Two exams down already and I’m hopeful of passing both of them. The best part is I studied barely a few hours for each paper. Over the years I’ve refined my system of study to what it is today. Now putting this method up may cause some of you to try it out but it does come with a disclaimer. It’s worked for me but may not necessarily work for you so proceed with caution.
Briefly then here’s how it’s done step by step.
1) Assimilate pertinent information:
It’s important to know what subject you’re studying for and the matter related to it. Once you do, all you need is to sift through the mountain of course material and find what would be required for the examination. Now the best way to do that is to have the question papers and solutions for the last couple of years. Sit down and start marking a star next to each question that repeats itself over the years. It follows that the more the stars the greater the importance of that question and the more the attention you need to pay towards it. This way of locating questions from the question papers greatly reduces the amount of material you need to go through. Instead of studying a few hundred answers your are reducing it to a mere 15-20.
2) Making associations:
The next step is the questions and their answers. I like to pick out certain key words from the text and underlining them so that I can immediately recognize the pattern of the answer by the key word itself. There will be a couple of key words per answer and you need to associate them with the question and each other.
3) Take frequent breaks:
If you find your mind wandering from the task at hand do not try and get it back on track. Instead take a short walk around and do other things till you feel you can get back to the books. A study conducted by neuroscientists found that learning works in a peculiar way. The information that you just take in replays itself in you’re mind outside of conscious awareness just like a tape on rewind. This helps in the storage of information and makes the connections in your brain stronger so that the information can be quickly retrievable when you need it. So a small break is actually a good thing.
4) Reward yourself:
If you complete a particularly tough answer reward yourself with something. You could probably sit on the computer and surf the net if you wish. Anything that you’re not supposed to be doing would work. A reward basically helps as a motivator to further study and complete the rest of the answers so that you can reward yourself again. Very effective.
5) Eat regular meals:
This one’s pretty much common sense. Skipping a meal doesn’t help. No matter how stressed you feel it won’t do to skip meals. Your brain is a muscle that requires energy to run. Especially during these times of heightened activity it makes a lot of effort and is an energy hog. You need to have a lot of simple carbohydrates that are assimilated quickly into the body. Or just buy yourself a pack of commercially available glucose and make a drink to sip on.
6) Sleep Well:
Not sleeping well can make a great difference in how your brain performs. Most of what you study is reinforced while you sleep. Which means that no matter how much material you still need to get through, try getting in a 4 hour sleep at least in the night. Alternatively you can take 20 minute power naps. But no more than 20 minutes because then you will go into the next phase of the sleep cycle and to wake up from that stage will make you feel groggier than before.It would also help if you drank a cup of coffee just before you took that nap. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in so once you’re done with that nap you’ll wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy.
7) Revise to reinforce:
The revisions are absolutely vital to retaining information long enough to get through the paper. Without them you’re as lost as a shipwrecked sailor. But also keep in mind that memory follows the law of decreasing gains. The more the revisions does not necessarily mean the greater the retention.
It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of negative mind speak. Telling yourself that you can’t do something or it’s overwhelming is a defeatist attitude. Giving up before you try just doesn’t make sense to me. Cut yourself short every time you find yourself thinking negatively and replace them with more positive thoughts.
Oxygen is very important for the optimum functioning of the brain.
That is where exercise comes into the picture. Exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain. More blood, more oxygen, increased performance.
Most of these tips are designed more as a prelude for making you’re mind more receptive to accepting information rather than focusing on the information itself. Also I have used this way of studying to get through my B.A exams. How it would work for someone else I cannot imagine. Hope this post can be of help to some people though.