Monthly Archives: October 2011

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 6                                   Visual Helps

Studying does not have to be limited to words.  There is an adage that says “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  That picture concept works well for studying and remembering terms and the relationship between different components, elements, areas, etc.  A good way to remember something is to draw a flowchart, a picture or diagram of what you want to learn.  Moreover, this study method takes you away from rote learning and opens the door to meaningful learning.  You will not be limited to a memorized script but will be able to understand the interrelationship or interdependency of different components.  If you understand you will remember, it is as simple as that.

So how is it done?  Suppose you are studying the different branches of Science.  A good way to learn this is to draw a tree.  For your trunk write in the words Branches of Science.  Then for each branch of Science, draw a branch on your tree and write the branch of science on the branch, for example Physics, Biology, Chemistry or Botany, etc.  In this way you will be able to not only learn the words, spellings, etc., but you will be able to visualize these branches.  Our daughter used the visual aid method the other day and she found it worked well.  The next morning after drawing a diagram of a particular term, the teacher gave a surprise quiz.  One of the terms on the quiz was the one she had just done with a diagram.  She said that when the teacher gave the question she was able to see the diagram in her mind and was able to answer the question.  A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 5:                       Categorize Vocabulary

Whether you are studying Social Studies, English, any of the Sciences such as Biology, Science or Physics there will be vocabulary words to learn.  Even in Maths there are mathematical terms to learn.  When we are presented with a large number of words and terms to learn, how do we best learn them?

If you try to learn vocabulary just by re-reading again and again a large list of words or terms, you will not be able to recall many of these words.  People learn new information better if they categorize them into groups.  Once they have done that they can associate these words with some meaningful grouping.  Breaking the words down into smaller units makes it easier to recall them.

For example if you have just covered a chapter in your textbook on the different kinds of trees, you may be required to learn not only their common names but their scientific Latin names and whether they are coniferous or deciduous trees, etc.  Maybe you also need to know where these trees usually grow.  Put your vocabulary list of trees into categories such as:  temperate zone, alpine zone, arid zone and tropical zone.  Then list your trees.  For example the spruce tree (Picea) is a coniferous tree and is most often found in temperate and alpine zone.  So you could put it under your Alpine Zone category or both categories.  Beside it write the letter C to stand for Coniferous.  In the same way add a D for Deciduous.

By breaking it down into smaller units, you will find it easier to remember the terms or words, you will remember them by important categories (that you need to know anyway) and you will remember all the important details you need to know about trees because you have made a table of associations.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 4:                        Osmosis or Notes?

Osmosis is a term used in Biology that means, simply put, passive transportation.  A simple example of osmosis is what happens when a tea bag is put into hot water.

Too many times I see students just reading their textbooks.  They call that studying.  There is this idea that if one passively looks at the book and reads it enough times, the words and the knowledge will transfer from the book to the brain.  With this kind of information transferal, only a small percentage will ever stay in the brain.  In fact what often happens is that you end up not reading, but rather day dreaming or falling asleep.  Your mind drifts away from the text and you think about other things, or close your eyes.

If you want to learn a lot from your Science or English (whatever the subject) books, then you need to use a different method for studying.  The recommended way is to take notes.

First of all take notes in class.  In my English language classes I see many students, children and adults alike, who do not take notes.  These passive learners often do poorly in the exam.  I encourage my students to take notes because I know they cannot remember all that has been said.  The notes that you take in class will be sketchy, very brief; you may even have gaps in your notes of things that you forgot to write down or couldn’t write down fast enough before the teacher went on to another point.

Therefore when you get home you should study by rewriting your notes.  Have a separate notebook for this.  Take your scribbled, rushed, classroom notes and write them out neatly and in a proper order.  By redoing your notes you will be able to fill in the gaps you missed in class.  You will also refresh your memory.  This is the place to draw diagrams, do outlines, etc. so you can remember what you learned in class.  Rewriting your notes daily, the same day you have taken the classroom notes, is the best way to study your notes.  You will find that by doing this, you will have retained a lot of information.  You now also have a good set of study notes to refer to later on.

Outside of notes being a good study and retention tool, notes will also give you a record of information that has been discussed in class and is not in the book.  Many teachers will also include classroom, not just textbook, information on the exam.

Also, while you are studying from a text, have pen and paper in hand and write down the important points, vocabulary, etc.  Even draw diagrams showing the interrelationship between objects, terms, etc.  If you are a visual learner, then a drawing or diagram is an excellent way to remember information.  By taking bullet notes, jotting down important points, making diagrams and etc. you are actively learning and concentrating on your textbook material.

By taking notes you will not memorize the subject material, you will recall the information.  Memorizing allows you to remember information for the short term, recall means you have placed that information in the long term memory category of your brain.  Long term memory is where you want it.

Know Your Stuff

“Whether you are writing a review or a love letter, the great thing to be confronted with is a very vivid idea of your subject.”  Modern essayist, Virginia Woolf gives good advice.  Any written piece must have substance.  An article that does not have sufficient, well written content isn’t worth reading.

This is especially true when we live in an age where we are inundated with information.  In 2007 it was predicted that human knowledge would double every 5 years.  It was calculated that academic publications were increasing by 35% and it was predicted that they would double every 2.3 years.  This only speaks about new knowledge and information, but old information is also available.  Many famous libraries are going digital.  That means that even rare and antiquated books are available to everyone.  Therefore, when you write for your audiences, you must make sure that the information you give and the way you write is of the highest degree.  Because there is so much information available, the competition is fierce.  This is particularly true on the Internet.  Therefore there is no room for empty words; words that just fill space and are without substance.

