Top Study Skills, Tips and Techniques for Students and to Pass Exams
• Study in 20 min sessions
• Have breaks
• Use spd rdng techniques
• Drink water (eat well: omega 3, protein, etc) and look after yourself
• Sleep a lot (the more you learn to more you have to sleep because sleep is for consolidating your learning)
• Have a study buddies as part of collaborative learning (plural – sometimes your study buddy might get ill, so have a few)
• Plan and prepare
• Download everything
• Learn to manage stress (tapping, meditation/mindfulness, etc) – this might be the most important study tip! Stress is responsible for at least 80% problems during the exams.
• Find your learning style
• STUDY SMART NOT HARD
Since so many people need reading for study purposes at different times through their lives, it’s worth thinking about how to apply the spd rdng techniques. Jan had the opportunity to see how well the advice we’d been giving to students actually worked in practice while he was preparing for his MSc in Environmental Psychology. It worked well. This is what he did.
- For each of his subject areas, he spent about a day in the library previewing all the books on his reading list and making brief notes next to each. While other students were daunted by the thought of ‘reading’ 70 books, after one day Jan knew which ones contained what sort of information, which ones were worth buying, where to find relevant information, and in addition he’d got a really good overview of the subject.
- Before each lecture or seminar, he would either rapid read or have a 20-minute session on one (introductory) book on the subject. During the lecture, he was then free to listen, evaluate, and add to his mindmap things he’d missed or misunderstood from his initial read. Other students were frantically writing down everything, since they were in no position to judge which bits were important.
- He did syntopic processing with four books (plus joker) to gather information for each essay he had to write (the title of the essay was his purpose).
- He used the search facility online to find the relevant websites and to identify and download papers containing relevant information to his dissertation.
Unfortunately, we don’t know of too many spd writing techniques – once the information had been gathered and organized in mindmaps, writing the dissertation had to be done one letter, one word, one sentence at a time.
The statistics experience At his initial interview, Jan had ‘exaggerated’ how much he knew about statistics (in reality nothing), so the first (compulsory) statistics exam (for which there was no teaching) promised to be something of a challenge. Since he knew absolutely nothing, it took him four false starts with books purporting to be for beginners before he found the one it was possible to get the information from easily. (The worst book was one which kept adding in jokey comments about the author’s life – they looked more interesting, but actually proved to be very distracting and unhelpful.)
First, he downloaded all the books. Then, using the one comprehensive book, he started by making an overview mindmap of the key aspects of the subject and stuck it in the middle of an empty wall. (The purpose was ‘to make an overview of the six main aspects of statistics’ – the number was dictated by the number of chapters in the book, each of which focused on a particular area.) This process actually took 27 minutes rather than 20, because although each branch of the mindmap was pretty much the title of a chapter, he spent enough time on each chapter to understand approximately what the chapter was about and to add a few ideas to each branch. (The six were: variables and research design; SPSS; descriptive statistics; probability, sampling and distributions; hypothesis testing and statistical significance. This was not a complete overview of the subject, but he was only aiming at getting enough information to pass the exam.)
He then spent six 20-minute sessions getting a more in-depth overview of each of the key areas on the initial mindmap – and added each to the wall display in its relevant position.
Next, he started at the end of each chapter and worked through the ‘study questions’. Each question was the ‘purpose’ for a 20-minute session (ie to get 6 key ideas to answer the question “[title of the question]”). The first question in each section he found hard, but since subsequent questions began to include information he’d found for an earlier question, they got easier and/or took less time to answer.
On the evening before the exam, he downloaded all the books again and then went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep. In the morning he ate a healthy and substantial breakfast. In the exam room, he got into a good state (smile, breathe, open peripheral vision, pause and plan) before he turned over the paper – and sipped water throughout the exam. With the multiple-choice answers, if he wasn’t sure he guessed. (Many of his guesses proved to be right – possibly due to having downloaded the information?)
He passed the exam with 70%, while some people who had previously studied statistics for three years failed. And his whole study process, once he’d found the right book, took a day and a half. He started at lunchtime on the Saturday, worked in 20-minute chunks through the rest of the weekend (with breaks of 5 to 15 minutes between sessions) and sat the exam on Monday morning. He would scarcely have been able to read once through the book in that time if he’d been using traditional reading techniques.
Revise using past exam questions
When preparing for exams, get past papers for your subject. Write the first question as your purpose, spend five minutes jotting down anything you already know on a mindmap, then have a 20-minute session with your books to collect six additional points you would include in your answer. Then do the same with the next question, and the next, etc.
You will find that almost everything for the first question will be new information. The second question will possibly overlap slightly with the first, the third with both the previous two, and by about question five or six it will just be a case of rearranging material you already know.
We recommend that you teach these spd rdng techniques to a friend (or two). As well as helping you consolidate your new skills, it will also allow you to study collaboratively, which will bring immense benefits. Try syntopic processing (>22)using different books, or the same books in a different order – particularly for subject overviews, or on revision exam questions. You can take notes on different aspects of a subject and share your results or prepare questions on different texts for one another. You can collaborate face to face or