I work in a high school as a substitute teacher, tutoring on request. Students come to me in despair. Frustrated with teachers, knowing they have to pass a test this coming Friday or they’ll fail and their lives will be over. Oh, dear reader, don’t let this happen to you. Prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
I know with certainty that you’re doing your best for whatever class you’re in (why else would you be here?) For your convenience, I’m listing three study skills that will help you to pass that test, and in the long run, will help you remember the material long-term. You can indeed succeed in life (and pass whatever test comes your way). Give it all you’ve got. Take this test as a personal challenge of your will power. Throw in a few more clichés! Read on!
Teach to Learn
Over and over in college my professors told me we learn best when we’re teaching. So, dear reader, teach to learn. Find a friend who is totally unfamiliar with the subject. Teaching what you learn helps you clarify the subject material, outlines what you need to learn more about, and helps you formulate what you think of the subject (otherwise known as your opinion). Also, working in study groups after class can provide new perspectives on freshly covered material that you may not have considered if you’re going it alone. Teach each other, and search together to learn more about whatever is unclear.
One of the best study skills you can acquire is to make learning social.
SQ4R & Cornell
The SQ4R and Cornell methods are very effective learning strategies. If SQ4R is completely new to you, it might sound like something that is much more complex than it really is. Luckily, you’ll learn that the SQ4R is designed to follow the way most people best learn naturally. In short, SQ4R can be summarized as such: Survey your text. Question your text. (1R) read actively, (2R) write a summary, (3R) recite what you’ve read, and (4R) review frequently.
Also, if you’re unfamiliar with the Cornell note taking method, and if the name Cornell sounds a bit too intellectual and Ivy League for you, then you’ll be glad to know that this method is also designed to help with the way most people naturally learn. The Cornell note taking method works especially well with the SQ4R. Here’s a summary: You divide your paper into two columns (if you’re over-eager, there’s a PDF for this here) One side, totally blank, is for questions that come up and comments you think of during the lecture. There’s also to be room at the top and bottom of the page for answers. Unlike SQ4R, Cornell has five R’s:
- RECORD: All the important stuff.
- REDUCE: Summarize the important stuff.
- RECITE: Look away from the text and recite what you’ve summarized.
- REFLECT: Form an opinion on what you’ve learned.
- REVIEW: Write what you know.
You will not always be in a position where knowledgeable people who care about your academic excellence are willing, or even around, to be helpful. When you make learning proactive an important study skill is to always consider, as the lecture goes on (and on and on and on), these two questions: Will what the teacher/professor is saying potentially be a test question? Is a key point being explained, and what about this key point do I not have mastered? If you’re a genius, why not be a helpful and courteous student by asking questions that may clarify the material for other students who are too shy to speak up?
One Last Thing
Also keep in mind: you can talk to your professors/teachers outside of class. Be honest. If you’re very familiar, tell him or her that you would appreciate the discussion. If you’re unfamiliar, say as much and ask follow-up questions that you were too shy to ask in class. If you’re so befuddled that you don’t know what questions to ask, say as much.
The ultimate worst is that the professor or teacher will recommend a tutor. For that, you’re no worse off than if you had not asked, and it’s no skin off your back. You can only gain by talking to a teacher or professor after class. Know that most teachers and professors are in the career because they like the subject and the students. Try these study skills out; see if they work for you.