Enhance your study skills

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Know yourself first:

Everyone learns and remembers information through different ways. Some are visual learners, some learn by doing, some are auditory learners and so on. It is best to do learning styles assessment to get an insight on what type of learner you are. Once you know your learning style, you can use it to increase your learning.

1. Lots of jokes, happy mood & work environment:

To study with full interest, you need to get interested in the process. Studying without interest is not going to give you any long term benefit.

You need to be in good mood, feel fresh, relax and minimize all the ‘issues and tensions’ running in your mind once you sit to study.

Doing something to keep your interest alive or making yourself feel better when preparing to study would compel you to sit and study.

So for the very first thing, learn and know lot of jokes and good events and keep on repeating them every 5-10 minutes during your study period. That way your interest will be maintained and you can proceed to study for longer duration even.

Try not to think about other issues that can be a blockade to your free mind. Try keeping the distractions (mobile phones, pictures of people you love, TV etc) away from you so that your attention is focused during the length of time you devote to study.

Try keeping all the things that are needed within your range so that you don’t have to get up to fetch them and lose interest e.g. keep all the pens, pencil, calculators etc on the same table.

Finally your work environment should be neat and clean. Studying in an environment that is full of haphazard things will not keep your attention focused, when studying try to keep your surroundings free of things that can bother you e.g. if the washroom door is opened and you feel that it is bothering you, go and close it first.

Sit in a place where there is proper light, ventilation and proper support for your back so that you do not exhaust yourself. Ventilation is very critical to minimize the levels of CO2 which will make you feel sleepy. Keep the dictionary along with important notes nearby. Find the meanings of the words that you do not understand and write in book, this way you will remember the topic.

2. The study pace & importance of diet:

The human mind tends to deviate it’s attention towards various things. It is said that maximum attention/concentration period that the human mind can focus on a certain topic is 5 minutes, after 5 minutes, it shifts the attention to different things. You need to know this because forcing yourself to study continuously without any break is going to exhaust you. So after every 3-4 minutes, take a break of 1-2 minutes. Relax, think about various other things and then resume. Remember during this break, don’t try to move away from your study place because often when we switch our places too quickly, we lose our attention as well.

When we sit for long period of time, blood tends to stagnate in the body and lower legs. Hence after every 20 minutes, get up, take a walk of the room so that your circulation is actively maintained. This will even provide more oxygen to the brain, more concentration, less chances of yawning and less chances of your believing that you are sleepy.

Similarly the amount of diet that you consume is very important. Have plenty of water to drink when you sit to study and do drink water and eat fruits.

3.”If I’m simply not in mood to study”:

If you are out of touch from the subject for long time and you do not feel motivated to even open the book, here is a useful tip that my friend told. According to him, open your book, take lot of blank pages and keep drawing different things like star, car, cat etc. Do not read the book but just keep it open. 1 day would pass like this, do the same on 2nd day, on 3rd day…very soon you would think that “I must read what’s in the book” but for this, keep the book open. What we do when we do not feel motivated to study is that we keep our books in the bag, in closet, away from our sight and that’s where ‘out of sight , out of mind’ comes in the play.

If you do not like a subject, try this; take colorful markers or color pencils and with your favorite colors, start underlining the headings of the book. This has been found to generate interest.

4.Preparing to study:

When you sit down to study, before starting the study process; go through the pages of the chapter that you wish to study. Only observe the headings of the topics and make a mental picture in your mind that this chapter is related to these topics.

Formulate questions right now in your mind. For instance if the chapter has the headings such as “Benzene formation in the soft drinks”, prior to reading the paragraph under this heading, question yourself “Hmm, Benzene? What is Benzene? Where can it be found? Is it useful? What’s it’s role in soft drinks?”. When you question yourself prior to topic reading, you develop an interest to study, to find the answers to your questions and this is what will keep you motivated towards studies.

5. Understanding things, retaining the topics:

Be your teacher yourself. With a positive mood, start reading first the whole topic without forcing yourself to understand or retaining it. Just read it, get familiar with terms in the text. Then read the paragraph again, translate it and explain to yourself.

Now it would be very useful if you can “Involve all your five senses” in learning. Remember the more senses you would bring to play, more good would be your retention. For instance you are studying that sunlight helps in photosynthesis, take a pen (imagine it to be sun) and another pen (imagine it to be the plant), now picture/visualize the process by moving ‘the sun pen’ towards ‘the plant pen’ and tell yourself ‘by the help of sun, process of photosynthesis is achieved’.

