Studying for Success

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Studying for Success

by Lynette Sampson

Success in exams begins long before that dreaded day, when your knowledge and memory skills are put to the test.

The process of remembering can be considered in three steps:

1. Input – you have to get the information into your brain
2. Retention – hold it there and make sense of it
3. Output – then use it in situations, such as an exam or real life

Although your teachers and parents also impact upon this process you have the ultimate responsibility for your learning, since above all, you are the one who has to bear the consequences of any deficiencies in your education. There are many things you can do to make learning more effective, easier and more enjoyable and we will explore some of these now.

INPUT – this begins for most people in a classroom when a teacher is teaching, when they read a book for the first time, or watch a television programme.

You can:

Find other books that explain the material better
Ask a teacher to repeat something you may have missed
Speak with your teacher after class and ask her to go over what you did not understand

Examine charts and other illustrations in the books
Listen carefully to explanations given by the teacher, questions and answers from other students.

RETENTION – this is what we commonly call studying – making sure what was put in, stays in. This should take place as close as possible to the time of input e.g. every afternoon after school.

The more of your senses you stimulate in this process the better.

You can . . .

Draw diagrams
Build models
Visit places where you can see the information being applied in reality
Highlight or add colour to your notes and text books
Try to teach what you are learning to someone else like your parent or sibling
Study in a group, where you take turns preparing a topic and explaining it to the rest of the group or leading the discussion on the topic
Walk around, gesticulate and / or talk to yourself
Create examples to illustrate or clarify ideas
Visualize the information
Make up acronyms e.g. Every Good Boy Deserves Food to remember music
Make posters and put them all over your room or the house, if everyone else does not mind
Make flash cards with the main points AND USE THEM – take them with you everywhere and USE THEM
If messy notes are a distraction, re-write them

A note on T.V., radio and other distractions

The benefits of doing well far outweigh the sacrifice of missing a few calls, missing a few television programmes or missing few limes with friends. All those things will always be around, but not many people can afford a second chance at education.

“The heights by great men, reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upwards through the night.”

Next month we will look at the output part of this process and address some of the problems of taking examinations.

OUTPUT – Experts suggest that output is more effective if the conditions are similar to those of retention. Perhaps this is why teachers say, study at a desk, don’t study on the bed and try to study in a quiet place.

In school you are required to take examinations as the definitive test of your knowledge and so much weight is given to the results of those examinations that it is easy to see why so many students feel the burden of anxiety, fear and uncertainty when they sit down to do an exam.

Some of that anxiety is also due to the physical conditions of the examination environment. This you cannot do much about, but preparation before hand will go a long way to reduce the feeling of fear, anxiety and uncertainty you may feel.

You can . . .

Prepare mentally, by envisioning yourself taking the test, and being calm and collected
Practice with past papers or tests you created beforehand

On the day of the exam:

Focus on relaxing before you leave home; listen to soothing music, say a prayer, meditate, exercise
Eat a balanced meal – your brain needs fuel to perform at its best, even though the butterflies in your stomach might make you think otherwise
Spend a minute quieting the mind before you begin to write so that you can become more focused
Read the instructions carefully
Take time to plan what you are going to write instead of jumping right into it
Recall situations or examples as a cue to remembering the points to which they were related
Allocate a specific amount of time for each question and try to stick to it
Do not get distracted by what the other students are doing or how quickly they are leaving the exam room

There is no real secret to academic success; it’s simply good old-fashioned work, preparation, discipline, diligence and faith.

Study guide and strategies

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