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Effective Ways to Study

September 15, 2017
Written by: Stephanie Dunaieff

It is important to start to year off strong and begin studying right away. Many students are unsure of the most effective ways to study and resort to rereading notes or a textbook. 
Here are some effective ways to study to help the student remember the material. 

Step 1: Pick a way to figure out what the student knows and what the student doesn't know. 

Flashcards
How to use flashcards?
Create flashcards on paper or index cards or a flashcard app.  It is more beneficial to write flashcards than create them on an app, but both ways are helpful for retrieving the information. 
Flashcards can be used over and over again to practice the information until it is memorized. Some flashcards can be used either way also.  For example, a vocabulary flashcard could be used where the student sees the definition and then says the word or where the student sees the word and then says the definition.  When a student is learning a second, third, or any additional language, the student can also practice going between the native language and the new language or the new language and the native language. 
Why flashcards work? 
Since tests require students to retrieve information to be able to answer the questions, this is a great way to study.   By practicing retrieving the information while studying, it will be easier to retrieve the information during the exam.  Countless times the students’ first attempt at retrieving the information is during the test.  This does not allow the students the ability to know what concepts they are still struggling with until the day of the exam. 
Additionally, flashcards normally contain facts, vocabulary, formulas or similar declarative facts.  Meanwhile, tests use additional words to describe the answer and these words or other test questions can be used as clues to help arrive at the correct answer. 

Quizzes
How to use quizzes?
A student can retake old quizzes, take practice quizzes online, or create new quizzes.  It is useful to take multiple quizzes throughout the studying process.  This will help the student to see what he or she has learned and what he or she still needs to work on. 

Why quizzes work?
Similar to flashcards, quizzes force a student to retrieve the information before the exam. 

Step 2: Create a study plan. 

The study plan should include how long the student had to study, how the study plans to study, where the student plans to study, and how long the student plans to study each day. 
It is always better to start studying as early as possible.  This allows the student the most amount of time to prepare.  Additionally, it takes time, up to 2 weeks, to move information into long term memory.

Step 3: Pick multiple ways to practice the information before the exam. 
Mnemonics
Create or find mnemonic devices to help the student remember the information.  Some examples are Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally or PEMDAS to remember the order of operations in math and All Students Take Calculus to remember which trig functions are positive in each quadrant.

Songs
Create songs to help students remember the information. Creating a song takes time and effort.  The student really needs to consider the important parts of the topic and which words would describe the information and fit to the music.  During this process, the student is studying the information.   Singing the song will also help the student to remember the information after he or she created the song. 

Connections
Connect the new information to the information that the student already knows.

Art
Create an art project to represent or explain the information.   This could be something as basic as sketching a picture to doing a full painting or sculpture.  By making something creative it switches to more of a diffused attention which allows for more abstract thinking.   It also requires more effort than traditional studying methods so the information is being used for a longer period of time. 

Step 4: Reflect
Think about what you learned and how well you understand it.  Should you continue to review it every day, every other day, or maybe just once a week?  Additionally, think about the different methods that you used to study and which ones worked well for you.

Categories: Study Skills, High School, College
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