Successful studying: seven proven study techniques – which one works for you?

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Successful studying: seven proven study techniques – which one works for you?


Tests and exams are looming, especially if you’re studying via correspondence or distance learning online, and you have a mountain of course material to study (and to make sure it stays in your head), but before you get stuck in, it’s worth identifying what style of learning works best for you.

Cape Town-based psychometrist and counsellor Madeeha Hargey offers seven simple but effective study techniques which are listed below, but how do you know which is the right one for you? The key is to understand how you tend to process information. Are you a visual or auditory person? Or perhaps a combination of both? The methods listed below are simple but can be applied to any level of learning. Try them all and see which works for your learning style.

Mnemonics. For those who enjoy puzzles and memory games, the use of mnemonics can be useful. Mnemonics are special cues that help you remember bits of information related to each other. This can be a rhyme or an acronym. For example, when trying to remember the order of the planets in the solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune), just remember My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. Enjoy rap music? You could create a rap or rhyme to help remember a concept or chapter in your textbook.

Keep it simple. Einstein once said: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." As the level of work becomes more challenging, it is easy to get confused amongst the big words and concepts. A useful tip to ensure you understand what you’ve just learnt is to try to explain it to a child or someone who has no knowledge about what you are studying. If they can understand how you explained a complicated concept, then you know you fully understand it yourself!
Colour it! Try colour-coding your notes for each chapter of work. This can be done with highlighters, felt-tips or post-its. Your brain will start to associate the chosen colour with a particular chapter. For those who enjoy using mind-maps, colour-coding them can also be helpful.

Multi-media. Sometimes it is helpful to view the same content of information but in different mediums. Instead of just going through the prescribed textbook, look at the recommended reading list, and check whether there are online tests or past exam papers. Also try watching YouTube clips that involve the subject you are studying for.

Talk it out. The use of flash cards or having a word or phrase written on a piece of paper is another way to assess your knowledge on a particular topic. If possible, ask a friend or sibling to go through the chapter you studied and have them ask you questions at random. This is also an easy indication of which areas you need to focus on.

Switch it up. Often, we study according to the textbook, in chronological order. By studying chapters in a random order, we tend to focus more on what is happening in that chapter since we can’t predict what the next chapter will be. This is especially helpful if there are areas that you dislike and typically want to avoid.

Voice notes are your new friend! With the advancement of technology, using the voice recorder on your cellphone is another useful technique to process information, as it is reliant on the ears. It has the added bonus in that the voice clips can be played anytime, for example while waiting in the queue at Pick n Pay, walking from campus, or even while working out at the gym.

20 Feb 2019