This week I wanted to share with you some Study Productivity tips by the Study Medicine Europe organization. Random little tips all over the internet are great, of course, but having them in one place, like this infographic is even better :) Save it, print it out and follow these suggestions to improve your studying!
School has started for me, and after only a few days, I’m already feeling pretty bored with the homework. Throughout this weekend’s fine Sunday I was very hard at work to find some ways to cheer myself up! Although it involved some relocating and redecorating (I know, it was supposed to be homework time), I was able to successfully finish everything I had planned to do. Behold:
To add some details and links:
1. Change your study locations
I found it surprisingly refreshing to relocate myself to a different room and start on a new assignment there. With a cup of tea in my hand, I felt pretty motivated to study. Didn’t expect this from myself, especially since I came to that room looking for a distraction, but actually ended up completing some work!
I have underestimated the power of the 45-15 rule! Turns out, if I focus on something reaaally hard for a short period of time and then take a break, I feel like I’m not losing a lot of energy and am able to get back to it easily after the break. The only thing to watch out for is the timing: perhaps the Pomodoro Timer App can be helpful in doing that.
3. Switch Subjects Every Hour
Okay, well, this actually works out well for me every time I do it. I tend to think “If I don’t finish this whole 50-page reading right now, I’ll never finish it” when really, I can just do a little bit of reading in the evenings and actually process it better (smaller chunks of information). Switching subjects can distract you a bit from the already-boring essay or textbook chapter and give your motivation a little boost!
4. During Breaks, Do Something ‘For the Soul’
I added some recent photos to my wall and felt very creative :)
It looks like I’m getting back into the groove, I’m feeling some academic-blogging inspiration! Hope everyone has been having a fabulous time! For a little update on my life here, things have been pretty stale except for one very important thing: I applied for a Study Abroad program and am impatiently (as in checking my application even though I know nothing has changed) waiting for an answer, which should have been emailed to me starting on Saturday. I won’t go into too much detail now as I would like a firm answer first, but beware and prepare for a ton of study-abroad related posts even if I don’t get in! In other news, I’ll be going to Europe this summer: first to visit my family in Russia and then on a crazy Eurotrip with some random dude (okay, boyfriend) all over Germany, then Amsterdam, London and Dublin. I’ll be sure to visit all university campuses I can!
**Also, feel free to follow my personal Instagram account, as I’ve been updating it more often now. I won’t publish anything blog-related on it yet but if you’re interested in the slightly lame details of my life, here’s your cue!
Here on the west coast, the quarter is only half-way through and midterms are in full force. I’ve taken two already and they went alright, but the one that’s coming up, Statistics, is going to kick my butt. That’s why I readily accepted some of my classmates’ invitation to form a study group – and found it to be one of the most valuable study activities.
1. You can teach people what you know
-Which definitely helps with understanding concepts for yourself. Once you are able to explain them to someone else (correctly), you got ’em!
2. Discussion can bear fruit
-Okay, maybe not literally unless you bring an apple with you, but by combining your knowledge you can figure out answers to problems you wouldn’t been able to get on your own!
3. Split the work
-Of course, knowledge comes with great work. But if you are in a group, you can split it and get things done much faster. Be careful though and make sure that you know how it’s done in order to be able to do it on a test.
4. Make friends
-Here comes the obvious cheesy one. Working in groups is a great opportunity to get to know other people and make friends. Think of yourself as a character in “Community”, except maybe a little less weird and offensive.
~What do you find most helpful in group discussions? What do you like the most about it? What are the drawbacks? Share in the comments!~
P.S. Here is a picture of a very pleased dog from my most recent camping trip.
These last couple of weeks have been homework-free for me. As much as I’d like to think that it’s because I did it all in advance, that’s not true. I’ve been slacking off quite a lot, and the 50-page articles that need to be read are finally catching up with me. After calculating how much time I need to read through everything carefully I realized it may be physically impossible after such a long break. So I figured now is the time to learn about some speed reading techniques and share them with you guys.
Speed reading: what is it and how is it learned?
