What Study Methods Are Most Effective? (Explained for Beginners)
If you are preparing for an important test, you need to employ the best study methods.
Perhaps your goal is to learn a new skill or gather knowledge that will help you in your line of work, but you still need effective study techniques to make things easier for you.
The best study methods include the Feynman study technique, SQ3R method, Pomodoro technique, interleaving, mnemonics, and the Leitner system. They can help you learn and retain information easily.
In this article, we’ll explore the most effective study strategies to learn just about anything.
Read on to learn how to study smarter, not harder!
This technique, also known as spaced repetition, involves breaking up your study sessions into spaced intervals. It is also referred to as spaced practice, distributed practice, or spaced retrieval.
Most students consider spaced repetition to be a game-changer due to how powerful it is while still being easy to understand.
Here is a real-world scenario to show how spaced repetition works.
Let’s say your first study session starts today, and you have a test in 36 days. An effective interval, in this case, could be:
- Day 1: Master the subject matter in class.
- Day 2: Examine and reassess.
- Day 3: Examine and reassess.
- After a week: Review and revisit.
- After two weeks: Review and revisit
In a nutshell, it’s the opposite of studying late into the night.
This strategy encourages you to space out your studying by reviewing and recalling information at the right intervals until you memorize the content rather than compressing all of the material you are studying into a short period of time.
The SQ3R study method was developed by Francis P. Robinson in 1946. It’s a tried-and-true study method that you can use with just about any subject.
The acronym SQ3R stands for the five steps of the reading comprehension process. To make your study session more productive and efficient, try these steps:
Consider skimming the first chapter of the book rather than reading it cover to cover and making notes on any headings, subheadings, illustrations, or other notable elements like charts.
Create queries centered on the chapter’s subject matter, such as:
- What is the purpose of this chapter?
- What prior knowledge do I have on this topic?
Read the entire chapter and start looking for solutions to the questions you came up with.
After reading a section, summarize what you have read in your own words. Try to recollect, name key points, and respond to any queries from the second step.
After finishing the chapter, it’s crucial to go over the information once again to ensure that you grasp it fully. Test your knowledge using the questions you came up with, and read any passages again if necessary.
SQ3R works best when you have limited time to study. You can also combine it with our Speed Reading Foundation Course to enhance your reading efficiency and comprehension.
The Pomodoro study method is a time-management strategy that splits your study sessions into Pomodoro sessions, which are 25-minute (or 45-minute) blocks of time.
Following each session, you’ll take a 5-minute (or 15-minute) break, during which you completely forget about the subject of study. You’ll also take a longer 15- to 30-minute rest after finishing four of these sessions.
The Pomodoro method has a number of advantages, including being a simple and straightforward technique that forces you to map out your daily tasks and activities.
It also makes it easy to track how much time is spent on each task and offers short bursts of focused work interspersed with rest periods.
Interleaving is a learning technique that involves blending different topics or techniques throughout a study session. For instance, if you were studying math, you might break up your study time by working on questions from various chapters.
You can also switch between various types of problems, such as solving equations and working with graphs.
It’s the practice of covering one topic briefly before moving on to another, as opposed to covering one topic for three hours.
Interleaving improves retention not only when studying for exams but also whenever learning anything.
You can avoid the so-called “blocking” effect by interleaving. When you focus on one subject for a long time before switching to another, the blocking effect happens.
As a result of your brain being “blocked” by the new information, it may be challenging to recall the information from the initial topic.
One of the best study techniques for information retention is the use of mnemonic devices. Memory aids, known as mnemonics, work by linking new information with something you can quickly recall.
In order to improve recall of the order of the planets, for instance, many people use the mnemonic “My very eager mother just served us nine pizzas.”
The phrase aids in recalling the order of the planets from the sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
To recall the colors of a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), you can use acronyms like ROY G. BIV.
Creating study sheets using mnemonic devices will not only help you remember information but also improve your understanding of it. It is also possible to create more effective study guides and study plans using mnemonic devices.
The Leitner System is an easy-to-use study technique that maximizes memorization through the use of a flashcard-based learning system.
