7 Tips to Study More Efficiently
The most efficient learning methods are counterintuitive. They defy common sense. There is nothing like a math person or a science guru; attitude is everything. It determines your eagerness to learn, and learning is through practice, visualization, and retrieval.
Learning is acquiring new knowledge through study, experience, or teachings. It is a never-ending practice. On the other hand, learning strategies are skills that learners and readers use to go through the content and retain as much as possible for later use.
Students fervently believe rereading lecture notes while underlining and highlighting readings is effective. Professionals will use the same methods and find that they don’t work. Unfortunately, studies reveal how ineffective rereading and other techniques we have embraced all our lives are. Avid readers, however, use learning strategies that work.
This post will cover some practical ways of learning. It will discuss retrieval practice using quizzes, flashcards, mind mapping, elaboration, the forgetting curve, and the effectiveness of reading or reviewing text before going to bed.
1. Practice retrieval of information you read before
Regular practice overcomes forgetting and strengthens retrieval, ensuring you keep the information you want in your brain for later use.
Do not just reread. Familiarity with text breeds contempt! Learners should avoid the illusion that the text they are rereading is familiar and they have understood everything.
When we reread, we think we have mastered the text and pay lesser attention than the first time when we sought to understand the text. The rereading effort is, therefore, fruitless. We are only lying to ourselves that we have mastered the text.
Instead, we should first try and retrieve the concepts and facts from our memory from the first read. Retrieval strengthens memory and interrupts forgetting. Then from there, we can see what we remember and what we don’t. Cognitive psychologists Roediger, Brown, and McDaniel argue that practicing retrieval is better than rereading text as a learning strategy in their book “Make it Stick: The science of successful learning.”
2. Quiz yourself
As you read, ask yourself questions about the content to help with recall and understanding. In between paragraphs, stop and ask yourself, “What are the main concepts discussed here? What does the writer want to communicate?”
Similarly, instead of rereading the text, ask yourself questions about it and see whether you can recall what you read. The questions could be personal or at the end of the chapter. Often, textbooks carry a quiz after every chapter. We sometimes shy off from the questions because we feel inadequate or know we’ll “fail.”
The good thing is, this is no exam, and you get to know what you understood and what you did not, then you can refer to the reading to correct an explanation or understand a concept.
Retrieval-based learning is better for teachers than delivering lectures without querying if the students remember what you taught. Often, teachers increase knowledge by teaching and are happy to meet teaching objectives. Still, we need to check how much of what we taught they understood through quizzes.
Research supports retrieval practice by quizzing. After reading a text, students who took a test remembered more concepts than students who reread the text. They were also able to integrate the knowledge acquired with previously learned concepts.
3. Self explanation/elaboration
You could also jot down everything you remember from a previous reading to see how much you recall. The explanation should be in your own words and cross-checked to see if it is correct.
Linking new knowledge with previously gained knowledge is known as elaboration. It could be in a group setting or when an individual learner goes through some actions to explain a concept.
Sometimes, elaboration involves justifying that a fact is true or not in your own words before the teacher explains. The attempt to come up with a solution to a problem before learning how to do it results in better learning, even when you make mistakes.
Even if the explanation is wrong, it gets corrected, and there is massive learning after the explanation. Discussion groups or reading groups help with elaboration. You’ll have a reading partner to whom you narrate your understanding of concepts.
It is also great to give analogies when elaborating in order to fixate the new information.
For instance, if we say religion is the opium of the masses, we link the statement to how opium or substance abuse hinders constructive thinking. When you are high, you are not autonomous in thinking and decision-making. When religion in the form of cults suppresses your ability to reason to blindly follow rituals, then it is like opium.
4. Read or review content minutes before you sleep
Sleep is central to recalling and consolidation. Also, lack of a good night’s sleep impairs long-term memory and negatively affects scores. Maurer et al. did a study to establish the relationship between sleep, reading before bedtime, and memory. Research revealed that post-learning sleep impacts memory.
