The most common barrier to academic success encountered by students is lack of effective techniques for study and exam preparation. Studying effectively is not a matter of chance. It takes a combination of skills such as organization, time management, prioritization, concentration and motivation to achieve academic success.
In order to progress from one level to the other, students have to continually enrich their skills and perfect the act of studying for exam success. What worked at the previous level might not work for subsequent levels. As you progress in the educational ladder, you are required to digest larger amounts of information at a quicker pace than that which was required in the previous level. So perfecting effective study skills is a continuous task.
Here are some study tips that you can incorporate into your study habits:
- Be organised: This involves sorting out your tasks and prioritising them accordingly. This is not only educational related tasks but also personal tasks. Good time management skills are required alongside good organisation skills. Sorting and allocating appropriate time for personal tasks frees up your time to study more effectively. You are then able to organise your educational tasks based on subjects, marks awarded, date of exam and so on. This allows you to know and be clear on just how much study effort is required for subject. Get in the habit of using a planner or calendar to plan all your activities including rest, recreational and social activities. Take ten minutes before each class to review your notes from the previous class. Take ten minutes after each class to "fix up" and review the notes just taken. Break large or overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable steps.
- Be prepared: Before you read, make sure you are in an environment that is conducive for you. The library is a perfect place for reading but not every student likes reading in the library. Some people actually prefer to read whilst listening to music. Each person has different learning preferences and styles that benefit them. Be prepared according to your preference. If you are tackling a tricky topic one that will require a lot of research, being prepared means making available means of researching such as text books or internet. Aside from the big things, little things like switching off your mobile phone and having a glass of water to rehydrate are required. Not being prepared could harm your study plan as you waste time looking for things you need or you get distracted by your phone ringing. Don’t ignore the little things.
- Be sure to assess your level of concentration: If you are not able to focus, you are not likely to retain much information. Determine what you need to do to enable yourself to focus (e.g., eat, take a short nap, a walk, several deep breaths, etc.). Try a different learning style to stimulate your brain like; Auditory learning which means learning by listening. Try recording and listing to your notes. There is visual learning which means learning by sight. Try drawing a diagram and incorporating colours. You can also try tactile learning, which simply means learning by doing. Try doing role playing and building models where possible. The interesting part of assessing your level of concentration is to test whether you are able to recall the information you have just store away. Test whether you are able to explain it to a novice without reproducing word for word how you have learnt.
- Study strategically:Before you read, have a purpose for reading. Look through the material you need to study and while you are on it, make a list of the questions you would like to answer after reading the material. It is advisable not to move ahead in the chapter until you can answer your questions. It is important to make your own notes while reading especially if it is a textbook. Make sure you “study” past question papers. Practice past questions but also study them and notice question styles, marks awarded etc. That being said do not pin your hopes on any emerging patterns as examiners have been known to deviate from patterns to discourage selective reading.
- Take tests wisely: During exams the easiest mistake that students make is not reading the questions properly. Be sure to read the questions well and understand what is been asked. Take a few seconds to skim through the entire exam paper to better help you plan your time. You may choose to answer the easy questions first bearing in mind that these probably carry lower marks than the harder questions. Pay attention to information in questions that may help in other parts of the exam. Whilst you keep an eye on the time, make sure that you do not rush and make silly mistakes such as grammatical and spelling errors.
Whilst the above steps will help towards creating a very effective study habit, the most important tip is to know yourself and find what suits you. Let the results drive your practice. If your results are good, then stick to what you are doing and polish one or two things to perfect it. If your results are not good then utilise these 5 steps continuously till they become a habit. Make a few adjustments as needed until your results are reflective.