Study skills

Study skills

Charles Sprague Pearce (1896), Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.] Study skills are strategies and methods of purposeful learning, usually centered around reading and writing. Effective study skills are considered essential for students to acquire good grades in school, and are useful in general to improve learning throughout one's life, in support of career and other interests.

In the United Kingdom, studying a subject at university may sometimes be referred to as "reading" that subject. For example, "I am reading Physics at Oxford".

Best types of studying

Some key study skills include:

* Removing distractions and improving concentration
* Maintaining a balance between homework and other activities
* Reducing stress, such as that caused by test anxiety
* Strategies for writing essays
* Speed reading
* Notetaking
* Subject-specific study strategies
* Preparing for exams
*Time Management
*Self Motivation
*Talking to serious studyers

Maintaining a balance between studying and other activities

Study sessions

Many students find it hard to start working or work for too long when they do. If one finds himself avoiding starting work or seemingly finding ways out of studying then he should try to start studying for short periods of 10-15 minutes on a regular basis. This, if done properly, can help ease one into interrupting your normal daily routine enough to actually get some work done. When one finds that one can sit and concentrate (which are skills that need to be warmed up by this process as well) for longer periods then changing to a full study routine is possible.

If one finds that one studies for too long then it can seem much more of a chore than it really has to be. Even students who really enjoy their subject can end up resenting the amount of work they have to do if they fall into ineffective study patterns. If this happens one may begin to fall into the avoiding-starting-to-study pattern.

A realistic study pattern (although it is better to find your own personal pattern) is that of a designated 2 hour session with a 5 minute break every half hour. During the 5 minutes be mindful to get away from the studying and do something that is both relaxing and different e.g. get a breath of fresh air or a drink of water. Make sure that you end the 2 hour session whether you have completed what you have been studying or not and commit to return to that point in the next 2 hour session.

In between sessions try to do something you enjoy or something new and refreshing. It is sometimes easy to view times of study as mundane but they can also be times where you try new experiences and be creative. At first it may seem a little hard to think of things that you don't normally do and might enjoy and it is different for everyone. Some examples may include going to the park, watching a DVD, painting a picture, going to a museum, meeting friends (but preferably not talking about study), learning a musical instrument, watching a sporting event that you do not normally attend, reading a novel, playing a new sport, etc... It is important to attempt to change a revision period to a time where you are choosing to experience new things as well as choosing to learn new things, which is a much more positive way to approach studying

Preparing for exams

Preparing for an exam requires a good understanding of what is expected of you, a rigid work-life balance than maximizes your energy and strengths, a certain amount of self discipline, and a set of study skills that are effective, varied, and interesting.

It is a basic premise that the more that you use information (read it, speak about it, draw it, write it, use it etc...) the more you remember and the longer you will remember it.

The PQRST Method

The method that many students who like to add an overt structure to their learning to keep them on track is the PQRST method. It helps the student focus on studying and prioritizing the information in a way that relates directly to how they will be asked to use that information in an exam. The method can also be modified to suit any particular form of learning in most subjects. It can also allow more accurate timing of work so instead of having to decide how much time to attribute to one whole topic you can decide how long it might take to preview the material and then each step after that.

#Preview: Look at the topic you have to learn by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus.
#Question: Formulate questions that you would like to be able to answer once you have finished the topic. It is important that you match as much as possible what you would like to know to your syllabus or course direction. This allows a certain flexibility to take in other topics that may aid your learning of the main point or if you are just interested. Make sure that your questions are neither more specific or more open-ended than they might be in an exam.
#Read: Read through your reference material that relates to the topic you want to learn for your exam being mindful to pick out the information that best relates to the questions you wish to answer.
#Summary: This is the most flexible part of the method and allows individual students to bring any ways that they used to summarize information into the process. This can include making written notes, spider diagrams, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, making a voice recording of you summarizing the topic, or any method that feels most appropriate for what has to be learned. You can combine several methods as long as this doesn't extend the process too long as you may lose sight that you are merely seeking to use the information in the most appropriate way.
#Test: Use this step to assess whether you have focused on the important information and stayed on topic. Answer the questions that you set for yourself in the Question section as fully as you can as this using of the information is another way of using the information and remembering more of it. This section also reminds you to continually manipulate the information so that is focused on whatever form of assessment that it is needed for. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the point of learning and see it as a task to be completed mundanely. Try to avoid adding questions that you didn't formulate in the Q section.

Re-writing Notes

This is time consuming, but probably one of the cheapest and most effective ways of studying. There are two types of information that can be written over again: notes taken in class, or information out of a text book. If you're going to re-write notes that were taken from class, then you're ready whenever you have the time: just get out your notebook, pen and extra paper and begin to re-write. If you're going to re-write parts of a chapter from a book, the best way to go about it is: Highlight all the important information in the chapter. This makes re-writing quicker. Next, re-write the information that you've highlighted. This is good for students who don't retain information well from lecture classes.

Once you’re finished, the next step is one of the following: Write the notes again. If you can find time to re-write your notes at least twice, you’ll have a better chance of remembering. More than twice is even better, but it’s hard to find time for that. The other option is to make flashcards or mock test questions (both techniques are listed in this entry).

ummary Skills

Every student will have summary methods that are individual to them as the subjects they are using them for. It is important to vary your summary skills set and not get stuck on one method that you have always done and have had success with. Some methods are better suited to different subjects and tasks, e.g. mnemonics may fare better for learning lists or facts while spider diagrams better for linking concepts.

