It’s that time of the year when pupils and students are under a lot of pressure and stress as the school year is ending and they are bombarded by tests and exams (the finals, GCSE’s, SATs, etc.), and it’s quite natural that everyone wants to do them as successfully as possible.
As a teacher I often come in contact with parents who say that their children study hard but their grades do not reflect the time and effort they put into studying. At the same time, some of my pupils often have difficulties recalling things they learnt. So here are my tips on how to study effectively, that is that you recall things that you have learnt when you need to (tests, exam, etc.).
- Know your learning style. It is a fact that there are three learning styles and each of us has a domineering one. The three styles are: visual (you remember things you see, and when you want to recollect something, you see it as a mental picture), auditory (you remember things you hear, and when you want to recollect something, you hear what was said), and kinesthetic (you remember things that involve your whole body and senses).
- Understanding does NOT equal knowing. Just because you understand something doesn’t mean that you know it. I’m sure we have all experienced this – we read something and understand what it is about, but when we need to talk about it, our mind goes blank. We can, perhaps, remember some words from the text, but can’t form proper, informative sentences. If your children tell you that this happens to them, then invest some of your time and make them summarize the text to you – several times if possible; if this happens to you, then summarize the text aloud as often as possible and pay attention to what you are saying. The more you (or your children) talk about it, the more the things you say will stay in your memory and the easier it will be for you to recall them when you need to.
- Focus must be practised. If you or your children don’t make a habit of studying every day (and let’s be realistic, very few people actually do), then you need to prepare your body for studying. Think of a time you had to study for an exam and think about the first few days – they were a struggle, weren’t they? If you are like me, then you only managed to focus on the subject matter for an hour, maybe two in those early stages, but as time went by you could study for more hours per day and with greater results. The thing is that our brain and body need to prepare themselves for such a strenuous activity which requires a lot of focus and energy. You kind of need to build up stamina. That is why I advise that you (or your children) start the process relatively early.
- The first few days should be devoted to clearing your desk of any distractions (there should be no other material than the one you need) and getting acquainted with the subject matter – so reading through the material, highlighting the important parts, perhaps making mind maps, writing down notes, depending on what works best for you.
- Then you should dive into the actual studying, and put on a timer for focused work (like the kitchen timer) and also for a break. Make sure that you are not distracted or interrupted – so turn off the mobile phone, place it somewhere where you cannot see it, turn off the radio, turn off the computer, etc. During the break don’t go watching TV because those 10 minutes can quickly turn into one hour. 😀
Don’t forget to pay attention during lessons and doing your homework – half of the work can be done this way!
Do you have any suggestions?