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What is the most effective type of studying?

By Danielle Barakat on 20 November 2018NSWblogStudy tips

You’d think that the first thing you’d learn in high school is how to actually study but the sad truth is that a lot of you get to year 12 and realise you still don’t really know how to study. Do you write notes, do you make flashcards, how long before the exams do you start, do you do past papers, should you watch videos online?

So many options.

So, to help you out a bit we are going to tell you the way we study most effectively. This method doesn't work for absolutely everyone but it should cover most of you. Here we go:

Step 1: The content

This one is a nice simple. The first step involves becoming familiar with the content. New year = new content to learn. When the content is being taught in the classroom by your teacher it’s important that you speak up right away if you don’t understand something because if you can understand the concepts in class the first time around, it will make your life a whole lot easier later on when you need to revise.

Class is also a really good time to write notes. If you’re in Business Studies and the teacher is going through the 4 P’s of Marketing, use what they’re saying to start formulating some really nice notes that you can fix later. In your notes add in any examples that are talked about and make sure these notes are syllabus structured. Do these small things and you’ll be set up for the whole year.

Step 2: Understanding

So you’ve got a good set of class notes, but now what? This step involves actually understanding the content and learning it in context. It’s a common mistake to think you understand the content but then you get to a question in an exam and all of a sudden you realise that yes you know the definition, but you don’t actually understand it enough to explain it or answer the question. There’s a difference between knowing what inflation means and actually knowing how it affects the real world economy.

So, to make sure you’re really understanding the content you should expose yourself to the same information in different ways. Learn the definitions, yes, but also try reading up on an example of it, asking your teacher to explain it to you or even try watching some of our videos to help you learn and remember it. Another really effective way of making sure you understand how the content works is to try explaining it to someone else.

When I say you need to learn your content in context what I mean by that is to understand where the content fits in the syllabus. This makes it easier to answer short answer or extended response questions where they ask for more than one topic. If you know the syllabus well, it means that whenever you answer a question you are guaranteed to include everything for that answer without leaving anything out.

Step 3: Deepen your understanding

This point is for all those kids who are looking to get their marks into the high band 5, band 6 range. If this is you, you need to start doing things like thinking critically, making high-level connections, being able to transfer knowledge and all those other fun buzz words that sit in the high bands on your marking criteria. Here are few recommendations of how to actually do this:

  • Group study - Sharing ideas around your group is a really good way to make sure you have everything covered and to pick up some handy extra bits of info that your friends have that you may not.
  • Case studies - Take your ideas and turn them into real-life examples and analyse these. That ticks off some critical thinking.
  • Rework & condense your notes - The more times you go over your notes, the more you’ll be able to pick out the most important bits of information, pinpoint any critical links and arrange all the content into a really concise summary that you are more likely to remember.

After this step, you should feel really confident about your notes and your ability to understand the content. You should also be starting to slowly memorise the content which is an awesome feeling!

Step 4: It’s a memory game

By this stage in your schooling life, memorising should be a really well-known way of studying and you should be pretty good at it because the more you practice, the better you become. By the end of the year, you’ll be so good at memorising that you’ll be able to learn essays in like 25 minutes.

Memorising is going to look a little different across all of your subjects, for example, the way you memorise a maths formula is going to be very different to the way you memorise your modern history dates, which again is going to differ from memorising your essays. There really is no hidden secret for memorising because everyone does it a little differently. Some people like to use flash cards, others like using acronyms, some people like to talk out loud to themselves, some people pace around the house and others like to write out their essays again and again. The best method here is to try each one until you find something that works for you. I found that I memorised my essays better by highlighting each paragraph in a different colour, sticking the essay to my wall and pacing around my bedroom trying to recite each paragraph like I was teaching it to someone else, only looking at the wall when I was in serious trouble.

The order that this step comes is actually really important. Notice how it comes after the step of understanding your content? This is critical because understanding what you’re trying to memorise will allow it to make more sense in your head and you’ll, therefore, be able to remember it better.

Step 5: Practise

Now that you have all the content memorised, time to put it into practice because there’s no use in knowing the content and not being able to answer any questions. After all, your HSC is made up of a number of exams, so you want to get into the habit of being able to correctly answer the questions, understand the exam layout and understand the timing of the exams early on in the year.

Basically, in term 4/1, you haven’t learnt enough content to be doing whole past papers, but that’s okay. You can start by doing individual past paper questions and gradually move to doing full past papers under exam conditions once you have learnt enough of the content. Remember to always use the past paper marking criteria to self-mark and if you are still unsure as to whether you’re on the right track, you can always send your work to your teachers for marking. That is why they’re there.

Step 6: Basic skills test

Now that you have completed the steps to studying the content, there are a few extra things you can do to make sure that you’re 100% exam ready. Some of your subjects are about more than just the content, they also test the skills and techniques you bring into the exam. These are basic skills that you have been doing ever since year 7, things like:

Once you brush up on these skills you’ll be set to smash any exam this year.

Hopefully, this guide to studying has really helped you plan and structure the way you approach your studies over the next year. Trust us, these steps work!

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