If you are looking to optimise your study habits, here are some useful, evidence-informed strategies to keep in mind.
Take your study game to the next level with these 8 study tips
By India Today Web Desk: Are people with great study skills just naturally gifted? Research from cognitive science tells us that a lot of the skills can be developed. If you are looking to optimise your study habits, here are some useful, evidence-informed strategies to keep in mind. All you need to know from the expert Radhika Zahedi, School Director, The Green Acres Academy.
STUDY ACTIVELY, NOT PASSIVELY: RECALL, DON’T RE-READ
Many students trick themselves into believing that they are studying. They re-read the same material over and over again. This is not an effective way of studying because it does not actively engage the mind. Instead, what you should be doing is reading and then recalling the study material without looking.
- You can ask yourself questions and answer them without looking. The same applies for other learning like problem-solving in mathematics. Don’t read through solutions of problems and assume you have learned how to solve it yourself.
STUDY ACTIVELY, NOT PASSIVELY: USE NOTE-TAKING TECHNIQUES TO STAY ACTIVELY ENGAGED
Making notes or drawing or any kind of written work to demonstrate your learning (to yourself) is another way to ensure that you are not fooling yourself while studying. After studying, you may try to reproduce what you have learned in many different ways, for example, by writing key points down, by creating a mind-map of connected ideas, by drawing a mental model, by listing ideas, etc.
STUDY ACTIVELY, NOT PASSIVELY: INTERLEAVING INSTEAD OF BLOCKING
Another compelling way to ensure active studying is to use interleaved study. Interleaving is the process of working on different subjects during your study schedule.
We often see students make a plan where they block 4 days for science only. Research tells us we are better off different subjects, for example an hour of science, social studies, language etc. Why? Because changing subject forces us to recall meaningfully by making connections, seeing patterns and differences across subjects.
ENGAGE LONG TERM MEMORY, AVOID SHORT TERM ‘MUGGING’: FORCE YOUR BRAIN TO MAKE MULTIPLE CONNECTIONS
When we access new information, it is first processed in our short-term memory. As the name suggests, this information is held in our brains for a short period of time and usually lost after. It needs to get encoded into our long-term memory so that it can be pulled out or retrieved at a later time. One way to help our brains store information in long term memory is by making multiple connections to what we are studying. These connections might be created by using emotional, visual, cognitive means.
- For example, if you are studying biology – the digestive system, you might make an emotional connection to a time you had indigestion and imagine what went wrong in different parts of the system.
- Or you might activate your visual system and imagine that you have shrunk and are taking a walk-through different part of the system (the very famous memory palace technique is similar).
- Or we might use age-old cognitive strategies like mnemonics or analogies to remember.
ENGAGE LONG TERM MEMORY, AVOID SHORT TERM ‘MUGGING’: USE SPACED RETRIEVAL INSTEAD OF ONE-TIME CRAMMING
Spaced retrieval is another way to ensure you are studying deeply. When you study you retrieve or recall what you have studied after intervals of time (days or weeks), instead of only doing it immediately after learning it. This is helpful because it encourages the learner to study in a way that promotes deeper, longer-term retention, instead of simply ‘mugging’ things up in meaningless formats.
USE BOTH, SLOW THINKING AND FAST THINKING WHILE STUDYING
The methods listed above encourage slow thinking i.e., deliberate, thoughtful studying. However, in many situations it is beneficial to build fluency or automaticity with the material. Fluency with mental maths skills or testing speed can be valuable. For fluency, the age-old wisdom of repetition and practice works. The more you practise, the better you get.
STUDY WITH FOCUS AND DISCIPLINE, REDUCE PROCRASTINATION: USE THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE TO MANAGE TIME
Building discipline and focus to study isn’t automatic or easy. We get mentally exhausted and distracted. Mental focus requires learners to build stamina just like we need to build stamina for physical fitness.
One fantastic way for students to build the stamina to study and stay focused is a technique called the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro technique (you can google more about the name!) helps us manage time. This technique helps the learner break the study into smaller periods of high focus with breaks in between.
These alternating, timed, high focus sessions encourage us to stay on task. Learners can also start with short periods of focus time until you have built up more study stamina.
STUDY WITH FOCUS AND DISCIPLINE, REDUCE PROCRASTINATION: USE CHUNKING TO MANAGE LARGE AMOUNTS OF CONTENT
The previous technique helps you chunk your time, but the same thing can be done when you have large amounts of content to study. Breaking up the content into smaller manageable chunks that the short-term memory can process, instead of resulting in an ‘information overload’. This can help you cover large volumes of material systematically and in an organised manner.