EFFECTIVE STUDY STRATEGIES
Virtually every student wants to study, understand and recall in exam and real life. However, many have consistently fallen short of this. On Student Groove this week, my desire is to share with you practical guide to reading a material for proper understanding so that it can be easily released whenever and wherever there is a need for that.
Now let’s get into the strategies proper.
Define Your Study Areas per Time
The first step to effective study is defining your study areas per time. By this I mean you should state how long you want to read per each study session. This helps you maximize your time when you set out to study. It also saves you from spending too much time than necessary on a particular topic of study per time.
In fact, my experience is that when I define what I want to study and the direction, I’m usually more focused at my study and eventually achieve more within the time frame than when I just pick up a textbook or note and start reading.
Also, when you are able to cover your allocated portion within your set time, you have this good feeling that makes you want to do more. The first time you will attempt this may not be totally successful (you may not stay that long or realize that the time you allocated is too small) but every of your study plan makes you a better person in relation to your study time efficiency and effectiveness.
Please be careful not to allocate too many things within a small time; start small and keep improving with time and more practise.
Define Study Time
In defining your study time, bear in mind that the best time to read for easy and quick assimilation is the time of least distraction. So in your environment, check when you will be least distracted and fix your study time at that time. It could mean sleeping when everywhere is noisy and waking up when there is quietness. That’s my practice while I was in school and living in the hostel.
Also, it could mean changing your residence or adapting to reading in a noisy environment with a good level of concentration. Also note there are places that could be too quiet and will get your thoughts to stray from your studies or even induce sleep.
I know many people that can’t read in my school library, Nnamdi Azikiwe Library because it’s quiet and extremely cold and makes them sleep. I happened to be one of them, especially in my first year. I use other reading halls and when I must read there, I use ear piece. The point is that you need to understand yourself and locate a suitable time your environment will be conducive and make it your study time.
Define Your Study Duration
How long you read is determined by considering a number of factors. Consider your assimilation limit. By this I mean how long you can read at a stretch and still understand what you are reading. It is a good practice if you don’t stretch this time too much. Stick to it; rest and come back to your study when you have so many things to study.
Consider what you need to cover and the deadline for the coverage. When your deadline is close and you have not covered much, it means you have to allocate a lot of time to study to enable you cover what you are supposed to study.
Start with the Beginning
When you want to read a topic, please start from the beginning. In good textbooks or notebooks, the beginning part of a topic defines terms that you will encounter in the main text and offers an explanation to them. It can also increase your interest; thus setting you on the right mood for easy understanding of the topic or subject matter.
Also the beginning part of a topic usually discusses what you would have known on the topic and then proceeds to other things you may not know. That way you will be able to follow without getting confused along the way. Due to the aforementioned concepts, I really prescribe that you start your study from the beginning and then progress to other parts of the topic.
Note that the focus is understanding your topic or subject and being able to reproduce it in exams or real life. You can go contrary to this advice when a particular portion of a text interests you or there is really limited time that you can’t read everything.
As you progress in your study, I prescribe that you continue doing two things until you finish the material you are reading. These practices help you assess your understanding as you progress and evaluate your level of understanding at the end of your study. Please note that you can do any of them but I’m persuaded that a combination of the two will prove very useful.
Access yourself after every segment
One of the two practices I prescribe you adopt as you progress in your study is that you attempt writing what you understand in every segment of a particular topic. Most textbooks or notebooks are organized such that every topic is divided into segments demarcated by sub topics.
When you finish reading a segment, close your textbook or even notebook and attempt writing what you understood in the segment in your own words. This helps you check if you understand the point you have read before moving to another one.
My experience is that this practice makes me give my study great attention since I know that I will be examined after every major segment. It’s like reading or listening to a teacher that will give you test immediately after the class. If the material you are reading is not segmented as I described above, you can divide it by yourself; you can decide to write major point(s) after every one or two paragraphs.
I advise that you don’t make it too long that you will have difficulty remembering what you have read. The good thing about this practice is that it enables you take in a chapter you are reading in bits ensuring that every bit is assimilated. Again, I advise that you start by assessing yourself with a paragraph and increase to higher volumes.
Set your Exams Questions
The second practice I recommend is that you set questions for yourself based on the points made in every paragraph or segment you read. This practice helps you assess yourself after your study of the whole topic or material. It helps you test your level of understanding and recall.
Please keep the questions you set for your future use especially during revision. Just keep writing the questions until your questions reflect every point in your material. When you are through with your study, start answering (preferably by writing) the questions without looking into your material. This practice will reveal either of these: you have thoroughly understood and mastered the material or you need to do some more work on some parts.
Caution: though, I encourage that you write what you understand in your words, ensure that your definition, short notes, explanations and discussions reflect the register used in the subject and key words. My reason is that your examiners usually look out for them.
Use Easy to Understand Materials
Use easy or more understandable materials. Some textbooks are organized in a complex fashion. Others are either too wordy or too concise. This usually poses challenges during studies. I therefore suggest that you attempt striking a balance on this in choosing a text for your study.
In fact, you can start with a text that you understand with ease and move to a more complex one. Let me share my experience in this regards: in my SS1, I hardly understood the New School Chemistry (which is a good text for O’level chemistry), so I used Concise Chemistry and Comprehensive Chemistry until my SS11 when I started using it. From then till I graduated from secondary school, I read it, understood it and it really paid off in my external exams. Even professional books I read now, I first of all get short articles on them and study before delving into big texts. It has paid off greatly in my speed of understanding and recall of what I study.
Two, Better than One
Let me explain something based on the biblical principle of two are better than one. Also, using two textbooks could be helpful. This is because reading a topic from different author’s perspective could make difficult concept easy. The reason is that they express the same points with different words, examples and illustrations.
One textbook may be very elaborate while another may just be concise; I prescribe that you read the elaborate one during your study and the concise one when you need to revise or to get the sense contained in the topic or subject. Please don’t follow those that stick to only concise textbooks; at best it gives them enough knowledge to pass their exams but elaborate texts give in-depth knowledge of the concept you are studying which is a better option.
Let me add here that the principle of Two, Better than One is not just about getting married but is a principle that applies to virtually every pursuit of life. It is based on this principle that discussion group is vital.
Look out for people with like minds and who want to succeed the right way, form study groups with them and they will pull you to stick to deadline and overcome the temptation to be indolent. They could help examine you before the examination proper and help you read harder.
The times I had the privilege of using study group paid off. Please note that it is better to study alone than to study with a distractor. Such one can even sap the strength to study from you. (For more on this, Kindly read, Study Group: Power, Formation, Sustenance and Maximization)
Now, let me recap what I have said so far. When you want to study, define the time and duration of your study, allocate what to cover within the specified time, study with easy-to-understand materials, maximise the power of two, using more than a textbook and studying with people. Continually access your ability to recall what you’ve read and your understanding with past questions and teaching others.
Till we meet again on Student Groove next week, know that to acquire knowledge is far more important than grades; seek first knowledge and grades will be an addition.
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