I can’t how many times I’ve tried skimming through long texts, thinking I’m a pro at speed reading and not understanding why it’s so hard for others to learn. Well, it turned out I wasn’t speed reading at all – I was just looking through words without comprehending what they said, and in the end I didn’t remember anything. I’ll tell you right off the bat that speed reading is a science, and is not easily conquered. It takes knowledge of technique and lots, lots of practice. So there are a couple components to speed reading that need to be mastered: getting rid of sub-vocalization, reading in chunks and getting the big picture. These are the simplest terms I could come up with, but there are tons of articles that talk about it in more detail (see links at the end).
1. Getting the big picture
When starting to speed read the text, it’s important to know what the text is about. Spend a couple minutes looking and thinking about the title, some headings, keywords and perhaps footnotes. This will help you get the gist of the main idea and put things together when you start to speed read the text. Jotting down some notes when you get to an important idea is something to consider as well – remembering the material after speed reading it may be incredibly difficult.
This is not the same as chunking to memorize things, but the general idea is the same – group words together to get through them faster. This also helps with not vocalizing them out loud, by the way, so these two things kind of help each other. If we read word by word and try to get the meaning of each one of them, we won’t get through the text even if we tried. But chunking those words into phrases and looking at the general idea works a bit better.
When we read (and as you are reading now), we tend to pronounce every word in our head. Read this now, are you hearing your mind saying these words out loud? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about. The deal with sub-vocalization is that it slows us down immensely, and more often than not doesn’t even help with comprehending the material. To get started of the righteous path to speed reading, we need to get rid of that little voice.
It’s important to remember, though, that you can’t speed read through every text. Some texts, like novels and poetry, are not made to be skimmed through. I found that this technique works wonderfully with scientific article – the headings and conclusions are pretty clear to find and understand, and they are all structured pretty much the same way so I know where to look for what I need.
Here are those articles about speed reading I promised earlier:
Before I tell you the whole procedure, I’d like to note that this quarter was one of the most important quarters in my college career (so far). The thing is, there is a certain GPA requirement to get admitted to the Psychology Major. It’s not very high, but various past circumstances have forced me to retake a class to raise the GPA. That wasn’t fun, obviously, but I will talk about that later sometime. The point is, raising the GPA takes a lot of effort, and this quarter was extremely stressful because of that, since my admission to the major depended on it.
I must say now that I did pretty well – scores above average, and good enough to raise the grades suitable for the admission. Three finals in a row wasn’t super fun, though, and it took me a lot of effort to get organized. Here’s what I did:
1. Create a study schedule and follow it.
I know this one is a little obvious, like you would have totally thought of that without me saying it for the millionth time. I’ve written a few posts about this, you can check them out here: How to Make a Study Plan, Make a Study Guide.
2. Use every free minute.
I think my scores definitely had some room for improvement, and I definitely had enough time to study for it. My laziness and procrastion got in the way, unfortunately, and I now regret every minute I spent watching Gilmore Girls instead of studying.
3. Prepare your snacks!
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the more studying I have, the more hungry I get. Is it because I’m secretly bored or maybe my stomach is trying to distract me? I don’t know, but having some snacks and a cup of hot tea nearby creates a more comfortable and cozy setting for me.
Probably the most important thing you can do to get all your energy (large dozes of caffeine excluded). Most teenagers and adults need at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and not getting all of them takes a toll on your test performance. Here are some more posts about that: The True Value of Sleep, The Power of Naps, No More All-Nighters
5. Actually study.
Here it is, the mistake that brought me to failure to many times. Just kidding, I’ve never failed any subject really, but I’ve definitely received scores below the ones I’ve expected. As easy as it sounds, studying doesn’t mean simply rereading the textbook or your notes. This quarter I tried to do all the practice problems assigned and quiz myself as much as possible. This technique is called active recall, which works when you retrieve the information from your memory so many times that it actually stays there. Read about it here: About Memorization. There are several Memory Techniques you can use to make the best of your study time as well.
How do you get through your finals week? Comment below!
The other day I decided to sacrifice my Math Quiz Section in favor of three hours of pure study time for the finals. I must add, I do not regret this decision, as lately things with organization have been getting out of hand.
