By: Thee Sim Ling
Frustrated at reading your textbooks? Irritated by the piles of unfinished study notes on your desks? Pulling out your hair at how you never can write a single great essay? Well, that is a common problem students worldwide face.
But, have no fear! On the miraculous platform called YouTube where gamers and cute cat videos thrive, channels, where fellow students teach useful study tips, are flourishing. These stellar study savants are often high-achievers, ranging from first-place finishers for science courses at Cambridge University. However, with so much conflicting advice and so little time, how can you find the right study strategy and ace your tests?
Lucky for you, I have nobly sacrificed some of my time to watch these videos and summarise the numerous tips into the five points below (so you don’t have another excuse to secretly watch a Netflix movie). Here are five study tips from the masters:
1) Note-taking: Use Creative Techniques
Struggling with school? Maybe the way you take notes may need a little tweaking. Experiment and find which note-taking techniques suit you the best. Some top scorers believe in doing it the old-fashioned way and writing information on paper to promote muscle memory. Others prefer the computer because it solves the problem of ugly handwriting and is better for organising notes. Try using mind-maps, flashcards, and facilitate your studies with extra reading before referring to notes provided by teachers. This is called “active recall” — actively simulating learning during the process. It better helps store information in long-term memory, instead of “passive learning” (staring at your textbooks for hours).
2) Memorization Techniques
The key to memorization, the masters say, is consistency: repeating it again, and again, and again. For short-answer or essay questions, use flashcards by writing down the question and number of points on one side and writing the answers on the other, and practice giving the answers. Practice memorizing essay plans point by point and writing essays down from memory. There’s no need to memorize a whole chunk of words, but you need to know your bullet points well enough to structure each paragraph.
3) Writing Essays: Practice, Practice, Practice
Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to make you better at essay writing. Instead, you need to do it the hard way. All these masters emphasised that writing good essays takes practice, practice, practice. Once you have finished covering a topic, with it still fresh in your mind, it is the perfect time to reinforce learning with an essay. Find essay titles from past-year papers or come up with your own. Then, try writing your essays with the knowledge you just gained and, if your teacher is willing, submit it to be marked and obtain feedback to make it better. If you really are time-scarce, then an essay plan (an outline of what you would write) would suffice. These essays will familiarize you with the topic and help you vastly in your exam revision, especially when you need to prepare yourself for similar essay questions.
4) Effective Study Sessions
Let’s face it: three-hour study sessions rarely work, especially if you have a short attention span. That’s why instead of one three-hour session a week, try splitting it up into three one-hour sessions per week. Draw up a revision timetable and decide which days of the week you will be studying a subject, for how long, and on what concept or topic. Research has shown that by spacing out your study sessions, you will be better able to store the information in your brain and not overload it. Remember, during your study sessions, it’s not all about studying! Use the Pomodoro method and set a timer for twenty minutes and take frequent breaks to rest your brain.
5) Be A Proactive Learner
If you want to get good grades, the tough part is, you need to work for it. Yes, many of these student ninjas I watched succeeded in school early on and thus were able to make it into top colleges, but once they were in university, they didn’t slack off on their work. They started making study strategies and revision timetables and did the hard work that carried them to Number 1. And they got the grades they wanted because they were proactive learners. Learners who take initiative learn much more than learners who just highlight sentences in their textbooks (which we all have done at least once in our lives). They read the content they have carefully and make connections between different concepts. They don’t copy down lecture notes wholesale and re-read them over and over, hoping it would somehow stick to their brains because of their photographic memory. They digest what they learned, make their own notes, and use memory aids consistently to remember the content. They aren’t perfect, of course, and do make mistakes. They might have even failed an exam or two. But, the important thing is that they are willing to learn from their mistakes and improve their study methods. They read learning material before classes and consult with teachers on what they don’t know. And they aren’t satisfied with what they have — they do extra reading and research to connect the dots. This is how to be a great learner. You need to be proactive.
So now, with these great study tips, what are you waiting for? Get out your textbooks and start studying now!