Guidelines for effective study skills
When you know you are going to be tested or examined on a number of facts, instead of your opinions or logical lateral thinking being tested orally, you may as well prepare for a fine tuning of your memory. There are a number of ways you can do this and we sometimes see snake oil salesmen selling this idea to adults and they show off how many words they can remember by asking everybody in the audience to give them a word and they will remember it and spell it back. Well guess what, I fooled one of them from America when I gave him the word ornithirincus which is the scientific classiification for the Australian platypus. He was stumped. Okay it’s not hard to train your memory and the way I would suggest, and in fact did tackle this problem, was to prepare many little books on each topic studied. This is how it worked.
In the study of Ancient History if the topic of Alexander the Great or Plato or Aristotle or how Greeks lived their daily life came up, the little book would be made to cover each topic. I would then go and read as much as I could from as many different sources as I could, especially original documents of the time. In Australian history this was much easier as being a younger country these documents were readily available in archives. If you can find source material like this from the actual time it happened and you are a historian then you really can’t go wrong in spouting the facts back at the examiner. By the time the exam came round the little book on a specific subject would be full of many and varied ideas and this made your answers all the fuller. But it is also important to evaluate and give your own opinion in the end to show you have understood all you have read.
So the little book idea grows into your study library and if you go over it often enough a pattern of events and happenings is imprinted on your mind so you can recall it at a moments notice. You have actually turned yourself into a human computer.
Old fashioned as it may sound, if you go over old exam papers they don’t actually change that much. After all it is the same subject over the years and especially in history or geography; the basic facts don’t change much. By going over old exam papers you will get the idea of the way the examiners will ask a question and you will be prepared. Some of the same questions come up every third year or so. When I was studying Australian History in my final year at school, the teacher came in at the end of first term and made this statement,”You have finished your education now, it is important that we spend the rest of the year going over old exam papers and teaching you exam technique. It is one big memory test.” Well I took his advice and made my little study books and went over lots of old exam papers and when the exam came round, sure enough, there were two or three questions exactly the same as a couple of years before and it was easy. I came top of the school in that subject just because I had a retentive memory, but ask me any facts a few months later I could not have told you a thing. The folly of exam type education.
Apart from sharing my experience with you, the only thing I have left to say is make your study times regular and disciplined. Don’t give up. If you prepare your memory well in advance of the test you will breeze through like a Gulf Breeze flying saucer. Good luck and remember to prepare the little knowledge books and memorize them thoroughly. This article is written for humanities students so if it helps science and maths students too then that is a bonus.
When you have been out in life for a while and all your study is behind you, then the best study habit you can develop is to study yourself and work out the best way of living a good life and interacting with the natural world all round you and writing about it on Helium, so you can share your knowledge. It’s much more fun than studying for a memory test.