Mnemonics: This is a very old method of memorizing lists and organising them. As they are often funny, rude, or explicit, they are sometimes not seen as the creative and effective memory devices that actually aids the process of categorising information that occurs in the brain when trying to remember new facts by linking them to an event, word, or location.

Example 1: A simple childhood mnemonic is used for learning the points of the compass. Never Eat Shredded Wheat reminds us not only of the points of the compass but in the order they occur when encountered clockwise.

Example 2: Unlike elephants and compasses the best mnenomics actually relate directly to what it is that has to be learnt. A medical example of this is related to the four muscles surrounding the shoulder (the mnemonic taken from the first letter of each muscle givens SITS) and it is said that anyone hurting these muscles SITS out from sports or other activities. Given context the mnemonic itself is more useful as a memory tool despite also reminding you of the names of the muscles, the order in which they are located and so on.

The best menomics are generally personal ones that you generate at the point of learning and if possible are arranged to be in context. You can also use the imagery created e.g. an elephant with a compass in the first example, to remember the information more as images and stories in a method often praised by people who teach people to improve their memory.

Spider diagrams: Using spider diagrams or mind maps can be an effective way of linking concepts together. They are incredibly useful for planning essays and essays in exams. They can also be useful for linking loosely related chains of facts and make them form a more solid narrative of connected information. There are many books available that built on spider diagrams or mind maps as an effective summary tool used in all parts of modern life.

Diagrams: Diagrams are often underrated tools. They can be used to bring all the information together and give you practice at reorganizing what you have learned in order to produce something practical and useful. They can also remind you of information you have learned very quickly particularly if you made the diagram yourself at the time that you learned the information. Try buying a notebook with no lines and make a sketch, diagram, or pictogram of the information you have just learned. This could form part of the Summary part of the PQRST method or in any other way. These pictures can then be transferred to flash cards that are very effective last minute revision tools rather than rereading any written material.

FlashCards (A5 index cards): These are effective revision tools but students often set out to make them and they become more of a chore. It is much more effective to make cards at the time that you are revising. If these cards are made during the summary part of the PQRST method then are directly associated with what you learned. The cards are less effective when students set out to make them late in a revision cycle merely as tools to look at during the 20-30 minutes before an exam. The cards are indeed useful for last minute reading as they offer nothing new and therefore is more likely to focus on what you know and not alert you to something you don't know so well.

Hybridize all of the above: Since each of the above methods is proven to improve study outcomes, it makes sense that the ideal should be to do all of the above at once. Checkout study software generally for this approach where a hybrid of the above is emphasized.

Happy Pyramids

Some students find the topics that they are revising overwhelming and seemingly endless. Although the PQRST method can help maintain your focus on the whole point of learning the large topic in the first place there are other methods that help facilitate your learning.

If you break a large topic in a series of smaller topics that can be defined as a size of material that takes less than 10 minutes each to complete. Even the largest project or topic can be broken down into these bitesize sections. The important part comes in regarding the series of smaller 10 minutes as adding up to the whole topic and that it is finished.

This system can be drawn as a pyramid with topics requiring incrementally more time on each level. So if you decided that you needed to break it into 20 minute segments then you could place 10 minute and 5 minute topics on lower levels of the pyramid that mount up to the whole topic at the apex of the pyramid. Starting from the bottom when all the smaller blocks are in the place then the pyramid is built and the topic finished.

Topic ABCDEFGHIJK Collectively 1.5 hours

Part 1 ABC 20 Minutes

Part 2 DEF 10 Minutes

Part 3 GHI 5 Minutes

Part 4 JK 5 minutes

Something that may have been put or slowed down by the size or important of the topic may be greatly shortened. Of course you can apply any other study skill such as the PQRST method to each of the individual parts to help their progression..

Traffic Lights

It is a common pitfall in studying to set out to learn everything that you have been taught in an orderly and precise fashion. If time, boredom, and fatigue were not variables that can impact on your studying and even health then this may always be possible. More normally you will have a set amount of time (that doesn't encroach on leisure time for any reason) to learn a set amount of topics. An easy way to separate what is really important to know (likely to constitute the majority of exam marks) from what you would like to know if you had infinite time and energy is the traffic light system.

Green: Take a green pen and label or place a star next to everything that is essential to know for your exam. These topics should be studied first and allow you to progress to the less number of amber and red topics. These should generally be the first few on a syllabus and be the easiest concepts to learn but also the easiest to underestimate.

Amber: Take an orange or gold pen and label everything that is neither essential to know or is not too time consuming to learn. This should form the mainstay of your learning and range from topics leading from the green range of topics to ones leading to the red range of topics.

Red: Take a red pen and label everything you would want to know if you had all the time and energy necessary but not at the expense of the essential green topics and desired amber topics. This would include overly complicated ideas and subjects that may add one or two marks but may cost you if you focus all your attention just on knowing the more difficult bits and underestimating the importance of accumulating the green and amber topics first and to a greater extend. A greater focus on green and amber topics may also lead to topics that seemed red to become more amber as time goes on.

The color system should remind you that it is easier to get moving on green topics and to be needlessly stopped and held up by red topics. It is also important to stop amber topics It is also a healthy reminder to keeping your learning as a progressive experience and never allow it to stagnate where all topics become more red in nature as you become more tired and bored. An alternative form of this can be used in which you determine which subjects you need to spend more time on.

ee also

* Homework
* Learning
* Study Software

External links

* [ A good study technique]
* [ Study Guides and Strategies]
* [ Collaborative Study Environment]
* [ Tips for remembering dates and long numbers]

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