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

With only a matter of weeks to go to the Leaving Certificate examinations, it is now time to transition from doing homework to full-time study. Indeed your teachers should have by now ceased giving homework and be focused on study, passed papers and particular areas of examination questions that might come up in the examinations.

When it comes to study, you should have by now summarised each chapter in each subject book that can be summarised into manageable study notes like a mind-map, pointer cards and / or note-pad. Studying from the actual books themselves is difficult as you are looking at and reading all of this information, trying to decipher what is core and key, and what part of it could be asked in an examination. If you haven’t already done this, then do it, it is not too late. You still have lots of time left to transfer the main subject chapter information that could be asked about in an exanimation into manageable study notes. This will make your study periods easier, more productive and indeed more enjoyable.

Speaking of study periods, how long should you be studying for as you head into the final furlong of this long 5-6 year school race?

There are many different theories of this from many experts. Some suggest 45 minute periods with a 15 minutes break, some say 60 minutes and so on. I guess it is really what works best for you. You should have some form of study plan / agenda that gives you some structure to your day and ensures that you are giving adequate, ample and the necessary time to each subject that require it. Whatever you choose, include break times, put the study plan on paper and stick to it.

 

Fail to plan, plan to fail…

 

 

study skills examination techniques

With 100 days to go to the Leaving Certificate Examinations, you as a student are now feeling the pressure, feeling somewhat anxious and thinking how will I get through the next three months March, April and May. You’ve just had your last mid-term break (ever!) and it is time to once again and for one last time start studying and preparing for what is probably the most important examination you have to do in your life. So, how do you go about doing this, so that you don’t get overwhelmed, stay on track / focused and be the best you can be in June?

Consider the following:

  • Do a realistic, yet challenging Study Plan
  • Doing more study than Homework
  • Keeping August in your mind’s eye
  • Enjoying your last days in secondary school
  • Doing your best

Do a realistic, yet challenging Study Plan

Plan out the next 100 days on paper in the form of a Study Plan and put it over your study desk. Using 45-60 minutes of study periods and 15 minutes break times, see it as a working week i.e. clocking in and clocking out

Doing more study than Homework

The transition from doing homework to doing a study as your Teachers should be encouraging you to do as from now. Going back over your subject summaries and past papers should be your primary focus

Keeping August in your mind’s eye

Think of that day in the middle of August, when the results ‘come out’. Don’t be the person to be disappointed; be the person who is delighted with their results, looking forward to the CAO offers the following week.

Enjoying your last days in secondary school

Don’t forget to enjoy the last 100 days in secondary school. I know it is easy to say, however, when you are enjoying them, coupled with working hard, it will help the learning’s more stick in your mind.

Doing your best

At the end of the day, all you can do is your best and do try to give these 100 days your all, with no regrets. So shackles off, head down and be the best you can be…