Friday, March 29, 2013

How to study more effectively

on campus: study tips

Trudging through heaps of course material every semester can be trying, but with a little organization and punctuality, you can make the studying process a lot easier and effective. Here are a few tips that might help you out and give your grade a boost.

Make a timetable
Figure out how much time you have, and then make the best use of it. With a timetable, you can organise your study sessions and allocate time for each course so that you can easily cover all the subjects and topics and not end up overwhelmed by material at the end of the term. It often helps to have variety in your schedule, and to study different subjects during each session. And when you make the timetable, make sure you leave enough space for revision and testing. Plus, remember to factor in some down time. Take breaks at regular intervals. And reward yourself for sticking to your schedule by allowing yourself some time to spend on an activity you enjoy.

Stay ahead
When your school term starts, your professors will often give you a course outline that presents a breakdown of the course and detail when each topic/chapter will be covered in class. Try your best to stay one step ahead of this schedule. Instead of studying the chapter after it is covered in class, study it before the lecture, underline and jot down the main and important points as you go through the course material, and then go through these points after the class. Not getting to the textbook till later could lead to a buildup of material that you eventually have to cover, and would leave you at risk of falling behind. And what could be a better way of not falling behind than staying ahead?

Don’t miss classes
The simplest and easiest way to learn is to attend classes regularly, although the very obvious usefulness of being present in class doesn’t deter some students from carelessly skipping lessons. Understanding what is taught in class doesn’t only help you learn things easily and give you a chance to ask for clarification when you’re having trouble with a concept, but paying attention to what your teacher places emphasis on could also help you gouge the importance of topics which could come in handy during examination preparation. If you do, however, have to miss a lesson for a valid reason, then make sure you find out what happened in class; note down which topics were discussed and study them thoroughly, ask your friends for the notes they took during the lesson and for their assistance in helping you to understand the concepts, and, if need be, go up to your instructor and request that they explain any topics you are having trouble with.

Take notes
Preparing notes while i) studying your textbook, and ii) attending lessons, is essential. As you peruse your reading material, jot down the important points as well as the concepts that you are finding difficult. And also take notes while you’re in the classroom, noting down the salient points (and only the salient points – writing down every single word that is said in class is generally not the best idea) that are being discussed during the lecture; these notes will later help you to recall what was taught in class, and will also serve as an important revision resource. Plus, you can also transform your notes into other helpful aids, like:
* PowerPoint presentations: You can use PowerPoint to take notes, or to give your notes a more organised shape. Prepare a presentation with one topic on each slide, and add the relevant bullet points for each topic.
* Flash cards: Print formulas, definitions, or any other important points on cards, and go through them repeatedly to retain the information. You can also write questions on one side of the cards, and put the answers on the back; whenever you are free, you can go through them. Eventually, you get so used to the material that you can revise the whole course just by reading these cards.
* Audio notes: Record your study notes (you can use a computer or a phone or even a good old fashioned tape recorder) and listen to them for revision. The audio input adds another channel for the material to be retained and can help imprint information in your mind.

Ask questions
Students sometimes shy away from speaking up in class or asking their teachers for help, but if you’re having trouble grasping a concept, then don’t hesitate to ask your teachers for guidance. If you don’t get a chance to ask them in class, then utilise their office hours and talk to them in their office; maybe you will find it easier when they’re communicating with you one on one.

Minimise distractions
Finding a quiet, peaceful place for studying can do wonders for your concentration which can, in turn, increase retention. So turn off your phone, log off your messengers, and find a place to sit where you can concentrate on your books. That said, you need to find a place that works for YOU, so don’t assume that you HAVE to study in, say, a library; create an environment that you find conducive for your studying process. And it might also help to change your study area from time to time; some students find alternating study spaces more effective for studying, so give it a try.

Explaining what you have learned to someone else can be a useful tool for your own learning process. You don’t actually have to teach a pupil; ask your siblings or friends if they have time to help you out. Don’t have a person available? Then just teach your cat or dog or pet rock. It doesn’t matter who you are addressing as long as you verbalise the concepts. (If they are willing, you can also ask your friends to quiz you afterwards.)

Just repeat, repeat, repeat everything as much as possible. Revision and repetition is the best way to increase retention, so try to come up with different ways – text, notes, audio, visual, pictorial – to revise the same material. You might want to begin each study session by revising what you studied last time. Testing yourself and writing down (multiple times, if need be) what you have learned could also help.

And always remember that you need to figure out what works best for YOU. Never get distracted by the fact that other people are doing things differently. Try different techniques and strategies, see how well they work for you, and try to learn the material for yourself, not for the marks or the exam; you never know when it might come in handy in the future.

- S.A.

 Us Magazine, The News - 29th March, 2013

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