Study Skills should be considered an art form. There really is a specific way to study, and it is not just about making flashcards! Many students never get direct instruction on HOW to study, only the directive to “STUDY!” What many people don’t stop to think about is how attention and memory play a part in this.
Practice is essential when studying. Cramming may work for the short term, but once the test/quiz is over, so is your ability to maintain the information. This is because our memory is designed only to hold small amounts in our short-term space. If we do not practice, this information never transfers into long-term memory, where we will need it in the future. Try using Varied Practice. This frequent change of task enhances retention of information by continually facing new instances of the to-be-learned information. Some examples of study strategies that can be used are:
- Study with a friend/group
- Create your own practice questions/study guides
- Practice tests/Review questions
- Concept Mapping/Timelines
- Flash Cards
- Outlines of your notes
Schedule your varied practice multiple times throughout the week. Each time you are exposed to the material focus on recalling it from your long-term memory. This is called Retrieval Practice. It is meant to be difficult, but only in the beginning. The more you focus on getting the previously reviewed material out of your memory, the easier it actually becomes. This is because the information is being stored in LONG TERM storage, not for the short term. Now THAT’S LEARNING!
In order to learn efficiently, one has to pay attention long enough. One key to this is to know your attention limits. If you are more attentive in the morning, pair that with more detailed tasks. If you are better in the afternoon, switch it up. Make the attention needed match the task requirements. Only then can you choose the right way to study and master the information.
For the student that has a difficult time focusing for long periods of time, try giving yourself a set study time. The Pomodoro Method is a method that is designed to improve focus and attention. Schedule something for 25 minutes. In that 25 minutes state your study goal, such as, “I will review 20 flashcards and recall at least half.” Then, set a timer. After the time is up, take a break for 5 minutes. Repeat this cycle for 3 more rounds, changing your goal each time. By the time you are finished, you will have studied for 2 hours!
Learning how to study efficiently will take you far. Remember, being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.