How many of us have gone home, attempted to study, for an upcoming test but then, when the test date arrived, failed the test with flying colors? How many of us have been discouraged or frustrated because studying seems to accomplish nothing and yet we really do try?
The key, I think, is not so much how long we study but how we study. Too many of us study by reading the information once, maybe twice, by cramming it into our heads. We work on studying and homework non-stop until every bit of it is complete. This is the problem and if you think about it, you’ll see that it doesn’t even make sense. Our brains are not, contrary to popular belief, machines and they can only remember so many things at a time. In fact, did you know that the average memory can retain seven items, give or take 2, at once? So, since our brains have a limit on how much they can remember at once, cramming isn’t going to help.
Instead, I have found a better way of studying. Open your books and study, do your homework in one subject, for half an hour and then break and do something totally different: eat a snack, watch a bit of a show on TV for 10 minutes and the return to the same subject for another half hour, then break again. Repeat the process until all subjects are complete. Breaking away from the work gives your brain time to digest what it has just been given and to remember it.
Also, the more times you see something, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it. So, the way I study (and I pass every test, except for those in math, with flying colors) is by reading the material once, then going back and highlighting the information that I think is important, and then writing down everything that I highlighted. Then I use that sheet, the one I wrote the important things down on, as my study sheet until the test. It’s tedious, and it takes time, but it works for me.
Making the grades that you and your parents want you to make is not an easy thing, but it’s not impossible either and believe me the satisfaction of accomplishing something (like making an A in history) that you hadn’t done before is well worth the extra effort. After all, once you reach high school, the grades that you make will help determine how many and which colleges you’ll be accepted into. “If you shoot for the moon, you will land among the stars.” Unknown Author
Added by Adam Marshall
(Partially adapted from the audio cassette by Steven Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and some information taken from http://www.iss.stthomas.edu/)
You can prepare yourself to succeed in your studies. Try to develop and appreciate the following habits:
Take responsibility for yourself.
Responsibility is recognition that in order to succeed. You can make decisions about your priorities, your time, and your resources.
Center yourself around your values and principles.
Don’t let friends and acquaintances dictate what you consider important.
Put first things first.
Follow up on the priorities you have set for yourself, and don’t let others, or other interests, distract you from your goals.
Discover your key productivity periods and places.
Morning, afternoon, evening; study spaces where you can be the most focused and productive. Prioritize these for your most difficult study challenges.
Consider yourself in a win-win situation.
You win by doing your best and contributing your best to a class, whether for yourself, your fellow students, and even for your teachers and instructors. If you are content with your performance, a grade becomes an external check on your performance, which may not coincide with your internally arrived at benefits.
First understand others, then attempt to be understood.
When you have an issue with an instructor, for example a questionable grade, an assignment deadline extension, put yourself in the instructor’s place. Now ask yourself how you can best make your argument given his/her situation.
Look for better solutions to problems.
For example, if you don’t understand the course material, don’t just re-read the material. Try something else! Consult with the professor, a tutor, an academic advisor, a classmate, a study group, or your school’s study skills center.
Look to continually challenge yourself
Critical Thinking is “the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim, and the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it.”
From Critical Thinking by Moore and Parker.
Strategies for Critical Reading.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the issue?
- What conclusion does the author reach about the issue?
- What are the author’s reasons for believing as he does? Be alert to bad reasoning (i.e. pity, fear, misuse of statistics etc.) that can fool you.
- Has the author used facts or opinions?
- Facts can be proven. Opinions cannot be proven and may or may not be based on sound reasoning.
- Has the author used neutral words or emotional words?
- Critical readers look beyond the language to see if the reasons are clear.
Characteristics of Critical Thinkers
- They are honest with themselves
- They resist manipulation
- They overcome confusion
- They ask questions
- They base judgments on evidence
- They look for connections between subjects
- They are intellectually independent
Concentrating when studying
“Concentration is the eternal secret of every mortal achievement” Stefan Zweig 1881 – 1942 Austrian
Concentration: the ability to direct your thinking The art or practice of concentration, no matter if studying biology or playing pool, is to focus on the task at hand and eliminate distraction.
