This is embarrassing to say, but I need to say it if I want you to continue…I failed the AREs many times :/
No one can understand the frustration unless you have experienced it for yourself.
I would die a little bit at the thought of having to keep studying for the same exam again after having just failed it.
I think I must have bought every study program out there, every book.. nothing worked.
Now I know I’m a smart person. There had to be something I was doing wrong.
That’s when I went on a quest to get to the very root of the problem.
And after I discovered what I’m about to share with you, I wondered how I went through high school and college without knowing this!
I clearly succeeded despite not knowing this information, which makes me think I would have had a much easier time in school if I had known.
So let’s get to it…first I’ll share with you what not to do when studying, and then I’ll teach you the most effective techniques I learned for retaining information.
How Not To Study
The following is exactly what I was doing, and also what so many studies have proven to be inefficient ways of studying.
So you can imagine that my head was blown away when I learned I was doing it completely wrong!
- Rereading the same material over and over again does not necessarily lead to better understanding. It can lead to a false sense of familiarity with the material, which can be detrimental when the time comes to recalling the information.
- Highlighting is another popular revision strategy. It’s active and it’s fun seeing the different colors on the page. However, highlighting has low utility and may in fact hinder performance.
- Summarizing / Making Notes feels so productive, seeing the pages and pages of notes you’ve taken, but this is not the most effective way to learn either. Again, this is just another passive approach to studying that leads to a lack of retention of the material.
How To Actually Study
If you are like I was, you will be feeling confused right now. So you if aren’t supposed to read, highlight, or take notes, what are you supposed to be doing?
Here are some techniques that you need to start implementing right now:
1. Active Recall
Is a technique that involves retrieving information from memory.
We are wired to believe that we have to test ourselves only after reading all the information. But in fact, we should be doing this from the very beginning.
The truth is we subconsciously above recalling information because it is more difficult than just reading.
You need to think of your brain like a muscle, the harder you make it work, the more effective your brain will become in storing information.
To use active recall, do the following:
- Flashcards. My favorite websites are Quizlet, Remnote, and Notion.
- Practice tests. Take all the practice tests you can get your hands on!
- Closed Book Method. If you aren’t ready to let go of your book, try this: read the information you want to learn, close the book, and try to write out the information from memory. After you have written down as much as you can recall, open the book and take note of what you missed.
2. The Feynman Technique
Is a method for learning that involves explaining a concept in simple terms.
How many times do we read and reread something, even memorize it word for word, but when someone asks us about it we can’t explain it?
There were so many times when I wouldn’t stop to try to understand a concept because I knew it would take me longer to get through as many pages as I wanted to that day. In the long run, I was only wasting more time.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool” – Richard Feynman
Remember this…if you can’t explain it to a 5-year old, you most likely don’t understand it.
3. Memory Techniques
Memory Techniques can help you remember information more effectively by using visual or other associations. Here are some memory techniques that you can use to study for exams:
- Mnemonics: Create a phrase or acronym that helps you remember a list of items or concepts.
- Visualization: Create a mental image that helps you remember information.
- Association: Link new information to something you already know.
- Force yourself to start: the ‘hump’ of energy required to get a reaction started. It’s the same in real life – if we want to get anything done, we need to put in a burst of activation energy to begin with, and things become a lot easier.
- Reducing Distractions: Distractions can come in many forms, from your phone buzzing with notifications to the sound of your roommate watching TV in the next room. To minimize distractions, consider studying in a quiet room with no distractions, turning off your phone or putting it on silent, and using noise-canceling headphones if necessary.
- Study With Music? Many people find that listening to music while studying helps them stay focused. However, it’s important to choose the right type of music. Studies have shown that instrumental music or music with no lyrics is best for studying, as lyrics can be distracting. Additionally, avoid music that you find too catchy or upbeat, as it may be more likely to distract you.
- Find a studying Buddy: Forming a study group can be a great way to have accountability. You can discuss the material with your peers, share notes, and quiz each other. Make sure you choose a group of people who are serious about studying and can contribute to the group.