Study Skills: How to study in college and high school for exams successfully
An Introduction to Study Skills
Study skills are great tools used to aid the learning process. It is vital that every student gets to know how to study efficiently. Unfortunately, most teachers are so busy teaching the set curriculum that don't teach their students about study skills. That way, students lose out. Most students believe studying to be cramming everything into their heads a day before the exam. That does not work especially if you have a lot of material to learn. However, if you know the ways that study skills can help you and use them, you can achieve the grades you want if you work at it.
There are a variety of study skills including:
- Revision Timetables
- Writing Notes
- Organisational Skills
- Exam Technique
It is a lot easier to do exams when you know you have studied at your best potential. In this hub, you can learn about studying efficiently and take exams in your stride. Although these techniques work, you need to put in the time and effort to achieve good grades! I can't do the studying for you.
Revision Timetables and Study Plans
Before you do any studying, it is important to make a study plan or a revision timetable. You may ask: What is it? It is very simple. You make a timetable which has the various subjects you want to study set at different times. For example: Science at 5:00 pm. This way you know what you need to study and you can plan ahead before your exams. The good thing is that you can incorporate your own hobbies into the timetable. For example: Football at 4:30. You can also have set topics into each study session, for example, The Microscope (Science) at 5:00pm. Each study session should be no longer than forty minutes as your brain will get tired and take in less information. After each study session, take a break of five to ten minutes. You earned it!
A very common question that students ask is: When do I start studying?
The answer to that depends on many things. It depends how important the exam is and how much material you have to learn. Typically, you should start well in advance. You can copy out this table and use it as a template to slot in your own subjects or you can make your own
- Before you finalise your plan, you need to work out how many topics you have per subject between now and the exams. Find out when your courses finish and when teachers will start to prepare you for the exams. You should fit your revision timetable accordingly.
Revision Timetable Template
- Try to avoid distractions. Turn off music, laptops, television and anything else that may distract you.
- Make sure to have good lighting and ventilation. Make sure to always study in front of a desk. You'd be surprised to know that a lot of students study and do their homework on their bed or sitting down with their books and copies on their lap!
- Begin with your first subject of the night that is on your revision plan and start at that time.
- Make sure to have all of your pens, pencils, copies , books etc. with you. It's hard to get focused again after you need to get something.
- N.B: Break down each subject into a list of topics. That way, you can do a topic for each study session.
Starting your Studying
There are three things you must do during a typical 30-40 study session:
- Organising your notes-this consists of rewriting your notes in a more formatted way, using colour, highlighting, diagrams and mnemonics (see below).
- Learning your notes - using mnemonics, reading over, writing out again.
- Testing Yourself - using flashcards, reviewing, exam papers and other methods to test what you've learnt and put it into exam context.
Organising Your Notes
Organising your notes is the principal and most important part of your study. Organising your notes means rewriting them out in a more condensed, prioritised fashion, leaving out any unnecessary details. You write out key definitions and formulas very clearly so you can find them in a flash. Here are the steps to organise your notes the proper way:
- Get a copy or subject divider for your notes. Make sure to have one subject per copy or per subject divider.
- Go to your list of topics and pick out the topic you are going to do.
- Get your textbook and notes.
- Write headings for every sub-topic. This will make it easier for you to locate it in time.
- Pick out the important facts, diagrams and definitions. Leave out anything unnecessary.
- Think as you write. Imagine all the things you are writing come to life.
- Highlight any key points or definitions.
- Especially for subjects such as Geography and Science, it is important to emphasise labelled diagrams in your new set of notes. For example, you may need to know the appearance of basic laboratory equipment so you would draw a rough sketch of each one and label each one.
Learning Your Notes
There are a variety of ways for learning your now prioritised notes.
- Reading it
- Writing it
- Mind Maps
The word 'mnemonic' means, "designed to aid the memory". It is derived from the Greek goddess of memory - Mnemosyne. There are all sorts from acrostics to the journey method.
Acrostics: An acrostic is an invented sentence or poem with the first letter of ever word linked to an idea you need to remember. An example would be:
- Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
2. Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit
Right Hand Sheet Music Lines: EGBDF
Mind mapping was invented by Tony Buzan and is a highly popular way of prioritising key notes and facts. It is also used to take notes during a lecture or class. It consists of a topic in the centre, which divides into five or six subtopics. These subtopics then divide into more branches. For example, let's say you had to learn about Leonardo Da Vinci. You would have four to five subtopics branching out, called; Early Life, Patronage, Famous Works and so on. In each subtopic, you then have more details branching out. It is a smart and easy way to learn topics easily and they do not require a lot of effort. Even a simple sketch will do you but colour and diagrams add a nice touch especially if you are a visual learner.
Flashcards consist of you writing a fact or definition on one side of a card and writing a question on the other. When you have your topic revised, you can go through your flashcards, being asked questions, giving answers in your head and flipping it over to reveal the answer. It is a great way of using trial and error. Make a mistake the first time, realize you got it wrong and get it right the first time.
- They are handy to use for quick, 'in a flash' revision. You could pull your flashcards at a train station or when waiting for a bus.
- There is lot of flash card making software on the Internet (for links, see below)
- Or, if you prefer, you can make your own which I personally find easier.
- Flashcards can be easily purchased at your local stationery shop or on Amazon.
Your brain has natural learning patterns. If you want to get information into your long term memory, repetition is the key. Try learning your mind maps or notes at least five times in total before your exams:
- After 10 minutes
- After one day
- After one week
- After one month
- After two months
If you do this, you are more likely to remember information in the exam as the information is stored in your long term memory.
You may have all your material learned but that's only half the story. You need to know what the examiners want and how to answer an exam question. Good exam technique is essential to your success. A great way to practise your exam technique is to do exam papers. Often, teachers go through past questions that cropped up in exams before. Work with your teachers and ask them questions if you need to. It is also possible to get marking schemes. If you do exam papers and want to know the answer to a question you didn't know, look it up in the marking schemes. If you cannot get exam papers, don't worry! You can always make your own questions up. As long as you test yourself, that alone is an excellent form of getting information into your head.
Try this poll and give your say!
Would you get excited if your teacher mentioned the word 'revision'?
We've all been there when we don't feel like doing any revision or study. Or we get fed up and just want to do it any more. If you feel like this,don't worry! We've all felt like that at some point or another. It's natural. Here are some mantras to get you back on track.
- Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.
- You are as capable as you think you are!
- By expecting the best, you get the best.
- Each revision session gets you closer to achieving your dreams.
Write these down on post-it notes and put them everywhere or carry them with you. They can work wonders, you know!
The Exam: Time to Prove Yourself
You've done your studying. You know that you've done everything you can. Now is the time to prove yourself. A little bit of nerves is good, it will keep you on your toes. However, if you are feeling extremely nervous, there is no need to worry. Relax! You know that you've put in the work. Here are some tips that will help you get the grade you want. Good Luck!
- Always turn up in plenty of time.
- N.B: Always eat breakfast!
- Make sure you read the instructions carefully and listen to the examiner
- Never leave a page unturned (you'd be surprised at how many students forget this).
- When writing essays or debate, always make a rough plan or mind map. Examiners love to see structure in your writing!
- Keep to your time plan. Allot time to your questions based on how many marks are offered.
- If you don't know one of the questions, don't linger. Keep going and go back to it at the end.
- After the exam, have a quick post-mortem but start revising for the next test.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and that it may help you in your studying. If you would like to read more of the hubs I publish, please follow me.
Thank you for reading!