How to sharpen your study skills

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The Irish Times newspaper wrote an article back in September 2004 entitled ‘How to Sharpen Your Study Skills’, that is detailed below and is still relevant today. The CAO Application Process is now closed for a few months, so it is time to knuckle down, get stuck in and make the most of the last four months in Secondary School as you prepare for June 2020.

Article start – :

Your memory is going to be your friend. Good study techniques are the key to exam success. Plan now for the summer and you will achieve better learning in less time. Here’s how!

People who study well are often accused of being swats, grafters, nerds or workaholics. The reality is that good study techniques lead to better learning in less time. If you’re in an exam year, do yourself a favour. Adopt effective study habits and save yourself hours of frustration, wasted time and panic.

The first thing you need to do is change your attitude to the exam. It’s not a colossal test of everything you’ve ever learned. You don’t have to memorise every last line of every textbook in order to succeed. Think of the Leaving as an Olympic event. If you are competing in the 100 metre sprint, you don’t train for the marathon. Find out what your event is about and practice exactly that.

Your best friends are your books of past exam papers. Buy these early in the year and make sure they are dog-eared by June. If you regularly test yourself with questions from past exams, you are training correctly for your event.

Charles Garavan has spent years studying effective memory techniques. He started out as an average student himself. He admits to an undistinguished career at second and third level – barely scraping through exams despite putting in the effort. He decided to take on the Institute of Taxation examinations at around the same time that he started to study memory techniques. He came away with the highest marks in the country and an award for outstanding achievement.

“I learned that my approach to study was all wrong,” says Garavan, who runs an training programme for students called the Memory Academy. “I was reading material over and over, trying to get it stuck in my head. It was a frustrating and ineffective technique, and when you look at how the brain works, it simply doesn’t make sense to try and learn that way.”

Anyone with a mobile phone will admit that they don’t remember phone numbers like they used to. Why? Because the brain knows that the information is available in your phone. Every time you go to make a call you look up the number. You have trained your brain not to retain this information. If you looked at the number once and then tried to write it down, however, you would quickly tell your brain that this is information that must be kept. Effective study works on the same principle, says Garavan.

“If you are not consistently testing your learning as you go, your brain will not save it,” says Garavan. “We receive so many messages from our senses and environment every day that our brains learn to discard any information that it does not regard as important. You tell your brain what’s important by testing the knowledge as you go.”

So how does this method translate in a study setting? Rory Mulvey, director of Students Enrichment Services, describes the method.

“Before you begin studying a topic, quickly test yourself. Jot down roughly on a piece of paper everything you know about the subject, no matter how little. Spend about three minutes on this exercise and then open the book. Quickly read through the relevant section, taking brief notes. If you come across an important diagram, close the book and practise it quickly, then open the book and correct your attempt. When you have worked like this for about 20 minutes, close the book and notes.

Now comes the important part. Quickly test your knowledge by jotting down all you now know. This can be done in two minutes – don’t write sentences, just key words. Then check your notes to see how you did.”

This method works for two reasons. Because you call on your brain to retrieve the information before and after the session, your brain learns that this is information it needs to store. The act of testing yourself before and after gives you a clear idea of where the gaps in your knowledge are. That way you don’t waste time reading over information that you already know. By the end of the session, you have a clear idea of what you have learned and what you still need to learn. This sense of progress and awareness of work to be done is the essence of effective study.

This whole exercise should take about 25 minutes. By the end you are ready to move onto something else, knowing that you have made the most of this session.

However, 25 minutes can easily be wasted tidying the desk, responding to text messages, nipping down for a bite to eat – by the end of the session you’ve achieved nothing and you feel a sense of dread because the end of your study session is nowhere in sight. Sound familiar? Once you get into the habit of studying in the way described, three or four 25-minute sessions per night can yield great results. That’s less than two hours. You could easily spend three or four hours at your desk daydreaming, procrastinating, worrying and fiddling. It’s no fun so what’s the point? The way to get the best from the method is to plan each session in detail. It’s not enough to say “In this session I will study physics”. You need a clear goal such as “In this study session I will learn about the Doppler effect”. Write what you know, open the book, read the chapter, taking notes and testing yourself on diagrams as you go, close the book and notes and test yourself by writing down keywords. Follow by attempting a past exam question on the Doppler effect in the next session.

