The spring semester is well under way. If you’re a student, your first set of exams (or celebrations as I like to call them) is probably right around the corner. This is your chance to show what you know and see for yourself the progress that you’ve made since the beginning of the semester. Get psyched!
As you study for your exams, there are certain guidelines or rules that will help you get the most out of your valuable time. There are also certain rules that will ensure that you get the least out of your time. In last month’s video blog, I discussed the ten rules of bad studying from Dr. Barbara Oakley’s best selling book “A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math an Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)”. In this month’s video blog, as well as next month’s, I discuss the ten rules of good studying from Dr. Oakley’s outstanding book.
Please read the first five rules of good studying listed below (taken directly from “A Mind for Numbers” with the author’s permission). Then watch this month’s video blog where I talk about how to apply these five rules to learn more in less time in any science or math class. Stay tuned next month for the last five rules of good studying.
1) Use recall.
After you read a page, look away and recall the main ideas. Highlight very little, and never highlight anything you haven’t put in your mind first by recalling. Try recalling main ideas when you are walking to class or in a different room from where you originally learned it. An ability to recall—to generate the ideas from inside yourself—is one of the key indicators of good learning.
2) Test yourself.
On everything. All the time. Flash cards are your friend.
3) Chunk your problems.
Chunking is understanding and practicing with a problem solution so that it can all come to mind in a flash. After you solve a problem, rehearse it. Make sure you can solve it cold—every step. Pretend it’s a song and learn to play it over and over again in your mind, so the information combines into one smooth chunk you can pull up whenever you want.
4) Space your repetition.
Spread out your learning in any subject a little every day, just like an athlete. Your brain is like a muscle—it can handle only a limited amount of exercise on one subject at a time.
5) Alternate different problem‐solving techniques during your practice.
Never practice too long at any one session using only one problem‐solving technique— after a while, you are just mimicking what you did on the previous problem. Mix it up and work on different types of problems. This teaches you both how and when to use a technique. (Books generally are not set up this way, so you’ll need to do this on your own.) After every assignment and test, go over your errors, make sure you understand why you made them, and then rework your solutions. To study most effectively, handwrite (don’t type) a problem on one side of a flash card and the solution on the other. (Handwriting builds stronger neural structures in memory than typing.) You might also photograph the card if you want to load it into a study app on your smartphone. Quiz yourself randomly on different types of problems. Another way to do this is to randomly flip through your book, pick out a problem, and see whether you can solve it cold.
Good luck on your celebrations!