At some point, every student wonders what they could do to improve their performance in class and on exams. This typically happens when they realize that their high school study methods haven’t proven to be very effective in college. This makes perfect sense as college is quite different from high school with professors less personally involved, bigger classes, exams more intense and demands much more rigorous.
This doesn’t mean you should give up – it only means you need to learn new and more effective study techniques. Fortunately, there are many different ways to study smarter, whether you’re studying for your BA or simply expanding your existing knowledge. The following tips will help you get organised, use your time more wisely and get better results without necessarily working much harder.
Studying in short chunks helps
Organising your studying sessions over several short chunks of time is an effective practice. The total amount of time you spend studying will match one or two marathon study sessions, but the difference is that you will have learned more effectively and retained much more information for the long term. The relevance lies in the way you use your study time, not how long you spend studying. Long study sessions typically break your focus and concentration, make you exhausted and retain much less important information.
Short study chunks allow your brain to process information more efficiently so you should aim at 30-minute sessions. However, avoid all-nighters, but rather plan your time wisely and stick to your schedule.
Reading and re-reading your subject matter or notes will not get you actively engaged in the material. Just reading your notes is not the same as studying. Surely, you need to have great notes so you could rely on using previously compiled UOW notes and that will help, but it’s how you use them that matters. Simply re-reading them will lead to forgetting in a short time.
You should consider reading only as a part of the pre-study phase. Proper learning and acquisition require you to be actively engaged in the matter. This means extracting meaning from the text and connecting it to your previous lectures, ideas, examples and experiences. This is not about underlining, highlighting or memorizing. These might just help you stay focused but you will need more to get really engaged.
An active approach to studying would involve organising your material in topics, formulating problems and questions for each and writing the answers. At the end of each topic, you should quiz yourself, say the information out loud as if you were teaching it, derive your own examples related to your experiences and compose big ideas that represent the main concepts.
Organization and planning are also vital parts of active studying. When you’re preparing for a test, organize your materials first and then start covering topic by topic. Professors often provide subtopics that you can use as a guide. For instance, gather all of the material you have for one topic in one pile – all your notes, presentations, textbooks, papers – label them with a topic and divide them into subtopics and study in that order.
Testing yourself is good
Practice tests are a good indicator of how much you’ve done, where you’re at, and where you could focus on more. Any snag you might have come across you should note down and test yourself on it later. There are great test templates and apps online that can help you with the structure.
Quizzing yourself will help you to think like a teacher. You will get into their shoes and get the picture of what they want you to know. Create a study guide and have it with you so you can revise the questions and answers throughout the day. You will see what questions challenge you and test yourself on only those questions. Say your answers aloud and even record yourself answering – you can use this audio material later to revise. This helps retain the information and make corrections where necessary. Studying in this way actively engages your brain and significantly improves your memory.
Aim to teach what you study
Research has shown that people who study material with the aim to teach it to others manage to retain the information more logically and permanently than those who are just studying for themselves. A study conducted in the US has shown that students engaged in peer learning had much higher scores than the students who had not, which only shows how effective peer tutoring can be on academic performance.
Take on the role of a teacher and try to explain the material in your own words. Do this on your own, with a study partner or in a study group. Presenting the material aloud to others will reveal parts where you are confused and will help you correct it and retain the information.
Finding the right approach and method to your studying is a process of trial and error, but hopefully, the tips listed here will help you find what works best for you and allow you to improve your academic performance and get the results you desire!