Make pneumonic and abbreviations. For instance in anatomy, the content of Superior orbital fissure are: Abducent nerve, Trochlear nerve, Lacrimal-Frontal-Nasociliary branches of Trigeminal Nerve, Oculomotor Nerve and Superior opthalmic vein.

How do we remember it? “ALTOS”. The name of the car. A=Abducent nerve, L=Lacrimal-Frontal-Nasociliary branches of Trigeminal nerve,T=Trochlear Nerve, O=Oculomotor nerve and S=Superior Opthalmic vein.

Another way is to draw the topic in pictures, best would be in funny pictures. This again will aid in retention as it brings not only your senses in action but also you are motivated and creative and visualize things.

Mark the important points in paragraph. Remember not every word of the book is to study and learn, in every paragraph there are 2-3- important lines that form core of the paragraph, just retain them.

After every 2-3 pages, go back to the previous pages, quickly look at the headings and points that you have underlined so that you revise what you learnt.

Remember always link and connect things. If you are reading about kidney problems, go back to the previous pages in the book where you studied things related to kidney disorders, writing page numbers of the related topic would even help you better. This way again your previous studied topic is revised.

When you finish your studies, reward yourself. This could be going out of the room for 5-10 minutes for a little walk. And especially when you are free or in washroom, ask yourself questions like “What was the answer to that?” Revising things when you are away from your workplace will help you in better retention, if you cannot answer yourself the question that you asked, on your return, open the book and read the answer to the question. Finding answers to the questions that we do not know or have attempted wrong right then at that instant helps in ‘lifetime retention’.

Discuss things with your study groups, relate them to examples in life and in common things around you.

Remember the more simple you keep your learning, it would be easily retained.

And “Revision” is the key to success.

6. Managing time, making time tables:

If you have to travel a long distance to your college/university, instead of sleeping in the bus or car (if you are not driving) then open the book and start reading anything that you like. You may not understand it but just read it. When you would open the book at home to study the same what you just read in the travel, you would note that you would have retained and understood lot of things when you simply read that topic in the bus.

Formulate a proper time table and try fulfilling it. Never is 100% time table achieved but if you achieve even 80% of it, you have done a great job. Avoid studying the same kind of subjects together, this often makes the reader bore.

7. Self belief:

When you start to feel that you cannot do it, it’s going to be tough and hard. Tell yourself “It’s ok–but with every bit I try, I would get brighter chances of performing it good, so why worry”, “I’m powerful learner and I have a good memory”. Remember if you would tell yourself that you are going to forget it or not be able to retain it, you would forget it as you signal your brain subconsciously that ‘it’s likely to happen”. To improve your memory power, the first step that I find is to believe that you already have a good memory.

8. Importance of examples:

Whatever you are studying, do learn or find out one example to the topic. This way not only would you have a better knowledge of the subject but also when you would sit to answer in your exam, providing your answer with example would make the examiner believe that you have studied the subject in great detail.

9. “My teacher tip”:

When I was studying Oral Pathology, I had lot of problems with retaining the clinical features of various diseases, I used to learn but everything got mixed, I used to skip looking at the drawings thinking that I need to know only the text in order to pass my theory and viva. But my teacher (thanks Dr.Bahadur, it worked very well) told me that you only have to learn 3 things, leave rest of the things (except when reading a topic for the first time), they were:

1.Definition/Classification
2.Clinical features (3 or 4 and make abbreviations)
3. Treatment

He said that before you read the text, look at the picture and say to yourself “This patient of leukoplakia has come. What can I note in this patient”. Now read the text, look at the picture again and write all the clinical features on the side of the drawing by pointing at the abnormality shown in the drawing. It helped to reduce lot of work load and I could filter what to study and what not to study.

10. Keep your sleep with you:

If you would wake yourself and exhaust yourself beyond the time that you can tolerate even, many things would happen. First; you may fall sick and not be able to study for the next 3-4 days so it’s better to study everyday rather than study 2 days with lots of energies and laying down to rest for next week. Second; your memory would be affected, brain gathers and analyzes all the information and stores it well when we lay down to sleep and third; you would not want to study as you would take it as burden. So keep your sleep timings normal if you want to have an effective learning.

For viva voce/oral examination, please read this article.


Written by Muhammad Wasif Haq (2008)
Karachi, Pakistan
The page is a part of Cool Bluez

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