Often, how to study for exams is about studying smarter, not just harder. This means making better use of your study time and accomplishing more in that time. Rather than trying to find more hours to study and figuring out ways of keeping awake when to do it.
Here are five easy-to-use study strategies and time-management strategies which can help you max out your swat sessions.
How to Study Better for Matric
1. Have a Plan
Make a detailed study timetable on paper and stick it up where it’s easy to see. A digital one may be more convenient, but a hardcopy is on constant display and can’t be hidden by a reduced tab. It also helps with motivation and adds a layer of commitment to your study schedule. This assists with practically getting into a study routine.
It’s tempting, but it’s also counter-productive to spend hours of study time planning how you are going to do it. A study timetable needs to be simple and easy to read, not a work of art. Also, keep in mind that, while you should spend an appropriate amount of time studying, going overboard is counterproductive. This means that your study timetable needs to have down-time in it as well.
Long study sessions can get boring and end up in you wasting time because your mind wanders. Instead, schedule “power sessions” of anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. During this focus all your attention on a chunk of work from a specific subject. Then take a break and move away from your study area to get some water, shower or stretch your legs. Breaks should vary in length and ideally have things planned within them so you are less tempted to extend them. When you come back your brain will feel more refreshed and ready to tackle your next study block.
2. Think like a Teacher
Trying to figure out the kinds of questions you’ll be asked is not simply an age-old exam hack. It’s actually a way of biasing your brain towards absorbing information. Questions make us search for answers and help us remember the details needed to answer them. This creates a better understanding of material. Which makes answers easier to recall than when you take a purely parrot-learning approach and try to memorise everything.
By applying yourself to the job of discerning what’s important and what’s not, you engage in active and effective learning. You also avoid being that student who turns a stack of notes into a highlighter colouring book.
3. Quiz Time
Cramming is the continual rereading and the single-minded rapid-fire repetition of work you’re trying to burn into your memory. It’s the preferred study strategy of most learners and also one of the least productive. According to cognitive scientists, when it comes to mastery and long-term recall, parrot-fashion learning is largely a waste of time. Far more effective is what they term “retrieval practice”. This is when facts, concepts or events are retrieved from memory as opposed to simply being stored in it.
This is surprisingly easy to accomplish. When you have finished reading your notes instead of rereading them, take a simple quiz. Experts claim that at a cognitive level, testing is more beneficial than repetition studying. This is because it requires a type of active learning that strengthens the memory and interrupts forgetting. It also shows you exactly where you haven’t fully understood something or just what you don’t remember properly. Which shows you strategically where to go back and look over something, rather than redoing everything. This will save you time and energy, allowing you to tackle more.
4. Join the dots
To remember and understand things, you need to essentially create a spider web of connections between information. This means actively thinking through what you are learning in relation to what you already know. Thereby, by creating a broader contextual understanding you strengthen the grasp of your new learning. Making it easier to be recalled in the longer run and giving you a better understanding of the subject overall.
Peter Brown, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel, authors of the bestselling book: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, have an additional tip. They propose putting things into your own words as you learn and recall information to check yourself. This significantly assists with knowledge retention.
5. Take Breaks
You are more likely to bail on your study timetable if you don’t plan breaks into your schedule. Breaks are essentially rewards that can help motivate you to slog through piles of work. They also provide time for your brain to mull over information and connect additional dots. Furthermore, your body needs to get up and move after sitting for longer periods.
Consequently, it is recommended that you fit in time for non-academic activities while you study for your matric. For example, exercise, hobbies and socialising. Which makes studying periods something you tick off from a study schedule rather than seem like you are doing time chained to your desk. It also has the additional advantage of helping you achieve a healthy sense of equilibrium and purpose.
What to Do Next
Given any thought as to what you want to do after school? SACAP (The South African College of Applied Psychology) offers a number of courses which can be studied online or at a campus. These courses can open the doors to your having a career in Psychology, Social Work and Community Development, as a Resource Manager or Coach. Contact an admissions officer for the opportunity to explore your career options.
1. What is the Best way to study?
One of the most effective study techniques is a retrieval practice approach to learning. This requires you to focus on understanding and contextualising information while you study. Which means actively linking new information to what you already have learnt. As well as using short quizzes to check on your retention and understanding thereof.
2. Does Parrot Fashion or Repetitive Learning work?
While this is the preferred study strategy of many learners, it’s also the least productive. This is because it’s not as likely as other approaches to result in mastery and long-term recall of a subject.
3. Why do you need to take study breaks?
Like when you exercise and your body needs a break, your brain needs them too. Taking planned study breaks is also another way of giving your brain time to process the information you’ve learnt. Additionally, scheduled breaks help to better motivate you to get through sections of work within a study schedule.