“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail”
That’s what effective studying for exams comes down to at the end of the day. No doubt, there is a direct correlation between hours of study and your final grade, but not all hours registered on the timesheet translate into clear, useful and relevant content in your brain. There are certain guidelines to help you get the most from your studying time whilst maintaining your sanity in the process.
Firstly, let’s talk about your study technique. Whilst clocking the hours and systematically ticking off topics is a great place to start, it doesn’t guarantee that information will gently simmer in your brain, only to be expertly recalled in your time of need. Pay close attention to the figures below.
Statistics suggest that you retain:
- 90% of what you learn when you teach someone else
- 75% of what you learn when you practice what you learned
- 50% of what you learn when engaged in a group discussion
- 30% of what you learn when you see a demonstration
- 20% of what you learn from audio-visual
- 10% of what you learn from reading
- 5% of what you learn from a lecture
All too often, the two lowest ranking strategies on the learning totem pole are what students are banking on to get them through their exams. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to rethink that strategy and look to implement some new study methods.
To truly engrain new information into your memory, there are three crucial steps – Application, Errors and Corrections. After researching your topic, go explain it to a friend or family member, when you make an error, document it, look up the answer and repeat the process. Miller’s law suggests the human brain can only handle seven (plus or minus two) pieces of information in working memory. By this notion, ‘cramming’ must be considered a flawed study strategy. To truly understand the concepts you’re revising, put the information into practice.
Now let’s focus on the grind. Of course, studying can be an arduous process. Much like cleaning your room, you know it has to be done and the longer you leave it, the more difficult it will become. Procrastination in this scenario is the pile of dirty clothes growing by the day. Avoid procrastinating by giving yourself deadlines for different subjects and rewarding yourself upon successful completion of those subjects. Adhering to scheduled study periods and breaks can turn an arduous task into something entirely manageable. Importantly you won’t be left with the stress of clearing a month’s worth of mess in one effort.
That brings up another vital point about the studying process – maintaining a balance. The value of diet, sleep and exercise are seriously underestimated when it comes to psychological performance. Here are some tips to help you maintain that balance and keep you in great mental shape during exam period:
- Limit caffeinated drinks and sugar and replace them with healthy snacks such as bananas and walnuts. These foods contain tryptophan which your body uses to produce the sleep hormone ‘melatonin’.
- Sleep in a dark room without your smart phone which will regulate your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm).
- Regular exercise has been proven to produce the endorphins that sharpen memory and provide stress relief which is vital during the high intensity exam period.
Most importantly, don’t strain yourself. Learn to work efficiently by implementing the strategies and study habits above and you’ll give yourself every chance to achieve the result you deserve.
* The information is general and is not intended to serve as advice. DPM Financial Services Group recommends you obtain advice concerning specific matters before making a decision.