Rory Mulvey recommends preparing a weekly timetable every Sunday. Map out your study sessions in 25-minute blocks with five-minute breaks in between. Timetable breaks for TV programmes, phone calls, taking a walk etc. Be specific about what you want to achieve in each 25-minute block. Even if you don’t stick religiously to the plan, the weekly act of making the timetable helps you to focus on your goals.

If you follow these guidelines, test yourself regularly and get familiar with the exam papers from day one, the Leaving Cert/Junior Cert cannot throw you a curve ball. You’ve been examining your progress for months and the exam will just be another test of what your brain can do. And just in case you think you’re not bright enough, remember that if you can commit anything to memory, even a phone number, your memory is working and you can make it work for you.

memory hacks

(January 2020)

Andrea Leyden writes…We have scoured our brains and the internet for the best study hacks to help your brain remember information. Memory is a muscle. Get it in shape. This well help you to remember quicker and more easily. This will help you in your exams and in your life.

1. Walk Before An Exam

It’s been proven that exercise can boost your memory and brain power. Research conducted by Dr. Chuck Hillman of the University of Illinois provides evidence that about 20 minutes exercise before an exam can improve performance.

2. Speak Out Loud Instead of Simply Reading

Although this may make you look a little crazy, give it a go! You will be surprised how much more you can remember when you’ve said it out loud.

3. Reward Yourself With A Treat

There are many ways to integrate a reward system into your habits so you learn how to study for exams more efficiently.

4. Teach What You Have Learned

The best way to test if you really understand something is to try to teach it to someone else.

5. Create Mental Associations

The ability to make connections is not only an easier way to remember information, but it’s the fuel of creativity and intelligence. Steve Jobs famously said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something”. Mind Maps are an easy way to connect ideas by creating a visual overview of different connections.

6. Draw Diagrams

Drawing diagrams will help you to visualise information which would be hard to describe. This creates a visual memory in your mind which can be recalled in an exam.

7. Times New Roman is the Fastest Font to Read

Simply put – there’s a reason why Times New Roman is the default font on most applications!

8. Use Apps to Block Distracting Sites

The Self Control apps helps you to avoid distractions by blocking websites for a certain amount of time. Discover more student apps to make student life easier.

9. Watch a Documentary on the Topic

Documentaries are an entertaining way of compacting an entire story into a short timeframe. This will help you remember key details from a story plus you may even get extra credit for mentioning that you took the initiative and watched a film about the topic!

10. Search Google Like a Pro

Save time when researching sources online by mastering the biggest search engine in the world; Google. Follow Google tips to find what you need at your fingertips.

11. Create Flashcards for Quick Memory Buzz

Quickly test your knowledge of key concepts, definitions, quotes and formulas with the use of flashcards.

12. Take Regular Study Breaks

When your brain is working, you need to take regular study breaks to help your brain absorb more information but also to keep you motivated and focused when you are working. Take a short break after 45-50 minutes study as your focus and concentration will become impaired after this period, anything new after 1 hour 30 minutes does not get assimilated.

13. Listen to the Correct Type of Music

We looked into the area of how the correct types of music can lead to more productive studying by elevating your mood. Have you made your Mozart Spotify playlist yet?

14. Make Your Study Space Portable

We may be creatures of habit with favourite seats in the library, but information retention actually improves when you vary the places where you study.

15. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practicing sample answers to past exam questions can help train your brain to retrieve information. Create realistic, exam-like conditions and test your understanding.

16. Don’t Stay Up All Night Before an Exam

Make sure to get adequate rest the nights leading up to your exams. When you sleep, your brain assimilates the information you have learned when studying so getting a good night’s sleep will help you remember those pesky maths formulas you need for your exam!

17. Discover News Ways to Learn

Trying new study methods can help you find what really works for you. Use technology to your advantage by watching educational TED Talks or downloading useful dictionary apps for example.

18. Use Scents or Gum to Jog Your Memory

This may seem a bit random but spraying an unfamiliar scent while you’re studying is one of the study methods that can help jog your memory when you spray it again just before an exam. Chewing a strange kind of gum will work the same way.

19. Study in a Group

Studying in a group can help you collect new insights to enhance your learning experience.

20. Meditate

Meditation is one of the study methods that can help students stay focused when studying. Not only will meditation help you concentrate when studying but it will help reduce pre-exam stress as it improves both mental and physical health.

