Good study habits are essential if you’re to make the most of study and revision time. The most important thing is to be consistent in your study habits – you’ll get much more from one and a half hours a night than you will from seven and a half hours on the Saturday.
Here are another six essential study habits.
1 – Think about what’s needed
In part this will be driven by your exam timetable – what are you being examined on and when? It will also be driven by how good you are at each subject, and how much work you need to do on this. Ask someone whose opinion you trust and who can be objective about you – this will normally be a teacher or tutor.
2 – Think about how you learn
Good study habits will be easier of you understand your learning style – Visual, Auditory, Reading, or Kinesthetic. These are commonly shortened to VARK.
- Visual – these are people who learn through maps, flow-charts, mind-maps, diagrams, and the like. ‘Visual’ is a little misleading though as Visual learners don’t respond to photographs, video or PowerPoint – just because it’s on a slide doesn’t make it visual.
- Auditory – these are people who thrive in group discussion, tutorials, lectures, debates and so on. They may add an auditory element to their learning by repeating a question or something that they have heard or read – them repeating what other people have said doesn’t mean that they weren’t listening.
- Reading – these people respond best to PowerPoint, lists, and reference books and will learn best through essays, reports, and assignments. They aren’t the best at learning through e-mail – the more conversational tone of e-mail actually favours Auditory learners.
- Kinesthetic – for these learners they have to acquire knowledge through demonstration or experience. The more ‘real’ the experience the better for them – and they learn through film and video much better than Visual learners.
You can find out your VARK preferences here.
3 – Draw up a timetable – but not just for study
Given different levels of ability between subjects, and the differing timings of exams, equal amounts of time for each subject will be the exception rather than the rule. Make sure that you plan your studying in 20 – 30 minute blocks, with a five minute break between each one, and a new topic or subject every time. That will maximise your retention and recall of the material.
Don’t fill your timetable solely with study and revision. You need to ensure that you still see friends, and still enjoy interests and pastimes. Time spent away from studying will help your stress levels and emotional resilience.
4 – Minimise distractions
Find somewhere quiet to revise, and make sure that you get the benefit of that quiet by not listening to music or the TV. You might think it’s helping but it isn’t. If you’re aware of it then it’s distracting you, and if you’re not aware of it then it’s not going to be adding anything.
The biggest distraction though is your mobile phone and social media. This means not checking your phone or Facebook during your five minute breaks. It also means not having your phone either audible or in your line of sight. Not face-down or turned to vibrate – out of sight and inaudible.
5 – Develop a structure or scaffolding for your memory
Instead of trying to remember lists of facts or dates it’s easier to remember facts in an overall structure or shape. That’s why mind-maps are so useful – they let you develop a structure that works for you. It doesn’t matter what they look like, or whether someone else can follow them – the only rule is that they work for you.
6 – Teach someone the subject
Research indicates that that one of the most effective ways to learn is to imagine yourself teaching the topic. For some people working in a group allows them to do this and that’s fine as long as the group sticks to the same timetable, and doesn’t become a cause of distractions.
If that’s not the case then questioning yourself about the subject can work just as well. Make the questions stretching though – not just about facts but about themes, relationships, or consequences.
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