Always a believer of making things easy for myself and for others, I was surprised that people saw me as a hard worker during my high school and university years. My classmates then would ask me for study tips for university students. Even when I was studying for my masters, some people would ask me the following questions: How do you get the time to study given our jobs and all? How many hours do you sleep? Do you study at work?
Honestly, I just try to look for ways on how to study quickly and effectively. Below are some learning techniques I found very useful.
Study Trick & Tip #1: Know Your Learning Style
As a child, I liked reading about how I could learn more and I found Fleming’s Visual Auditory Kinesthetic (VAK) model. According to Fleming, people learn differently and we usually have a dominant learning style that makes use of either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic triggers. Some of us are comfortable with two or all of these learning styles.
How do you know you’re learning style? Well, observe yourself. What do you usually remember the most? Could you remember what you heard better than what you saw or did?
I am an Auditory Learner. However, the study tips included in this article could very well appeal to Kinesthetic and Visual Learners as well.
Remember: Your dominant learning style comes out naturally. Think fun and easy. Also, as you try the tips below, you'll probably have more insights on your dominant learning style.
Study Trick & Tip #2: More Attention And Less (Or No) Note-taking During Class
During my university years, I was surprised at how difficult Math was. I was not really into numbers as I found them very objective. I had a difficult time especially with Calculus. Calculus was a monster by itself and I envied my friend who enjoyed it. I certainly didn’t enjoy it but I wanted to have good grades. After around 2-3 failed exams, I was facing a wall. I didn’t know what to do as I even tried spending many hours for it, solving as much Calculus problems as I could. I showed my failed tests to my dad and told him, “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
My dad told me, “Why don’t you be more attentive in class? Listen. Stop taking notes and just be there." He then went on to say that I could always photocopy my friend's notes. I was defensive at first because I thought I was already attentive. "Just try not to write on your notebook during class," he said.
For the next few weeks, I didn’t take down notes. I was in class, attentively listening to my professor. He’d walked from end to end of our room, writing formulas and solving problems on the board. Many times I was tempted to write on my notebook, but I didn't. I just listened and became very attentive. My next exams said it all: I either got a B or a B+.
For the Auditory Learner or Visual Learner, this tip makes a lot of sense because the student can listen to the professor and see what he writes on the board more attentively. For the Kinesthetic Learner, I’d imagine him using his point finger to “write” the formulas on the air as the professor writes on the board.
Remember: Don’t worry about having “no notes”. You could always, photocopy or take photos of your classmate’s notes or even take photos of the white board.
Study Trick & Tip #3: Instead Of Reading Books, Scan Them
Reading takes time and as a university student, I had many articles and books to read. But no matter what subject a text might be for, I noticed that the requirement to read was because of either of these two reasons: (a) to learn more about a topic which was already discussed by a professor, or (b) to prepare for the next class.
If my reading was to know more about a topic, I’d have my notes (i.e. copy of my classmate’s notes or my minimal notes) on one side and my book on the other side. As I scan through my book, I try to look for the key points which were NOT discussed in class. If a key point has already been discussed by my professor, then I didn’t have to read about it. Instead, I focused on the sections my professor didn’t discuss about.
If my reading was to prepare for the next class, I’d go to the last page and read the conclusion or summary, if there are any. After that, I’d look at all the headings. Why would I do that? I would do that so that I could have a “feel” of what the important concepts are. These important concepts are usually found in the summary, conclusion, and headings. Usually, after going through all these, I would have an idea of what the text is all about. I can then decide what not to read.
Remember: Don’t be afraid to skip sentences, paragraphs, or even blocks of text. Your mind is very powerful and could understand context.
Study Trick & Tip #4: Use 3x5 Index Cards To Review
Those who study must review and I’ve found out that creating flash cards in the form of 3x5 index cards is one of the most effective ways of reviewing. It is so effective that you would have reviewed the lessons at least once with this method (i.e by summarising and writing the lessons on index cards).
The choice of having a 3x5 index card is intentional. Not only is it pocket-sized but it is small enough to make you think and re-think of what to put on there. These index cards should be triggers to help you remember salient points of a topic. If you could put your notes on one side only, then that’s the best. But, there may be times when you have to use both sides or even attach a second card.
For the Visual Learner, adding small illustrations and using colored pens may be better. For the Kinesthetic Learner, actually writing on the index cards and walking around while reviewing these cards will be beneficial. When reviewing the index cards, an Auditory Learner could say the concepts our loud or have somebody else read them for him.
With index cards, you can randomise the ideas (which mimics the randomised nature of tests) and even combine topics or even courses. As you go through your index cards, you’ll find that you know some cards by heart and if that happens, you can set them aside and focus on the other cards you don’t know much about.
Personally, I’ve used the index cards method in many areas of study. For me, they are "miracle workers" and they make my studying easier. In vocabulary building, one index card could work for one to two words. In statistics, one type problem could go on one index card (where the problem is on one side while the solution is on the other).
Remember: Not all cards are perfect. They don’t have to be because you could always change or modify a card without affecting the others
Having Fast Study Methods
Learning is really fun but when it gets too difficult, the fun part of it just disappears. To keep learning and studying fun, easy, and exciting, we need to study effectively. This means that we should know what to read about and not read everything. This also means that we should be aware of our learning styles and activate them when we attend our classes and review our lessons using 3x5 index cards.