It was created by Sebastian Leitner in 1972 and served as an influence for many of the more modern flashcard-based learning techniques that came after it.
You must first make flashcards in order to use the technique. Then you can do the following:
- Write the questions on the front of the cards and the answers on their backs.
- Once your flashcards are ready, gather three “Leitner boxes” large enough to accommodate all of the cards you have made.
- Give them the names Box 1, 2, and 3. You are now prepared to begin using your flashcards to learn.
- Place each card in Box 1. Select a card from Box 1, then try to recall the response from memory.
- Put the response, if you can remember it, in Box 2. Keep it in Box 1 if not.
- Then, carry on in this way until you have reviewed each card in Box 1 at least once.
- Then, according to time intervals, you’ll begin reviewing each box of cards.
Feynman study technique
This study technique was developed by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and is flexible, easy to use, and effective. The idea is simple: the best way to learn anything is to teach it to a sixth-grader.
At first glance, this may look like a simple task. After all, explaining something to a kid shouldn’t be too challenging.
But in reality, it can be really challenging because you have to make everything simple and age-appropriate.
When you first use the method, you’ll immediately learn that it’s difficult to meet a child at their level of knowledge unless you have thoroughly grasped the central concept of the topic at hand.
In order to explain something clearly, one must define all unknown terms, come up with simple explanations for difficult concepts, understand connections between various topics and subtopics, and express what has been learned succinctly and simply.
The Feynman technique is an engaging learning strategy because it compels you to absorb content in more depth and to consider it critically.
If you learn best visually, try mind mapping, a method that lets you visually organize information in a diagram. On a blank page, start by writing a word in the middle. After that, you compose the main points and keywords and link them to the main concept.
The variety of related concepts will continue to grow.
A mind map’s structure is similar to how our brains store and access information. Your reading comprehension will improve if you mind map your notes as opposed to simply writing them down.
By conveying the hierarchy and connections between concepts and ideas in mind maps, it also helps you grasp the overall picture.
So, how do you go about it?
Grab a piece of blank paper and put your research topic in the center, such as “child development.”
Make a connection between the major topic, such as “developmental stages,” and one of your main ideas (i.e., a chapter of your book or notes).
Connect the supporting ideas in your sub-branch to your main branch. This is how you link the ideas. Draw images if it helps, or use different colors for each branch.
Test anxiety is a significant challenge for most people. Doing practice sessions in advance is a good idea to prevent being a ball of anxiety on exam day.
By placing yourself in an exam-like setting during a practice test, you can get yourself mentally prepared for the actual exam.
Self-testing is one of the best study techniques for memorizing anything.
Create a practice test with examples of the questions from the test you are preparing for. Self-testing these practice problems will assist you in familiarizing yourself with the content and identifying any areas you may still need to study.
To get a sense of how much time you will need to finish the real examination, time yourself while taking practice exams. By doing this, it will be easier to finish the test on time.
You can also use online learning tools to keep track of your progress and concentrate on your weak areas.
Active recall, also known as retrieval practice, is a study approach that involves actively remembering information by testing yourself frequently rather than just reading or rereading it.
Most people dread the word “test” for good reasons. After all, since they are frequently the main indicator of your academic progress, tests, and examinations can be extremely stressful.
But active recall helps us approach testing differently. In addition to learning for tests, we should also test ourselves to learn.
This study technique employs self-testing using flashcards, self-generated questions, and practice exams to assist your brain in memorizing, retaining, and retrieving knowledge more effectively.
There is no more effective study technique than active recall if you are getting ready for an upcoming test. You are effectively testing yourself numerous times when you use active recall.
Therefore, it’s scientifically proven that you can ace any exam without cramming if you take these practice exams regularly over an extended period of time.
Color-coded note-taking method
Messy notes might make it difficult to remember the key points of a lecture. Writing with color is a dynamic approach to structuring the content you’re learning.
Additionally, it helps in your evaluation and prioritization of the key concepts.
According to a research study, color can enhance one’s memory. Warm hues like red and yellow, according to that same study, can create a learning environment that is stimulating and inspiring.
This can help learners not only to have a favorable view of the content but also to take more part in the learning materials and resources.