To have a ‘vivid idea’ means that you need to know your subject well.  You actually need to know more about your subject, and think more about your subject than you write about your subject.  If you don’t have the information about a particular topic that you are going to write about, you need to research it well.  You need to research it to the point that you are well-versed in the matter.  When you know your subject, you generally write better than if you piece-meal a topic together from here and there because you aren’t familiar enough with your topic.  If you don’t write an article of substance and if it is not well written, then you will loose your readership.

Once you have your content, you need to plan your article.  Some people brainstorm before writing.  They may also do an outline that includes an introduction paragraph (your thesis paragraph), about 3 body paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph.  A general rule of thumb is to have at least 3 supporting points for your topic.  If you don’t have that, then you don’t have enough content to write about.  If you do this, you will construct a well laid out article.

Of course a well written article must be grammatically correct, include creatively well-placed vocabulary and capture the reader’s interest.  Don’t use words just because they sound appealing.  Know exactly how to use a word and how it will enhance the article to say precisely what you want it to say.  Good grammar is an absolute must.  Bad grammar will turn away your reader.  If your grammar needs help, take some training.  It will give you great dividends in the end.

Writing a full-bodied article that is chock-full of interesting and informative content is vital to a successful paper.  Only William Shakespeare could write “Much Ado About Nothing”.  Mere mortals must write about something.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 3:                        Plan Not to Cram

As a university student I never studied the night before the exam.  I figured that if I didn’t know it by then, I wasn’t going to know it by cramming the night before the exam.  That principle worked well for me because my graduating GPA was 8.3 (3.57 on the 4 point system).

I did study though.  I studied hard throughout the year.  Then the night before the exam I rested.  I took the night off and relaxed so my mind would be fresh for the exam.

Plan to study not procrastinate.  Determine how much material has to be covered in a particular time period.  Then make a schedule accordingly.  Know you exam schedules and what material will be on the exam.  Then plan to study consistently throughout the week and months ahead.  Ideally, try to study every day.  Make sure to allot enough time for all your subjects.  Do concentrate on those that you have the most difficulty with, but also bear in mind that certain subjects like Maths and Sciences, especially Chemistry and Physics, have lots of concepts that are perfected by practice.  If you are in the Sciences, you will need to spend lots of time studying before the exam.  English too, takes time and planned study times, especially if English is a second language for you.

When you cram, you retain the information for only a short period of time.  The time may be no longer than a few days after the exam.  But if you set up a study plan then you will be able to retain the knowledge for a longer length of time.  It may be a life-time.  When you think about it, it makes sense.  Short-term study causes short-term results.  Long-term study causes long-term results.

Some students need to work while they go to school.  Some work to support family members and some work to support themselves while they go to college or university.  If this is the case, you may not be able to study every day, but take all your priorities and schedule your life accordingly.

If you do work, you may find that you have to cram, but try not to make it your practice.

If you put a good study plan in place you will find that your grades increase remarkably.  The reward of good grades is worth the effort.

Developing Good Study Habits

Tip # 2:                       Have a Set Place & Time

Recipe for sleeping:  Curl up on your bed with your Chemistry (or Physics) textbook, study for 15 minutes and it is guaranteed that you will fall asleep.  If you don’t have a Chemistry or Physics book, any textbook will do.  You might not even have to read for the full 15 minutes.

To study you need a study place.  Your bedroom is fine as long as your bed is not your desk.  Having your own desk and a straight back, padded seat chair is ideal.  If that is not possible, then a table and chair will do, even if it is the kitchen table.  Your study area should be away from the main traffic in the house.  If there are too many distractions, you will not be able to concentrate on your subjects.  Some students, especially if they attend a college or university, prefer to study in the library or a study centre.  This is fine, but don’t use the library or centre as a social gathering place for you and your friends.  You are there to study.

When you study is also important.  Try not to study too late at night when you are tired.  Do plan to study at set times.  Don’t leave the study time to ‘when you want to study’ because that time will never come.  Determine that you are going to study at a set time every day and then stick to that time.  Set a time for all your subjects, English at a set time, Science at a set time, Maths at a set time, etc.  Discipline is very important if you want to know your subject material well enough to get good grades.  You can neither procrastinate (put off doing your studies tomorrow when you should study today) nor short-change yourself.  If you have set a time to study for 2 hours then study the full 2 hours, not just ½ hour or even 1 ½ hours.

Do not study straight through for the full 2 hours without taking a break.  As human beings we have short attention spans.  An adult can best concentrate for 20 minutes only and a child for less time.  Therefore take a short break every 20 minutes or ½ hour.  Get up from your chair and walk around the house, the exercise will send oxygen to your brain.  Get up and look out the window for 2 to 5 minutes.  Looking at scenery relaxes the eye muscles and reduces eye strain.  Go the kitchen and get a drink of water or juice.  Help your mother set the table for dinner.  Talk to someone else in the house for 5 minutes.  Take a 5 minute break between your English, Science, Maths, etc.  Now go back to your studies.  You will be refreshed and you will be able to retain the information better.