The participants were 14. They were divided into two groups and allowed to study names and corresponding photos for the same period.
The first group reviewed the photos just before 8 hours of sleep, while the second group reviewed the pictures in the morning. Twelve hours later, the research team tested them to see if they remembered the names of the people in the photos.
The group that looked at the photos before bedtime had better memory and matched the names and pictures more correctly than the other group.
Science backs these findings. You acquire knowledge, and the brain consolidates the knowledge gathered to create a memory. When the consolidation process occurs immediately after acquisition, memory is enhanced.
The consolidation process is neurological, and when we sleep, the brain wave assists in consolidating. Awake time memory happens in the hippocampus, and when we sleep, the cortex takes up the role.
The cortex is critical to memory, and it’s activated by sleep, whether napping or long hours of sleep. When the cortex is engaged, memory is enhanced.
5. Drawing out what you read
For a productive reading session, use flowcharts, Venn diagrams, and illustrations, better known as mind mapping, to deeply understand the concepts.
Creating visual images and relaying them in a spider diagram, where there is a core concept and other ideas in lines radially, is known as mind mapping.
Mind mapping is a better studying tool than note-taking. It helps in memorization, brainstorming, and creative thinking, simplifying complex concepts and making reviewing notes easier.
Mind maps are great for visualizing information spatially. This type of visualization can help you assimilate information and draw inspiration and ideas from it.
Your brain is more comfortable with spatial information arrangement because your natural cognitive process is a mental map.
Mind mapping software helps students visualize ideas. It can also stimulate creative thinking and accelerate idea production.
It’s also helpful when problem-solving, and researchers will often draw problem tree diagrams when analyzing problems and coming up with solutions.
Consistent use of flashcards helps with retention. A study on Psychology students revealed that students who consistently used flashcards had significantly higher exam scores than those who didn’t use them one or two times.
Flashcards are a form of retrieval practice, and memory gets better when you use them consistently to learn.
Therefore, it’s advisable not to separate flashcards of what you remember from those containing concepts you found hard to remember. Keep them together and keep retrieving information from your brain.
Space them out and use them consistently.
7. Keeping the forgetting curve at bay
Do you find that you can’t recall almost half of what you read 24 hours after the reading session? That’s a learning condition known as the Forgetting Curve.
Twenty-four hours after acquiring knowledge, you will only recall 50% to 20%. You can only remember 2% or 3% of the text a week later. That sounds disheartening.
The good news is you can overcome the Forgetting Curve by reviewing text 24 hours after reading it or by using spaced out reading, which has outstanding results on retention.
Spaced out repetition of concepts and interleaving
If you didn’t know, cramming just before an exam could help you pass an exam, but you will soon forget concepts you may need much later. So, you should avoid cramming.
Spaced-out reading is revisiting texts after some time and helps with long-term retention, while interleaving is mixing up similar topics while learning rather than following the block system.
Although interleaving will slow you down, you learn better this way, rather than reading different topics chronologically.
Research has found that spaced-out learning is reliable, strengthens memory, and works for all kinds of learners and with different reading texts or tasks.
After staying up all night to study, a good test score is rewarding, but not much of what you were able to remember on the test will stay with you over time.
On the other hand, if you space out your study sessions on a particular topic, you can do well on tests and remember what you learned for a long time.
Also, because new learning depends on what you’ve known before, spacing study sessions will help transfer knowledge and lay the groundwork for future learning.
Learning should not be limited to one style. Retrieval practice, interleaving and spaced-out study sessions can help retention.
Additionally, studying before bedtime guarantees better memory of the concepts because consolidation occurs immediately after gathering new knowledge. Spacing out studies and reviewing text 24 hours after acquiring the new knowledge will ensure you don’t forget.
Besides using the tips above to study more efficiently, you could boost your productivity by taking Iris Reading’s Personal Productivity course. Sign up now to find out how you can achieve better results in your academic and personal life.