5 best ways to study according to psychologists
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5 best ways to study according to psychologists

5 best ways to study according to psychologists

We know you want to do as well as humanly possible in your assessments and to do so means absolutely nailing your study techniques.

And who better to ask than a collection of cognitive and educational psychologists?

Luckily enough, Kent State University researcher John Dunlosky and his collaborators have reviewed ten different study skills, finding that while half were not overly effective, there were another five were, Thinker Academy reported.

The study, published in the journal for Association for Psychological Science, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, reviewed a large collection of research focused on improving learning.

Dunlosky’s team concluded that the following are five of the most effective study skills to use…

1. Elaborative interrogation

Asking yourself why, why, why.

Asking questions can be immensely helpful when trying to learn – and retain – information for your exams. After you learn something ask yourself, “why is this fact true?” or “how do I know it is true?”

Research has proven this will help you consolidate and remember the fact through encouraging you to use the new information you’ve learned together with things you already know, improving your memory for the new info by tying it to your baseline of knowledge.

2. Self-explanation

Explaining to yourself or others the meaning of what you’ve just learnt.

Explaining things to yourself as you go is another great way to ensure the information stays locked in your brain.

It helps you stop, step away from the textbook and really understand the information, forcing you to think about what you’ve been learning and really consider what it actually means.

According to Professor Micki Chi, instead of summarising what it says on the page, you create meaning for it and often attach associations to it, triggering memories in your brain that help you remember it, Thinker Academy reported.

You are likely to encounter problems as you explain what you know to yourself, forcing you to look again at what you’ve learned.

Time away from your textbook helps your brain process what you’re learning and not just gloss over everything you read. You should do this periodically to achieve top results – perhaps after every paragraph, page, key fact or formula.

You might find you need to head back to the textbook for more information if you’re struggling to explain the fact to yourself or your friend – a great indicator of whether you really took in all that info.

3. Practice testing

Testing, testing and testing yourself again!

Have you ever taken an exam without practice testing? If so, you may have been limiting yourself.

Not only does practice testing get you used to the exam format – or to recalling information quickly if you’re testing via flashcards – but it has been shown to improve memory at a much more effective rate than simply reading and reviewing material.

It exercises memory retrieval in your long-term memory (exactly where you want all that info to be going). By testing your long-term memory you build pathways to the facts and answers you need, meaning you can then access them easier each time you find them. Thinker Academy reported that scientists have been known to call this “retrieval practice.”

Print out past papers, make flashcards, answer questions from your textbooks, search the internet for practice tests – do all you can to practice test yourself.

Be sure to mark them afterwards and check which questions you got right and wrong so you know where you can improve next time.

4. Distributed practice

Studying over a long period of time across different study sessions.

We’re sure this is nothing new to you: cramming is very unlikely to work!

Teachers, friends, parents, internet forums and articles galore have told you that cramming is a bad idea. And now, psychologists are here to tell you, too. For the last time, do not cram.

Instead, space out studying as much as you can. Do little and often, taking regular breaks whenever necessary.

Taking breaks between study sessions effectively ‘re-starts’ your memory for the specific topic, making it harder to remember information and forcing your brain to really let the information sink in. Each session will slowly become easier than the previous one until you know your stuff.

5. Interleaved practice

Variation. Mixing numerous problems together to understand them better.

Thinker Academy illustrate this through maths. They give the example of formulas; you may need to use a few different ones to solve one overall problem.

Interleaved practice encourages this in the belief that mixing problems forces you to learn more about how and when to apply the formula (or knowledge) you’re learning. In the case of maths, you will need to learn when one formula should be applied over another, forcing you to really put your knowledge into practice. You can then tell the problems apart.

Learn one formula or fact and try it out. Once you feel comfortable with that, choose another and do the same. Repeat this until you have a large library of working knowledge.

So, there you have it! According to psychologists these tried and tested methods are likely to be the most effective at helping you study. We wish you luck!

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