While studying for my upcoming Psychology final, which has just so many theories and hypotheses, I decided to go for making flashcards (these have some great advantages!) To make things a bit different this time, though, I put the definitions in my own words and added some comments relating to my life experiences, movies I’ve seen or songs I’ve heard. For example, one flashcard that came out looked like this:
From this experience, I realized that there are several things I need to do to make my flashcard-making time worth…my time. Because if you think about it, after spending hours (sometimes even days) drawing these up, how much do you actually study from them? I’ll be honest and say that I give up the second I put the pen down, thinking that making the flashcards was helpful by itself. So, if you are like me, I would suggest following these quick tips to remember more while making flashcards:
1. Paraphrase – always restate the key definitions in your own words. This is help you to actually think about the meaning of the words and remember them a bit better. Read more
When preparing for a multiple choice test, it’s quite easy to relax and think “Oh, this test will be easy because all the answers will be on paper.” Unfortunately, this kind of thinking often sets us up for failure. Professors and teachers are familiar with such attitude, and make the tests even harder and more confusing.
To avoid this, it’s important to study as if the test will have open-ended questions.This means that you have to practice in a way that will let you understand the material, not merely recognize familiar terms on paper. There are a few components involved in this kind of test prep, and if you do a little bit of each, the knowledge and practice will add up in the end to form a bigger picture.
This is the procedure I’ve been going by in the last couple of months, which has been working out quite well for me:
1. Go over and annotate all notes and textbook readings
Start doing this as soon as the quarter/semester/class begins. It’s easy to get behind, but if you review and annotate every evening for 20 minutes, it will be much easier before the test.
2. Create a mind map that links all of the new concepts together and helps you create a bigger picture.
3. Start taking practice tests at least a week before the test.
It will be useless to cram and do five practice tests on a Sunday night, but if you take a test each day of the week in advance, it will not be as difficult and overwhelming.
4. Practice answering open-ended questions. These have been saving my butt these last few weeks. Even though all of my exams are multiple choice, the best indicator of your knowledge is how well you are able to pull information out of your archival memory and into your working memory. And as a bonus, the more times you do this, the better you remember it in the future and the easier it is to recall again.
5. Identify Key Terms. It doesn’t matter whether you create flashcards or cover the definitions with your hands: knowing the key terms and formulas is crucial to creating connections between concepts and coming up with “the big picture”. Just remember to actually think as you memorize the terms, because mindless memorization can only get you as far.
To sum it all up, I would like to say that the key to remembering information better and long after the test is to use a technique called elaborative rehearsal. The basic science behind it is easy, though: pay the most attention to the meaning of the words and concepts, link new and old ideas right away, and try to mindlessly memorize things as little as possible. There are numerous sources and articles (1, 2, for example) that show that people who memorized a list of random words by focusing on how the word looks like or sounds like instead of focusing on the context in which the word was given to them, have remembered much fewer words than those who understood the meaning.
If you have a hard time memorizing large amounts of material for school or work, there are several techniques that could help.
1. Give it some meaning:
Information is best processed when you apply some kind of meaning to it. For example, to remember random words “baby, chicken, music, tennis shoes”, you can imagine a baby in tennis shoes dancing the chicken dance.
2. Mnemonic Devices: Rhyming, acronyms, songs, associations, anything that helps you remember the order of the words. A wonderful example of this is a poem to remember the number of days in each month:
Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November; All the rest have thirty-one Excepting February alone: Which hath but twenty-eight, we find, Till leap year gives it twenty-nine.
3. Flashcards Memorization with flashcards cannot by any means compare to any of the methods above or below. Mindless memorization can get you through only for a short period of time: if you do not understand the material, you will not remember it in the long run. However, if the time is pressing and you must remember tons of keyterms and formulas, this would be a good way to go!
Organize the new information into categories, map the concepts in your mind and link them to understand which concept leads to another. You can use charts, diagrams, or even the outlining note taking methods to connect all the dots in your mind.
For long lists of numbers, group them into 4’s or 5’s.
Come up with an image that goes along with the material. I’ve watched a great Ted Talk a few weeks ago, and oddly enough I still remember some of the things the speaker said because he associated them with weird images. Watch the video:
6. Method of Loci This is a very interesting way to remember information and one of the oldest mnemonic devices. “This method was developed by the poet Simonides of Ceos, who was the only survivor of a building collapse during a dinner he attended. Simonides was able to identify the dead, who were crushed beyond recognition, by remembering where the guests had been sitting. From this experience, he realized that it would be possible to remember anything by associating it with a mental image of a location.” You can read more about it here: Health.HowStuffWorks