Let’s be honest, trying to cram all that information in the textbook a week before your exam is not working out.
Your study habits are simply not cutting it and it’s time to reevaluate your study methods.
It is important that try to figure out what study technique works best for you.
We have rounded up the Top 6 study techniques that will help you study smarter instead of studying harder.
Comment the one you think suits you best.
- The SQ3R Method
The SQ3R method is a reading comprehension technique that helps students identify and retain important information based on 5 simple steps: Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review.
Survey: Instead of reading the entire textbook, start by skimming the chapter and taking notes on any headings, subheadings, images, or other standout features such as diagrams, charts and images. Reading the titles, summaries and introductory paragraphs prepare your mind to receive the subject at hand and allow you to orient yourself to how each chapter will play out and what the most important points are.
Question: Use the boldface heading for each section to create as many questions as you think will be answered in the section. Formulate questions around the chapter’s content, such as, What is this chapter about? What do I already know about this subject? When your mind is actively searching for answers to questions, it becomes more engaged in learning.
Read: Begin reading the full chapter and look for answers to the questions you have formulated. Recognize when you need to make up some new questions.
Recite: After each section, summarize in your own words what you just read. Try recalling and identifying major points and answering any questions from the second step. If you are unable to answer them from memory, revisit the chapter. Do not move on to the next section until you can correctly answer the questions from the previous section.
Review: Once you have finished the chapter, it’s important to review the material to fully understand it. Quiz yourself on the questions you created and re-read any portions you need to.
- Retrieval Practice
Retrieval practice is a learning technique based on repeatedly recalling learned material without seeing it in front of you. If you practice retrieval, you are more likely to remember the information later on.
Below are some ways you can implement the retrieval process into your study routine:
Flashcards – Integrate the retrieval technique by writing the answer down and then checking instead of flipping a card over prematurely.
Concept Maps – Concept maps are visual representations of information and can take the form of charts, graphic organizers, tables, flowcharts, Venn Diagrams, timelines, or T-charts. They are especially useful for visual learners, but they can benefit any type of learner.
Quizzes – Utilize quiz websites, make your own quizzes or participate in paired quizzes. Writing the answers down will help commit them more to memory and in paired quizzes, the questions are committed to memory, and by answering the questions, the answers are committed to memory by both students.
Worksheets – Worksheets can be used to identify the weaknesses and can also be used to understand difficult concepts.
- Spaced Practice
Spaced or disturbed practice encourages students to study over a longer period of time instead of cramming the night before. It is a study technique where students review material over a long period of time. Spacing out your studying allows your mind to make connections between ideas and build upon the knowledge that can be easily recalled later. Review the material in spaced intervals.
Day 1: Introduction to the material. Create simple quizzes and flashcards based on the subject matter.
Day 3: Revisit and review the material. Answer the review questions and review areas you forget or find difficult.
Day 6: Revisit and review. Continue to create more review questions. Revisit the material if you are not correctly answering the questions.
Day 9: Revisit and review. Incorporate old material with new information.
Day 15: Revisit and review. Create summaries and checklists to ensure you have thoroughly covered everything you set out to do.
Create a similar schedule that is convenient and adapted to the material you need to cover as well as the time you have to do so.
- The PQ4R Method
The PQ4R method provides an approach to learning that improves memorization and understanding of new material. Similar to the SQ3R method mentioned previously, PQ4R is an acronym that stands for the six steps in the process: Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite and Review.
Preview: Preview the information before you start reading to get an idea of what the subject or chapter is about. Skim the material and read only the headers, subheadings, and highlighted text. Read the first and last paragraph of each section, the captions under the pictures and take a few minutes to look at charts, graphs or maps.
Question: Ask yourself questions related to the topic. Think about what you already know about the ideas you saw during your preview.
Read: Read the information one section at a time and try to identify answers to your questions.
If there are ideas that seem important, make a note of them on paper. Consider making notes in the margins, highlighting important sections, and using sticky notes.
Reflect: Take time to reflect on what you have read. Did you answer all of your questions? If not, go back and see if you can find the answer. What new information did you learn? Did the passage include the information you expected it to cover? Was there information that surprised you?
Recite: In your own words, either speak or write down a summary of the information you just read. Discuss it with someone else or write down the main points you learned. It is important to summarize the material using your own words.
Review: Look over the material one more time and answer any questions that have not yet been answered. Do you feel that you fully understand the given points?
- The Feynman Technique
The Feynman Technique is an efficient method of learning a concept quickly by explaining it in plain and simple terms. It was devised by Richard Feynman who garnered the nickname of “The Great Explainer” for his rare talent of breaking down sophisticated and complex concepts into simple explanations. It is a simple approach to self-directed learning that is based on distilling what you know. By attempting to explain a concept in our own words, we are likely to understand it a lot better and faster.
Step 1 – Write down the topic you want to study or learn. If you are yet to learn the topic, proceed to study in your learning style. If you have already studied the topic, write down everything you know about the subject and move on to the next step.
Step 2 – Teach the topic. Explain the topic in your own words as if you were teaching someone else. Teaching the topic will expose any gaps in your knowledge. Usually, your mind tricks you into thinking you understand everything you read, however, when you attempt to teach, you will face hiccups on some parts of the topic you may not have understood. When that happens, make a note of it and spend more time on these areas on your second time around.
Step 3 – Review what you do not know. Look at all the gaps in your understanding of the topic identified in the previous step. Review the material and pay attention to the areas you struggle to understand.
Step 4 – Simplify the topic. You must be capable of explaining the subject in the most simple fashion. The best way to do this is to pretend like you are teaching a child. If there are any areas in your writing where you used technical terms or complex language, go back and rewrite these sections in simpler terms for someone who doesn’t have the educational background that you have.
“If I cannot explain in a simple way, the problem lies in my understanding of the topic, not my teaching abilities.” – Richard Freyman
- The Leitner System
The Leitner System is a learning technique based on flashcards and spaced repetition. It is best for regular and consistent studying. Ideally, you keep your cards in several different boxes to track when you need to study each set. Here’s how it works:
Every flashcard starts in Box #1 and the material is reviewed regularly. Each card that is answered correctly is transferred to Box #2 and is to be reviewed every other day. The incorrectly answered cards will remain in Box #1. During your next review session, start with Box #2. Each correctly answered card is transferred to Box #3 while the incorrectly answered cards are transferred back to Box #1. Review every 3/4 days. This process is continued until all the cards are in the last box.
With exams fast approaching, using one or a combination of these study techniques will help you retain the most information and encourage you to work smarter, not harder. If you are in a time crunch, we have assembled some Last Minute Exam Preparation Tips that can further assist you in your study sessions.
10 Effective Study Tips and Techniques to Try This Year: USAHS. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. (2022, February 16). Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.usa.edu/blog/study-techniques/
Dsouza, M. (2020, November 16). Feynman Technique – How to Learn Quickly in 4 Steps. Productive Club. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://productiveclub.com/feynman-technique/#How_to_apply_the_Feynman_technique
Logsdon, A. (2020, September 10). How the PQ4R Strategy Helps Kids With Learning Disabilities Read. Verywell Family. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/strategy-improves-reading-comprehension-2162266
Loveless, B. (2022, April 12). What is Retrieval Practice and Why is it so Powerful? Education Corner. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.educationcorner.com/retrieval-practice/#Writing_Prompts
Memory Techniques: Leitner Method – University College. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://universitycollege.okstate.edu/lasso/site_files/documents/leitner_method.pdf