uses flashcards to help you study based on how well you know the subject. Make flashcards as you normally would, and use three different boxes to organize them. To start, keep every card in Box 1. If you get a card correct, move it to Box 2. If you make a mistake, keep it in Box 1 (or move it down a box). The boxes indicate which areas you need to review more and which ones you are familiar with. Keep a schedule to review each flashcard box as follows:

+ Box 1: Review every day

+ Box 2: Review every two days (if you cannot recall the correct information on the card after two days, move to box 1)

+ Box 3: Review every four days (if you cannot correctly recall the information on the card after four days, move to Box 2, or if necessary, to Box 1).

4. Mind Mapping: the primary goal of mind mapping is to make connections between the concepts. Memorization doesn’t amount to much if you can’t apply the concepts to other situations, so mind-mapping improves reading comprehension and illustrates the relationship between concepts and ideas. Though most readers are probably familiar with mind mapping, here’s a breakdown of how to start:

+ On a blank sheet of paper, write the study topic in the center or at the top

+ Connect one idea (for example, “Cell Parts”) to the main topic

+ Connect supporting ideas to the main branch (for example, “Cell Membrane,” “Mitochondrion,” etc.)

5. Retrieval Practice (AKA Quiz Yourself): numerous studies have determined that distributed learning yields better exam results when compared to mass learning. Spacing out your learning establishes connections between ideas so that you can easily recall information for your exam. This method does involve studying over a long period of time, so be sure to plan early and schedule some time every day to review. For example, try reviewing course content in spaced intervals as follows:

+ Day 1: Learn the material in class

+ Day 2: Review learned material

+ Day 3: Review learned material

+ After 1 Week: Review learned material

+ After 2 Weeks: Review learned material

These tips for effective studying will help you efficiently learn course material to get you ready for your final exams. Do note that different study methods work differently for everybody, so experiment with each of these and determine which one works best for you. Happy studying!