Hunched over books, some with pens for jotting down notes while others are busily highlighting passages. Every day, millions of students go through the ritual of studying for tests and exams. Assuming that all else is equal, what is it that distinguishes those who do well from those who don’t do as well?
We will discuss about some of the most popular learning strategies and explain how tweaking them can make a difference.
Step 1 : Passive Reading
This is the most common and traditional way of studying. Reading is how we obtain information and when there is a lot of information to be absorbed, it makes sense to read and reread, with the hope that the information will all be absorbed. In reality, reading does not translate to actual absorption of information.
Step 2 : Over Underlining and Highlighting
Underlining and highlighting are considered to be time tested methods of helping students read actively. However, most students end up underlining and highlighting so much text that in the end, they are back to square one.
Step 3 : Note-taking
Note-taking is harder and more cumbersome than reading, underlining and highlighting but it is more effective if done properly. Once you have read the text, underlined and highlighted the important parts, the next step is to summarise what you have done. It is best to summarise only what you truly feel is important. This involves being confident about what you have learnt thus far. At least, confident enough to jot down in point form what you think is important.
Step 4 : Seeing the Big Picture
Basically, this involves:
- Writing down the main topics or headings e.g. Components of blood (blood, blood cells and plasma)
- Writing down the sub headings e.g. The function of each type of blood cell (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma)
- Filling in more detailed information under the correct subheadings e.g. How much does each blood cell contribute to the percentage of the blood volume?
Step 5 : Mind Mapping
This is the final step. Once all the above are done, it is critical that all the information for a big topic (e.g. the human circulatory system) is organised into 1 big picture. The student should be able to link up all the main headings/topics so that he/she can see the relationship between them. Understanding how all the information is related to other parts gives students a greater depth of understanding.
Step 6 : Self Testing
Once you are fairly confident that you are familiar enough with the topic, you should test to see if you know your material well. A common way to do this is to do assessment books and past year exam papers. It is important to practise with:-
- Questions that test your understanding and not merely require you regurgitate what you remember, though having a good memory is important.
- Questions that reflect the kind of questions you are likely to face in your real exams.
Step 7 : Teaching Others
The last and perhaps the ultimate test is to see if you can teach your classmate without referring to any notes. This may involve asking questions and ultimately, clarifying and explaining in a clear and succinct manner. If your advice is well received and easily understood by your friend, chances are that you are pretty well prepared yourself.
Step 8 : Anticipating Ahead
This would be the ultimate test and it is more relevant for older children. If you can master all the 7 steps above, the last task is to think through and imagine what the examiner would be testing you on. If you understand why you are required to learn certain things, then you should be able to understand why it is important. It also means that there is a high chance that you will be tested on this topic. With this knowledge, try and put yourself in the shoes of the person who writes the exam paper. Then, try to anticipate the new types of questions that may come out.
In a nutshell, mastering and carrying out Steps 1 – 8 should and can make a big difference in your final results.
Written by The Schooling Society (TSS)