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Tips for Effective Studying
In order to excel in college, you must first learn how to study properly.
Contrary to historical opinion, there are many effective ways to learn
information; it is a question of figuring out what works for you. What type
of studying best suits you? What time of day are you most efficient? What
is the proper environment for you to study in? Before you can answer these
questions, you have to do a little research. It takes an effort but the rewards
are more than worth it.
When we first learn something, information is processed into the brain to
form a neural trace. This trace first enters your sensory memory, and then,
if you're paying attention, to your Short Term Memory, or STM. If you keep
working to process the information and adapt it correctly it then moves to
your Long Term Memory, or LTM. The information processed into your LTM is
more or less permanent; with occasional reviewing you will not forget it.
The trick is to adapt the information you really need into your LTM as quickly
as possible. Your STM has a small capacity and a short duration; you may
learn something very quickly, but in 24 hours you will lose 80% of that
information. The STM is fast and easily accessed, the LTM is slower but larger.
The key to learning something well is repetition; the more times you go over
the material the better chance you have of storing it permanently. Before
you begin this process, however, it makes sense that you determine the type
of learner you are. There are three basic types of learning: Visual, Auditory
and Haptic. Most of us are, in fact, some combination of the three, but chances
are one style will suit us more than the other two. Take some time to look
over the types and figure out which category best describes your method of
learning. Learning Types Visual Learners:
Visual learners study best when the material is graphic, ie. charts, tables,
maps, etc. When in class, visual people should look at the professors when
they are speaking, participate in class discussions and take detailed notes
during lectures. When studying, study alone in a quiet place and try to
transcribe your material on paper. When possible make drawings, graphs or
tables of complex abstract ideas and work alone. Visual learners often have
trouble working while having a dialogue, even if the dialogue directly pertains
to the subject matter.
Auditory people work best when they can hear the material. Read aloud, go
over your notes and talk to yourself about the important points. Before reading,
set a purpose and verbalize it, after you've finished be sure to summarize
out loud what you just read. Speak your ideas into a tape machine as if you
were having a conversation with someone, if you can, talk to your friends
about the material. Because Auditory learners sometimes have trouble keeping
columns aligned, try doing math computations by hand, on graph paper.
Haptic learners are the most maligned division; they are the people that
can't sit still. Haptics have to pace around the room, they must have music
or a television playing in the background and are almost constantly finding
themselves distracted. Despite what parents and teachers have been saying
to the contrary, Haptic learning is just as effective as the other two, more
traditional, types. Instead of fighting against your nature, adapt to it
and find a method that really works. Make studying more physical; work at
a standing desk, pace around the room, do reading while on an exercise bike,
chew gum. Try to use color when you can; highlight your readings, read with
a filtered light, put posters and bright colors around your desk. Haptic
people should vary their activities, if you feel frustrated or 'clogged up'
do something different for a few minutes. Try and keep a list of distractions
as they come to you; once you write them down, they won't bother your
concentration as much. If you want to, play music in the background at whatever
volume you choose to. When reading, try skimming over the chapter to get
a solid basic meaning before you really dig in. Try to visualize complex
projects from start to finish before you begin them. Visualization is a useful
tool for Haptic people, it helps you keep a positive, productive outlook
on the task at hand.
The SQ3R method is the reading and studying system preferred by many educators.
Reading research indicates that it is an extremely effective method for both
comprehension and memory retention. It's effective because it is a system
of active reader involvement.
Step 1. "S"= Survey Before you actually read a chapter, or go over
a particular section of notes, take five minutes to survey the material.
Briefly check headings and subheadings in order to understand the author's
organizational pattern of ideas to be discussed. Scan all visual material.
Read introductory and summary paragraphs. This preview will enable you to
anticipate what the chapter is about.
Step 2. "Q"= Question Create interest in the material by asking: What
are the main points of the chapter? As you read, keep the question in mind
and figure out the most important points. It gives you a clearly defined
purpose for reading, and helps you maintain interest in the material.
Step 3. "R"= Read Read the chapter actively for meaning. Go through
the paragraph before underlining, then underline key words and phrases to
help you recall the main points. Be selective, you don't want to highlight
non-important points or miss anything that can help your comprehension. Summarize
main concepts in your own words in the margins. The more active you are in
the reading process, the more you will retain.
Step 4. "R"= Recite After every few pages, close your book and recite
aloud the main points to the questions you posed in step 2. Try to recall
basic details as to the author's intent by putting them in your own words.
Verify your answer by checking the text. If you can't remember the text,
read through it again. If you don't get it now, you won't remember it for
a test. Take as much time as you need to answer your questions. Don't be
frustrated, this takes more time but the information will be clearer in your
Step 5. "R"= Review Finally, review the chapter every so often to
fix the material in your mind. Keep rereading your margin notes and underlinings.
Verbalize the sequence of main ideas and supporting facts to aid retention.
Numerous reviews are a lot more effective than one cramming session the night
before an exam. Review once right after you've finished reading and then
every couple of days. The SQ3R is time consuming at first, expect it to take
ten to fifteen percent longer to read a given chapter when you first begin.
Research indicates a 70%% increase in retention after two months of using
the system and, eventually, a reduction in time spent preparing for exams.
Note Taking Techniques
The most comprehensive note taking systems require attention on your part.
You must be alert enough in class to take legible, meaningful notes. You
can't rely on "writing everything down" because a lot of information in a
given lecture won't help you actually learn the material. If you have problems
determining the specific relevant points in a particular class, you can always
ask the professor to clarify them for you. The 2-6 Method The 2-6 refers
to the way you divide the space on your notepaper. Make two columns, using
the red line on the left of the page as your border. Then, when you take
notes in class, use the 6 column for the notes and the smaller 2 column on
the left as a highlighting system. Write main headings and important points
on the left, including material you think you will be tested on. When you're
finished, you should have a comprehensive page of information that you can
quickly scan for important points. Finally If you have any questions or need
more help, stop by and talk to one of our counselors. Studying is 99%%
perspiration; if you give it a real, concentrated effort over the course
of a semester you will see an improvement. Your academic success is entirely
up to you.
By George Mason University
Since December 1999 - last modified: February 22, 2012