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Study Smarter, not Harder

“Working hard, or hardly working?” We’ve all heard the phrase before, and we’ve probably all been guilty of hardly working! However, when it comes to studying working harder isn’t always the answer. 

Instead, you should be focussing on studying smarter. This means using your study time in an effective way to make sure you not only remember, but also understand the concepts you’re being taught in class.

Now, we know this is a lot easier said than done! To help you out, we’ve put together some methods to help you actively engage in your study – read on to learn about the EduExperts tried and true methods of study!

What is effective studying?

One of the easiest mistakes to make when studying is assuming that just reading your notes is a good way to study. Often, we see students spend hours revising and memorising notes they’ve taken in class. While it’s great that time is being spent reviewing content (and it’s definitely better than no study!), simply reading and re-reading content only allows for rote memorisation. It detracts from your ability to genuinely understand concepts, and then consequently apply those concepts in a variety of contexts.

While re-reading, highlighting and underling texts might help keep you engaged in the topic, there are better ways of learning. Instead of rote memorisation, you should be trying to actively engage in your course material. So, how do you do this?

Break content down into chunks.

One of the first things you should do is break your content down into chunks. Imagine you’ve been given a bar of chocolate – if you eat the whole bar in one go, you’re probably not going to feel very good, and you may not even have been able to finish it. Alternatively, if you eat it over the course of a few days, you’ll be able to enjoy your chocolate and finish it with no problems!

Studying is often the exact same. When you sit and study for hours on end, you don’t end up feeling very prepared, and you may even have missed some important concepts or understandings. If instead you break your coursework down in to bite-sized chunks, you allow yourself to work through the content without burning out or missing anything important.

Prioritise your subjects.

Now that you have your bite-sized chunks of content to work through, you need to understand which to prioritise. There are a few ways you can do this.

This first way is to start with the hardest topics. The topics you think are the hardest are probably the ones you know the least about, which is exactly why they should be your starting point. If you start with the topics you know the least about, you give yourself the most amount of time to study them before your exam date. This saves you from cramming and feeling unprepared the night before.

Getting through your toughest topics first may also help with procrastination! After you’ve done all the hard yards, all that’s left is the easy stuff you already have some understanding of. You can smash these out quickly and easily, and go into your exams feeling confident and prepared.

Another way you can prioritise is by looking for the topics with the most value. For example, if you have a test in one subject worth 30% of your grade on the same day as a test in another subject worth 10% of your grade, you may choose to prioritise the subject that is worth more while you study, even if you know the content better.

Engage in active recall.

Like we said earlier, re-reading your notes is not active studying. Instead, try using active recall. This means you can actively engage in your learning, rather than passively consuming it. Think of an actress trying to learn her lines for a play – she doesn’t learn her lines by only reading them over and over, but by acting them out and engaging with the play and other actors.

You may not be an actor, but some other methods of active recall you can try include:

-       Create your own quiz and flashcards to test what you remember on a subject

-       Create visual aids like diagrams and mind maps

-       Practice answering questions! This is particularly useful if you have access to past papers or exams

-       Write down questions about the topic during class, and see if you can find the answer after

You may already have your own method that works for you, but if you don’t give these a try! Remembering your content will quickly become a breeze.

Teach what you’ve learnt.

One of the best ways to test how well you’ve learnt something is to try and teach it to someone else! Teaching someone else is a great way of primarily reinforcing your own learning, and secondarily a true test of how much you understand. You may need your notes the first time you teach someone, but you’ll find that the more you explain it, the less prompts you’ll need!

If you don’t have anyone to teach, that’s perfectly ok! You can instead think like a professor and create a quiz for yourself. Alternatively, you could pretend you were a podcast host talking about this topic, or make a YouTube video on the topic. There are lots of different ways that you can still teach material without needing to rely on someone else.

The Feynman Technique is a proven study technique utilising this concept. If you haven’t already, give this technique a try!

Overall, the key goal of study is to make sure you know your course content before your exams – and not only know it, but feel confident in being able to remember and understand it when exam day arrives! While you will always have to work in order to get the best results, following this guide will make that work so much easier. So, “working hard, or hardly working?” Why not both!



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