School and studying can be daunting, even for the best and most experienced learners. Feeling unprepared for an exam can lead to panic, anxiety, and even decreases in self-confidence. Yet, despite these consequences many students do not adequately prepare for tests and exams and wind up perpetuating their own fear and worry regarding testing. Spending hours upon hours studying is not necessarily needed or productive. Think, “study smarter, not longer”. Shorter more frequent study sessions are more likely to be productive and contribute to long-term learning. Although many students cram the night or days before a test this is not an efficient or effective way for most learners.
Although no two people study exactly the same way and no one strategy can work for everyone, there are a number of study strategies that have been shown to be effective for a diverse population.
What kind of learning style works best for you?Generally there are 4 different types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading and Writing, and Kinesthetic.
Once you know your learning style it will be much easier to modify a study strategy to be as effective as possible for you. The next step is to create the best possible conditions for learning. This includes being rested, hydrated, fed and relaxed. If our physical body isn’t taken care of, then our mind is not going to be very productive.
One effective study strategy is the SQ3R method. According to the Study Guides and Strategies website (www.studygs.net), “SQ3R will help you build a framework to understand your reading assignment”. SQ3R stands forSurvey, Question, Read, Recite, Review.
1) Before you read, Survey the chapter:
Read the title, headings, and subheadings and do not forget captions under pictures, charts, graphs or maps. Also read the introductory and concluding paragraphs. Next, read any summary or chapter questions that may be included in the textbook.
2) Question while you are surveying:
Turn the title, headings, and/or subheadings into questions. Try asking yourself, "What did my instructor say about this chapter or subject when it was assigned?" "What do I already know about this subject?".
3) When you begin to Read:
Look for answers to the questions you first raised and add any questions that come up in the margin or on a separate piece of paper. I suggest one question per paragraph or section. Reread captions under pictures, graphs, etc. and note all the underlined, italicized, bold printed words or phrases. Be sure to study graphic aids and only read one section at a time and recite after each section.
4) Recite after you've read a section:
Answer questions at the beginning or end of chapters or study guides as well as the question you created while reading. Orally ask yourself questions about what you have just read, or summarize, in your own words, what you read. The more senses you use when you recite the more likely you are to remember what you read; include Seeing, Saying , Hearing, Writing.
5) Review: an ongoing process that can be broken up into different days.
When reviewing for an exam, try Reciting the entire chapter by following the guidelines in step 4. This creates an easy method of reviewing the material without having to re-read the entire chapter. Re-read sections when you can’t answer the question you wrote down.
IMPORTANT POINT: Be sure to re-read all your questions. Skipping questions “you know” is a bad habit to get into and can interfering with your ability to remember material.
Using the text and your notes, make a Table of Contents or Study Guide, listing all the topics and sub-topics you need to know from the chapter. As you have consolidated all the information you need for this chapter, periodically review the Study Guide so that at test time you will not have to cram.
Although the SQ3R can seem like a lot of work, most people find they actually save time in the long run as they do not have to study as hard leading up to exams and experience more confidence entering exams. The marks and retention of information will be well worth the investment!
Regardless of what Study Strategy you use, the most important thing to remember is to have a plan. Planning your studying and learning will ensure you schedule enough time to prepare for your exam. Furthermore, a solid plan will help to reduce anxiety before exams and contribute to a more positive learning experience.
For more information on preparing for exams, check out our Test Anxiety articles or listen to our Best Exam Performance Visualization.
By Nic Allen