Victorious warriors win first then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first then seek to win – Sun Tzu
In Part 3 of this series, we will uncover the biggest mistakes most students do in their studies and how you should do it differently.
#1 Achieving a Balanced Study Plan is What Most Students Don’t Do
Based on the study conducted by Elevate Education, having a study plan and consistently sticking to it over the year is a higher predictor of success.
However, the biggest and most common mistake that most students make is slotting only their study sessions into their daily schedules.
This often results in students overworking themselves and typically give up their study plans due to the stress and imbalance.
Top students on the other hand do the reverse by slotting their study and practice hours around their lives which should consist of activities they love to do and some needed relaxation.
Research also shows that learning outcomes are improved when students get enough exercise, recharge and sleep.
#2 Effective Study Techniques Can Change Your Study Experience
Based on cognitive psychology research, these are effective study practices for understanding and memorisation:
Have you ever noticed how you can explain certain topics so well among your friends while some just cannot articulate them at all?
The best form of memorisation is to understand the topic as not only you will remember the concepts for a long time but also have the capability to answer questions better.
Method 1: Explain and Describe Ideas and Concepts With As Many Details
Create ‘’Why’’ and ‘’How’’ questions about the concepts you learn. Go back to your class materials or research online to find the answers.
Then write them down in your own words and understanding in your notes and also compare between concepts to understand the connections.
This approach will encourage you to think deeper, elaborate and apply the concepts in your own words. You will also organise the information in your own way making it easier to recall the information.
As an added reinforcement, discuss them with your peers and teachers which will train you to clarify your thoughts and memory even more. You can also get feedback if you are on the wrong track.
Method 2: Use Concrete Examples
Tie examples to the concepts you learn will enable you to perform better as the human brain works well with concrete information than abstract ones.
For example in geography, ‘’tropical weather’’ is an abstract concept. So providing examples of countries that have tropical weather, describing them and comparing the similarities and differences between them and how it impacts people in those countries will give you a greater sense of understanding.
Method 3: Interleaving Learning
Interleaving is the act of studying the related areas of a topic at the same time. Learning research has shown that this practice helps the brain make stronger connections between ideas and therefore can retain them naturally.
But make sure you understand an idea before jumping to the next related area of topic.
Using the example of geography, you may be learning about rivers. You should then interleave with related topics such as droughts and pollution to gain a more holistic understanding of an ecosystem.
Study these related areas in small but meaningful chunks in a progressive manner instead of diving too deep into one area only.
The bonus benefit of interleaving is to train the mind to be flexible and expect unexpected scenarios like conditions of examinations.
When studying, imagine as though you are revising with the aim to teach someone else.
Putting yourself in that mindset will help you think differently in how you approach your studies as teaching someone requires you to have full understanding of the subject and potentially taking on unexpected questions.
Even better if you can find a friend who you agree to teach about the topics you have studied.
Although memorisation should not be the primary goal when studying or preparing your exams, it is a crucial component.
However, you should use more effective techniques to improve your memorising abilities.
Method 1: Note Taking
There is no hard and fast rule for note taking. There are many techniques out there, so use the ones that works for you.
These techniques include:
- Mind-Mapping Method
- The Outlining/Summarising Method
- The Cornell Method
- The Charting/Table Method
You may also combine these various techniques depending on the type of information and use colour codes and graphics to improve memorisation.
Note taking should not be the only way to learn. Combine with the following methods for more effective outcomes.
Method 2: Space Out Revision and Revisit Studying
Many research findings have shown that spacing out your studies over a period of time instead of cramming before an exam is a far better way to retain memory long term.
Spreading it out will require planning for 30 study sessions of 1 hour each over 3 months period instead of a straight 30-hour cram session.
Through this study routine, you should try to revise a topic you recently learnt 1 or 2 days after learning it in school.
As you progress in your routine, you should revisit what you studied 1 week or 1 month before as it to further strengthen your memory.
Come exam, you won’t be going into panic mode trying to cram everything. When you prepare in advance, you are also effectively managing your stress.
Method 3: Combining Visual and Words
Research has shown that combining your learning with visual and words where possible is a more effective way to recall what you learn.
In areas such as science where visuals and diagrams are common, try drawing these visuals in your own way into your notes or organising words into visual/diagrams so you can retrieve the information better.
Method 4: Retrieval Practices
Put away your notes and write down what you know about a particular subject topic purely based on your understanding and memory.
Check against what you missed out so you know where you need to work on.
This exercise reinforces what you have learnt and trains your brain to retrieve information easier especially when preparing for your exams.
Try to do this exercise regularly after covering a meaningful amount of topics. You should also get a friend to set the topics so you can simulate an exam environment.
In Part 4, the final of this series, we will reveal what other approaches top students take to prepare for exams.
Part 2: How to Achieve a Winning Mindset
Good results will help you secure scholarships to top private universities in Malaysia. If you want to know more about the types of scholarships and its requirements, check it out here.