In a bid to make the most of your study hours (and open up more time for gaming, TikTok and everything else), you Google “study methods”. The results are staggering, with pages and pages of this or that technique that purports to up your efficiency, kick your memory into high gear, and enable you to retain knowledge like never before.
But the more blurbs you read, the deeper your skepticism grows. Will eating more fruits actually help memory? How many breaks, and how long? Should you play some white noise or study in complete silence?
Ultimately, you know your learning style best. That said, we do know of some methods that have withstood the trials of qualified research, personal experience, and scientific basis. So if you feel you could do with a boost, try:
1. The Pomodoro Method
Perhaps the most famous on this list, the Pomodoro Method is known for its catchy name and great boost to time management and concentration. It works by breaking down work or study into “pomodoros” – focused work sessions – with frequent short breaks to promote sustained concentration and stave off mental fatigue.
In detail, here are the steps:
1. Get a to-do list and a timer.
2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings.
3. When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed.
4. Then enjoy a five-minute break.
5. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break.
The technique is easy to explain, but a bit harder in practice. Key to its efficacy is the “no distractions” rule. If you find yourself checking your phone or answering a ping, that counts as your five-minute break and you have to set your timer again.
2. The Feynman Technique
This technique is based on the old adage that teaching is the best way to learn.
In practice, write down the name of
the subject/concept that you are studying. Then, explain it out loud as though
you were teaching it to someone else. You may wish to record yourself speaking
for ease of checking later. After that, go back and review what you said and
wrote, correcting mistakes and simplifying the language as much as possible.
At the end of this exercise, you
will have a deeper understanding of the concept without relying on memorising
3. The PQ4R Method
Don’t worry, this is not yet another acronym to memorise on top of your already huge study load. In fact, this method is known for improving memorisation and understanding.
The 6 Steps of PQ4R are:
1. Preview: Preview the information to get a feel for the subject matter will be. Skim the material. Read only headers, subheadings, and highlighted text.
2. Question: Ask yourself relevant questions, such as, “What do I expect to learn from this session?” “What do I already know?”
3. Read: Read the information one section at a time and identify answers to those questions.
4. Reflect: Reflect on your questions and answers. Find any points you may need to revise and go back over them.
5. Recite: Like in the Feynman Technique, go over the topic in your own words again either aloud or by writing down a summary.
6. Review: Do a final look over the material and answer any questions that have not yet been answered.
4. Mind Mapping
Visual learners or those who love to draw often taken to mind mapping, a technique that allows you to visually organise information in a diagram. Write the keyword of your study in the middle, then draw arrows or lines connecting it to other points. Continuing branching out until you have a page filled with ideas!
You can do this on a blank sheet of paper or use a tool like Coggle if you are sustainability-minded. Keep your mind maps, they help you visualise the big picture by actualising hierarchies, relationships and connections between concepts.
5. Leitner System
The Leitner System is based on flashcards. This technique is especially useful for memorising technical or industry terms and definitions.
Prepare different sets of cards for each topic, ideally a concept and its explanation below. Then, play a guessing game with yourself by overturning cards and recalling the definition of each one. If you remembered correctly, you move it to the next box. If you did not, keep it in the original box.
After that, you can plan your study time around the boxes. Box 1, with the cards you did not understand or got wrong, should be revised most often while subsequent boxes may not require as much investment.
Feel free to mix up the study methods to suit yourself best! For example, you could mind map the important concepts first before putting them down into flashcards, then apply PQ4R for especially difficult points.
With these methods, your study will be better targeted and much more effective. Now hit the books!