We all have the ability to concentrate … sometimes. Think of the times when you were “lost” in something you enjoy: a sport, playing music, a good game, a movie. Total concentration. But at other times, Your mind wanders from one thing to another. Your worries distract you, outside distractions take you away before you know it, the material is boring, difficult, and/or not interesting to you. These tips may help: They involve what you can control in your studies.
Best practices – What you can control in your studies:
- “Here I study” – Get a dedicated space, chair, table, lighting and environment. Avoid your cell phone or telephone and even put up a sign to avoid being disturbed or interrupted. If you like music in the background, OK, but don’t let it be a distraction. (Research on productivity with music versus without music is inconclusive).
- Stick to a routine – Make an efficient study schedule and accommodate your day/nighttime energy levels
- Focus – Before you begin studying, take a few minutes to summarize a few objectives, gather what you will need, and think of a general strategy of accomplishment
- Incentives – Create an incentive if necessary for successfully completing a task, such as calling a friend, a food treat, a walk, etc. For special projects such as term papers, design projects, long book reviews, set up a special incentive.
- Change topics – Changing the subject you study every one to two hours for variety
- Vary your study activities – Alternate reading with more active learning exercises. If you have a lot of reading, try the SQ3R method (Survey! Question! Read! Recite! Review!)
- Ask yourself how you could increase your activity level while studying? Perhaps a group will be best? Creating study questions? – Ask your teacher for alternative strategies for learning. The more active your learning, the better.
- Take regular, scheduled breaks that fit you – Do something different from what you’ve been doing (e.g., walk around if you’ve been sitting), and in a different area.
- Rewards – Give yourself a reward when you’ve completed a task.
Before you read, Survey the chapter:
- the title, headings, and subheadings
- captions under pictures, charts, graphs or maps
- review questions or teacher-made study guides
- introductory and concluding paragraphs
Question while you are surveying:
- Turn the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions;
- Read questions at the end of the chapters or after each subheading;
- Ask yourself, “What did my instructor say about this chapter or subject when it was assigned?”
- Ask yourself, “What do I already know about this subject?”
Note: If it is helpful to you, write out these questions for consideration. This variation is called SQW3R
When you begin to Read:
- Look for answers to the questions you first raised;
- Answer questions at the beginning or end of chapters or study guides
- Reread captions under pictures, graphs, etc.
- Note all the underlined, italicized, bold printed words or phrases
- Study graphic aids
- Reduce your speed for difficult passages
- Stop and reread parts which are not clear
- Read only a section at a time and recite after each section
Recite after you’ve read a section:
- Orally ask yourself questions about what you have just read and/or summarize, in your own words, what you read
- Take notes from the text but write the information in your own words
- Underline/highlight important points you’ve just read
- Use the method of recitation which best suits your particular learning style but remember, the more senses you use the more likely you are to remember what you read – i.e.,
- TRIPLE STRENGTH LEARNING: Seeing, saying, hearing
- QUADRUPLE STRENGTH LEARNING: Seeing , saying , hearing, writing!!!
Review is an ongoing process.
- Day One
- After you have read and recited the entire chapter, write questions for those points you have highlighted/underlined in the margins. If your method of recitation included note-taking in the left hand margins of your notebook, write questions for the notes you have taken.
- Day Two
- Page through the text and/or your notebook to re-acquaint yourself with the important points. Cover the right hand column of your text/note-book and orally ask yourself the questions in the left hand margins. Orally recite or write the answers from memory. Make “flash cards” for those questions which give you difficulty. Develop mnemonic devices for material which need to be memorized.
- Days Three, Four and Five
- Alternate between your flash cards and notes and test yourself (orally or in writing) on the questions you formulated. Make additional flash cards if necessary.
- Using the text and notebook, make a Table of Contents – list all the topics and sub-topics you need to know from the chapter. From the Table of Contents, make a Study Sheet/ Spatial Map. Recite the information orally and in your own words as you put the Study Sheet/Map together.
Now that you have consolidated all the information you need for that chapter, periodically review the Sheet/Map so that at test time you will not have to cram.