Warmer colors, according to the study, “increase attention and evoke excitement and understanding.”
PQ4R study method
This approach to learning emphasizes engagement, which helps students retain information and understand it. It is a crucial technique for students with reading disabilities because it increases reading comprehension.
Researchers Thomas and Robinson created the PQ4R as a study technique in 1972, the same year that the Leitner System was conceived.
PQ4R is an acronym for the six steps in the process, which is much like the SQ3R approach.
Here is a breakdown of the steps:
- Preview: Before you start reading, take a look at the facts to get an idea of the subject. Just skim the content and focus on the highlighted text and headers.
- Question: Asking yourself what you expect to learn about the subject is a good place to start. Check if you have any background knowledge on the subject.
- Read: Try to find the answers to your questions as you go through the information, one section at a time.
- Reflect: Think about whether you addressed all of the questions you had. If not, check again to see if you can find the solution.
- Recite: Summarize what you just read in your own words, either verbally or in writing.
- Review: Go over the information once more, and then respond to any unanswered questions.
PQ4R is useful for all people, not just those with reading disabilities. If you want to better grasp what you’re reading, you can follow the same six stages.
Any student should strive to improve reading comprehension, and the PQ4R approach provides a useful framework if you need to study a lengthy textbook for an exam.
It will make it possible for you to comprehend every paragraph of the text more clearly and help with your memory retention.
Join a study group
When you study in a group, you can compare learning methods, brainstorm mnemonics together, and quiz one another on the subject.
Study groups are a fantastic way to gather other viewpoints and ideas on how to learn and retain information.
Additionally, group study sessions can be a good chance to socialize with friends or classmates and foster relationships.
When studying by yourself, you might occasionally check your phone or take hour-long eating breaks. Study sessions with a clear focus help combat these interruptions and eliminate distractions.
While competing and collaborating with other group members, you are compelled to stay at the top of your study game.
However, to minimize confusion, confirm that everyone in the group is focused on the same subject and has the same degree of understanding.
Establishing ground rules for the group beforehand may also be a good idea because you want to ensure that the members of your study group are truly committed to learning and helping one another succeed.
Prioritize the subject matter that you studied so that it becomes more familiar and easily available to your brain and memory. For the best chance of passing the test, review the content at least one day before study sessions start.
Making an attempt to study right before an exam will be significantly less effective than making an effort earlier while the content is still fresh in your mind.
Focused task management
Sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that multitasking is not your strong suit. Stop multitasking on social media or other platforms while studying. Instead, pay attention to your task to avoid having to study more than necessary.
If you believe that 10 minutes on social media won’t affect your hour of study time, you’re mistaken!
Long after you have returned to work, it’s likely that you will still be daydreaming about your newsfeed (and everyone on it).
Structure your calendar so that you can establish a balance between your work and free time.
Challenge the forgetting curve
The forgetting curve depicts the rate of information loss over time. It is a term coined based on a study by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus.
People have a tendency to forget information over time, which is one of the most prevalent study issues.
In fact, people don’t periodically review what they’ve learned; they forget around half of what they’ve just acquired in a matter of days.
You can avoid the forgetting curve by regularly reviewing your study materials, starting with reviewing the content within 24 hours of first learning it.
However, educational psychologists advise against “cramming” the night before an exam and instead advocate spaced learning.
Writing down some notes or answers helps with memory retention. Writing by hand is a great approach since it requires complete focus and attention.
Here are some strategies for writing as you study:
- Duplicate your notes
- Write down answers on flashcards.
- Create a study guide.
- Practice by writing essay responses.
Takeaway: Unleash your learning potential with the most effective study methods
The appropriate methods can make all the difference when it comes to studying efficiently.
Information retention techniques like the Leitner System, SQ3R Method, Pomodoro Technique, Interleaving, and Feynman Study Technique have all been shown to be quite successful.
You may accelerate your learning, ace that upcoming test, or gain new skills for employment by implementing these strategies into your study routine.
But why stop there?
If you’re serious about unlocking your maximum learning potential, we invite you to check out our in-depth course on maximizing memory.
Learn cutting-edge techniques, expert tips, and individualized coaching to improve your memory retention and hasten your learning process.
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