To succeed in our studies, it is important to know how to learn effectively. We are all different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ system of learning. We each need to discover the method that is best for us individually. A little experimentation will pay enormous dividends with regard to examination results.
When we start to learn, facts are immediately absorbed into our sensory memory without conscious effort. Information is retained for only the briefest moment of time. Concentrating on the subject helps information move into our short-term memory (STM). This allows easy but temporary recollection of the data.
To enable us to remember the information permanently we need to move it to our long-term memory (LTM). This is achieved by repeatedly listening to, or reading information. The more you review the material, the better your understanding and the longer your retention.
How we learn best also dictates how we study. There are three main types of learning. Although we are likely to be a combination of them all, there is usually one that predominates.
As the name implies, this type of learner does best when the material is diagrammatic, using graphs, maps or charts. During lectures, they need to watch the tutor, and get involved in class activities. When revising they learn best by creating drawings, and tables of their ideas.
These students remember information easier when they hear it. Reading out loud, discussing material with friends or recording ideas helps reinforce the information.
These are the fidgets, the pacers, the people who need to move around. This student does best with background distractions such as music, TV or colorful pictures. Information is retained when studying methods have a physical element. Chewing gum, walking, or moving around all helps.
Studying activities need to vary to hold their interest. Skim reading beforehand helps to provide a basic understanding of the subject. Imagining how a complicated task will work out before starting, makes it easier to focus.
Find the best way for studying that best suits your learning type. Here’s a couple of methods you can try:
The SQ3R Method of Study
This is a valuable way of understanding and remembering important information. There are several steps to this method:
The S stands for survey. Skim the study material, taking a mental note of titles and sub headings. This gives a brief understanding of the topic before beginning in-depth study.
Q is for questioning. Ask yourself, what are the most important points? Once identified, focus on these issues, ignoring unimportant facts.
There are three R’s. The first stands for Read. To get the basic context, read through the information. Underline or highlight important elements. This makes them easier to remember. Make brief notes in the margin so that you understand the information. These activities help you absorb the information.
This second R is for recite. Read a few paragraphs or pages then put your notes aside. Recall aloud, the main points identified in step 2. Go back to your notes to check that you have remembered them. If necessary go through this step again. If you can’t remember information at this point you will not remember it in an exam.
The final R is review. Every few days go through your notes. Speak them out loud, go over highlighted material, re-read margin notes. The more you do this the greater the amount of information you remember.
When you first begin to study using this system it takes longer to read the material. After a while, you will remember more information and spend less time preparing for exams.
The 2-6 Method of Note Taking
This method’s name refers to the way you divide up your notepaper. From the left-hand side of your page, measure two inches and draw a line. You now have a line down your page where on the left there are two inches and on the right, there are six or more inches.
Use the larger area on the right to make your notes. Keep them short and concise by sticking to the main points. When you have scrawled down a few notes and your teacher has moved on to another subject, go back over your notes very quickly. In the left column, write bullet point notes that explain what the notes on the right are all about. Think of it as giving your notes on the right their own working topic title. Treat the left-hand side of your page a little like a contents table that helps identify what is written on the right of the page.
Later, when you scan your notes, you can see what your notes are about in general by looking to the left. You can see a more in-depth view of what you learned by what you wrote on the right. It makes searching for certain elements/points in your notes a lot easier.
Instead of reading through a big wedge of text to find a point you wish to recall, you can look to the left to see what each section of your notes is all about. If you still have trouble making notes or re-writing your notes later, then speak to a councilor or teacher for extra help.