Source: goconqr.com

What is a study plan?

 A study plan is an organized schedule outlining study times and learning goals. Just like with work or school schedules, college students should develop a schedule that sets aside dedicated time each week for studying. This schedule should include dates of quizzes, tests, and exams, as well as deadlines for papers and projects.

Why do I need a study plan?

A study plan is an effective way to help you navigate through your college education, and hold you accountable for your own learning outcomes.

Time management can be challenging. Besides your classes, you likely have other commitments like extracurricular activities, work, and social engagements. Creating a study plan allows you to see how you spend your time, and ensures that you are setting aside enough time outside of class to complete homework assignments, study for tests, and review and retain the information you are learning. Study plans are particularly important for On-line students, since you need to have self-discipline and determination to complete your studies without the constant reminders of an instructor.

6 tips for creating a study plan

It’s important to understand that there is no “right” way to make a study plan. Your study plan will be personalized based on your specific needs, classes, and learning style.

Follow the guidelines below to get started on creating your study plan:

1: Analyze your current study habits and learning style – Think about what works and what doesn’t work for you. Are you able to study for long blocks of time once or twice a week, or is it more effective if you study nightly for thirty minutes? Are you more productive at a certain time of day? Do you retain material better if you study a subject immediately after class, or do you need a break first?

2: Evaluate your current schedule and time management – Use a digital or paper calendar to block out all of your standing commitments, including classes, work, and extracurricular activities. This will let you see how much of your time is already spoken for, and what time you have available for studying. If your schedule leaves little room for studying, you may need to evaluate what you can cut back on, or how you can rearrange your schedule to have more open time for studying.

3: Plan how much time you need to study for each class – For many years, the accepted rule has been that you need to study two hours for every one hour of class time, meaning that if you’re taking a typical 15-credit semester, you will spend 30 hours a week outside of class studying. There is some question about the efficacy of this ratio, especially in light of new technology that makes research and writing faster. At the beginning of each term, your instructors will give you syllabi for the classes you are taking. The syllabi will usually include the dates of any major exams or projects. You can use these as guides for calculating how much time to set aside for each class, as some courses might be more intensive than others. It will also help you schedule your study sessions to make sure you have enough time to complete all your assignments and prepare for exams.

4: Develop a schedule – Now that you understand how much time you need for studying, and how much time you have available, you can schedule your study sessions. Add your study sessions to your calendar like any other commitments. This ensures that you remember this is time set aside specifically for studying. Plan out which subject you will study on which day, to ensure that you’re devoting enough time to each subject. For example, Mondays and Thursdays can be set aside for math, while Tuesdays and Fridays can be devoted to English. If your schedule is busy, you may have to be somewhat flexible and creative in finding time to study. For example, if you commute to school via public transportation, you can use that time for reading. Or perhaps your job allows you to study when it’s not busy.

5: Assess your weekly calendar

Identifying your learning goals for each class will help you determine how much time you need to spend studying. At the start of the term, think about what you want to accomplish in each class. Maybe you want to master a specific skill, or improve your grade. These are overarching goals to help motivate you during the term. Then, at the beginning of each week, determine why you need to study and what you plan to accomplish in each study session. Are you preparing for a big exam? Is there a paper due? Are you able to read a chapter ahead in preparation for the next few classes? Adjust your study plan as necessary to meet your weekly goals, and get the most out of each study session. While it is tempting to skip your study session when there isn’t a test looming, you will reduce your future test preparation time by reading ahead and preparing for lectures.

6: Stick to your schedule – A study plan works best when it is followed consistently. You should try to develop a study plan that you can follow for the length of each term. You will have to adjust your plan as necessary when you switch your classes each term. Remember, the most important thing is sticking to your plan.

Four strategies for sticking to your study plan

1: Remember to take breaks

If your schedule includes long, multi-hour study sessions, be sure to take brief breaks every so often to stretch, hydrate and rest your mind. This will keep your brain fresh and help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

2: Schedule time for other activities

By achieving a balance schedule, your mind will be more receptive during time devoted to studying. If you schedule several long days in a row of studying, you will get discouraged and be tempted to give up. It’s recommended that you schedule time for non-academic activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and socializing with other students.

