With the holidays quickly approaching, student musicians and performers are in frequent rehearsal for the big show, teachers are rushing to get that big project completed, and final exams are looming. It’s not simply a BUSY time, it’s a CRAZY time of the year!
Here at MyloWrites, we’ve put together some strategies for studying which are not only effective, but also efficient methods for preparing for exams. Some of these are old school, tried and true methods (grab your flashcards!), but we also suggest some fantastic digital solutions, too (for those who tend to misplace aforementioned flashcards).
1. Get Organized!
Do not underestimate the power of organization as an aid to memory. Final exams are all about learning and remembering a large amount of information, and in order to commit this information to memory, it must be organized. Our memory is naturally organized into schemas, or sets of information organized around a common theme. The first step in studying should be to use a system which mimics your brain’s natural organization.
Take out all of your class notes, quizzes, lists of vocabulary, maps, diagrams, homework, and other class materials. You should sort these materials according to the unit of study. If there is no obvious distinction between units, organize your work in chronological order. The act of analyzing and sorting each piece of work from the past months is a memory strategy in and of itself, and is time well spent.
2. Make a Schedule
Use Google Calendar or your favorite calendar app to plan out your study schedule. Then comes the most important part - sticking with it!
Be practical and realistic when planning your study time. You aren’t going to be able to study for 10 hours a day - no one can, or should!
First, input all of your non-negotiable commitments into the calendar, such as family events, school events, or sports practice. Next, input the dates and times of your exams. Finally, plan backwards from the date of the test to make sure you provide yourself with ample opportunities to practice the material for the exam. Plan frequent sessions to learn the material as this will be significantly more effective for your memory than a few long practice sessions.
During your study sessions, make sure you have a quiet place to focus and work. Minimize distraction as much as possible. You want your mind to be 100% focused on learning the information. A noisy environment will take away from that focus.
As important as studying is downtime. Make sure to schedule yourself some fun in these next few weeks too!
3. Make Flashcards Work For You
One digital solution to flashcards that we love is MentalCase, an app for iOS. MentalCase is flashcards on steroids! You can enter basic information on your cards, but you can take your flashcards to the next level by embedding video, pictures, diagrams, or drawings. After you finish making your cards, they are presented in a beautiful slideshow. You can also use the app on your iPhone or iPad to study on the go.
If a digital solution isn’t your thing, good old fashioned flashcards are a great study tool. It is best to make your own flashcards, as the act of recording the information will help you to remember. Flashcards are a tried and true method. Successful students all over the world use them to memorize information - and you can use the humble index card for success as well!
4. Review is Not Enough
Reviewing your notes without ENGAGING with the material is a waste of precious time. Unless your brain is actively using the information you are trying to learn, it will not be retained in long term memory. So don’t simply read over your notes and call it studying. Engage with the material! Make lists of important vocabulary words and their definitions. Print blank diagrams or maps and practice filling them in. Write out vocabulary words and usages. Type timelines of important events. Verbally rehearse important terms. Discuss relevant points with your teacher or classmates.
5. Digital Solutions for 21st Century Students
There are a plethora of digital solutions that help students study. Among our favorites are Memrise and Quizlet. We love these apps not only for their freemium options, but also because they have awesome sharing features and great mobile experiences.
Memrise encourages students to practice frequently and consistently, using the imagery of a flower being planted, sprouting, and growing when provided with attention.
Quizlet has an enormous library of “study sets” that range every imaginable topic. Every student can find a favorite study method within the large variety of games and practice activities offered on Quizlet.
6. Time is Valuable
Finally, give yourself ample time to accomplish your study plan. It takes up to SIX practice sessions to commit new information to long term memory! So, you’ve seen the material presented by your teacher in class and you’ve worked on the new ideas on a homework assignment. Now you need to study that material four more times before you can expect it to move from your short term or active working memory to your long term, permanent storage of memory. Studying takes time and there are no substitutions for taking the time to study well.
The MyloWrites team hopes these tips are helpful. Start making a plan, get to work, and watch that hard work pay off!