The Best Methods for Studying to Ace Your Exams
- Jan 22, 2015
Sticking out an uninterested finger onto the page containing the verbs, Walter tried his best at cramming. French, it seemed, was at stake. The test next morning, was only hours away. Walter decided to lose his sleep for the night.
Each and every one of us has experienced this at least once in our lives. It feels like all of Earth’s gravity has somehow, been concentrated on our eyelids and the Gods are hell bent on finding ways to lull us to sleep. But the frequent reminders of the exam are like the panic buttons which defy gravity audaciously. Even though, research recommends an 8 hours of sleep the night before the exam, pulling an all nighter turns out to be only the only way in situations like that.
Now the question is, can this be avoided? If so, then how? The simple answer is to study all year instead of ignoring the pile of studies until the final night. Now that seems to be a bit on the unattainable side for students like me, who are procrastination fanatics. If you are belong to this category, then the following techniques are rookie bypasses for getting an ‘A’. If you are not, then you would still find takeaway points for the shared goal.
Acquaint yourself with the topics
First things first, take your pick at the topic you wish to study at the beginning of the next day. Now I will ask you to do something unpardonable, but trust me, it won’t take much time. Ditch the post-dinner video game session for half an hour and use this time to go through the concepts you need to learn about the topic. Once done, you can resort back to shooting enemy heads or whatever your favorite video game permits.
Quick tip: You can cut the half hour to a shorter duration if you can acquaint yourself with the concept names in lesser time.
How would this help?
This would give you a rough idea on what you are about to be faced with and approximately how much time learning the chapter would require. And you would be able to chalk out the next day. This leads to our next method which is scheduling your day.
Scheduling your day
I prepared the following timetable for the beginning of my day when I was in school.
7:30-8:15 Read through the chapter and try to understand the concepts.
8:15-8:30 Read the novel you have hidden beneath the book.
8:30-8:45 Mark the sections that are going over your head.
8:45-9:00 Try recollecting the concepts you studied without looking at the book.
It helped me immensely. In school that day, when the chapter was being taught in class, I knew exactly the notes I needed to take down instead of scribbling down whatever the teacher said. Also, I was aware of the concepts that I needed to double-check with my teacher.
Once you are back home from school, you can divide your notes into chunks by chapters, units or whatever makes sense to you. Break your study schedule into 25 minute segments, because any more than this could initiate a bored phase in your mind. The human attention span reduces to 30% of its initial strength after 45 minutes. And a short break of 5 minutes helps in regaining 90% of it. So plan accordingly. Scheduling also makes the workload seem less intimidating.
Quick Tip: Provide a a few minute relaxation before or after each study chunk, so that you don’t feel frustrated or overwhelmed when it takes longer than the stipulated time chunk.
Flashcards are legitimate studying tools that can spin magic for those who find it difficult to remember terms and their meanings.
Post-its can work. So swipe in a few of those into your shopping trolley on your next visit to the departmental store.
When you come across a difficult term while studying, write it down on your post-it and on the back you can write out the meaning of the term in bullet points or whatever method suits you.
You could use the next visit to the laundromat or the boring bus ride to pull out the flashcards and recollecting the meanings of the terms. You can also keep them in your car’s glove compartment for long queues at your fast food drive-in restaurant.
The best way to learn is to teach
In the year 1998, American particle physicist and professor Frank Oppenheimer’s approach towards learning was published in the magazine, ‘Science’. Here’s what was published, “Oppenheimer had a provocative approach to learning, which can be summarized by saying that the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to teach is to keep learning, and that what counts in the end is having had a shared, reflected experience.” As you can see, I have singled out one aspect from this. Let’s see why.
What most of us do, is fool ourselves into believing that we have acquired a complete grasp of the topic. And the fallacies start pouring out in tests which result in a ‘C’ or worse. The best way to test yourself and minimize this loophole is by teaching. Teaching allows you to communicate and convey your ideas clearly and precisely. This will enable you to deal with any question that you are faced with in your exam. If you can teach it, you can ace it.
Don’t just read. Understand.
How many times have you found yourself flipping pages of your book without understanding a thing? Did you know that you are losing out on time for your favorite past-time by this? So make the time you spend going through the pages, count. Make an outline of what you are studying and break it down into smaller steps. If you are unable to understand a concept, ask your teacher or a friend to help you out. Keep a notebook handy. As soon as you as you understand it, write it down in your own words for later.
Deal with the tougher topics first, because putting them off for a later hour won’t help. But try not devoting more than 20 minutes to figure it out, since the more time you spend, the more stressed out you will feel.
Quick Tip: Do not forget to avoid distractions while studying. The will help you concentrate on your studies and it would take lesser time for you to complete your studies.
Go on a revisiting tour down memory lane
Revision time brings out the highlighter pens, sticky notes and revision charts. The books turn into storehouses of fluorescent paint staring you in the face with an annoying audacity. I detest fluorescent markings. And US psychologists have revealed results to back up my detestation. Prof John Dunlovsky, of Kent State University found that picking out individual phrases in fluorescent yellow, green or pink can hinder revision. According to him, “”When students are using a highlighter they often focus on one concept at a time and are less likely to integrate the information they’re reading into a larger whole. That could undermine their comprehension of that material.”
Ditch the highlighter and try recollection. Our Computer Sir in school used to tell us, “If the terms sound familiar to you, half the work is done.” Revisit the content as much as time permits and you would end up being well-versed with the concepts before the exam.
Try not putting your studies off to till the last moment and begin beforehand. I am not asking you to start with full force from the beginning. All you need to do is start small, but start strong. This would give you the upper-hand by virtue of hindsight and you can give yourself a pat in the back when your cramming-before-the-exam nights turn into sweet slumber.
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