3: Maintain accountability
Some students find it helpful to study with a partner, as it provides accountability, as well as opportunities for discussion and collaboration. When creating your study plan, check with other classmates to determine if you can coordinate study sessions. However, if you tend to socialize more than study when you are around others, stick to an independent study plan. If you do have a study partner, make sure it’s someone with whom you are likely to stay on task.

4: Evaluate your study plan, and adjust as needed
Your study plan is all about helping you be more efficient and productive. If you find that it’s not working, don’t get discouraged. It’s ok to make changes as you figure out what works best for you.

Leverage tools for creating a study plan

If keeping a paper and pen schedule is not helpful to you, consider other ways for keeping your studies on track. Use a calendar app and set reminders when it’s time to start and end your study session. There are also a number of study planner apps like MyStudyPlanner and myHomework, which can help you manage your study schedules.

Source: intelligent.com/create-a-study-plan

www.qualifax.ie, the national learning database, share a good synopsis on addressing this question, that we share with you below…

 

Selecting the best possible course is a key decision to make and often a challenging one. The stress on Leaving Certificate students is compounded by intense pressure to choose the ‘right’ CAO course before they even step onto a university / IT campus.

For a few people, choosing a course is simple: they have always wanted to be a brain surgeon or a dentist or an engineer. Others tend to choose their third-level options on the basis of the number of points they expect to achieve in the Leaving Certificate, rather than on their particular aptitudes and interests. The result is that a considerable number of students discover that they have started on courses that may be unsuitable to them. For most, however, there is simply a bewildering variety of courses, many of which involve subjects that are not taught in school. So how should you go about choosing a course?

  1. Consider your interests, skills, values and personality

This requires the individual to develop a certain degree of self-awareness. This entails asking yourself: What kind of person am I? This process of self-assessment consists of using several instruments in order to uncover your interests, personality type, work-related values, and skills. It is looking at these things in combination that can help you figure out what courses will be good matches for you and you could learn something that will surprise you. The greater the overlap between an individual’s interests, aptitudes, and personal characteristics and those required by the area of study, the greater the degree of satisfaction when engaged in that area of study. This process will help you decide which course best fits you. If you find the right course at the right college you will be inspired to succeed.

  1. Research the courses and the colleges

Make a list of courses to explore and then research each course. The Internet (websites such as Qualifax and Careers Portal are excellent online resources), college prospectuses, family and friends are your best sources of information and support. Someone who is already studying the course can give you great insight from a student’s perspective. It is important to attend college open days or other career events and make every effort to speak to lecturers, tutors or admissions staff in the colleges you are interested in, as they will facilitate your decision-making. Some 30% of third level students drop out or change course, so something is going wrong with students initial decisions. A lot of heartache can be avoided if you take the time to look at the college websites to find out not just which subjects you will be studying on your course, but also to find out the content of the individual modules of each subject. In this way, you will know exactly what lies ahead of you. Discovering that you have made the wrong choice can be upsetting and expensive.  If you decide to change course and repeat 1st year in college you will pay the full cost for that repeat year – a total of approximately 8,000 euros.

Consider options outside the CAO, such as the further education sector. Many students who do not secure the points they want for a course through the CAO, do very well in a Post-Leaving Certificate course in the discipline they want to study and then go on to secure a place in their preferred CAO course the following year.

 

Explore options in the UK and Northern Ireland at www.ucas.com and in mainland Europe at www.eunicas.ie

 

  • Identify the courses in which you are most interested and some alternatives on which to fall back if you do not get the points for your first choice
  • Give serious thought to how you will prepare to enter your chosen course: for example do you have the right subjects? There are certain subjects that are essential for entry to particular courses and colleges and it is important that you are aware of these. Check online at www.qualifax.ie
  • Make sure you meet the minimum entry requirements, for example do you require higher level Maths or Irish for your course?
  • Check out the duration of the course and additional costs such as accommodation, books and travel
  • Other factors which may need to be taken into consideration include family responsibilities, financial difficulties and disabilities that may interfere with pursuing your goals.

 

  1. Match what you have come to know about yourself (self-assessment) to a course

 

During this phase of the career planning process you will decide which course is the best fit for you based on what you now know about yourself and the courses you have researched. This will entail looking at the jigsaw pieces of your life to date and putting them together. Considering your interests, hobbies, skills, aptitudes and achievements, both academic and personal, and identifying certain personality traits combined with appropriate course exploration will hold the key to a successful course choice.

 

Source: www.qualifax.ie