I began to study hard about two years ago, when I started my final GCSE year and when I started my studyblr. Since then, I’ve discovered how I like to write my notes and the organisational techniques that work for me. However I’ve always struggled with finding a strategy of how to actually learn information for a test in an effective way. Hopefully by the end of this post you’ll have a few more ideas you can implement so you can see how you will learn over this next academic year!
This is the best way to understand a topic - and you need to understand it before you attempt writing notes on it and then studying it. I know that lots of people don’t like to ask questions during class, so stay behind for a few minutes at the end or email your questions to your teacher. Sometimes them just telling you 1:1 what they said in class can make more sense and once a topic clicks in your head and you understand it, you’ll be able to study it so much more effectively!
Write notes that work for you
This is the first step to understanding a concept! Though it may take a few attempts before you find a way of making notes that works for you (check out my post all about writing notes here), it will help tons in the long run as you can then re-read these multiple times and have them as a clear resource where everything you need to learn is is one place.
Mindmaps are really useful for visual learners; I made mindmaps and read them so much I memorised them so that in exams you can simply pull up your mindmap to the front of your mind and read from it! Even if that’s not possible for you, this is a great way to actively study as you can try to write out your mindmap without looking at your notes, see how far you get relying on your memory and then you’ll know what you struggle with and need to learn!
Similar to mindmaps above, but done on a broader level, testing yourself is the best way to actively learn a subject! This can be done by a brain dump; once I finish making topic notes, I then make a mind map with only a few prompt words around it. Whenever I come to revise, I get a plain piece of paper, and my prompt words to write down everything I can remember. This is my brain dump of the topic. I then go through my brain dump with my proper notes and use a coloured pen to correct what I wrote down wrong and annotate it with anything I missed out. The act of writing everything down you know, everything you don’t know in a different colour and reading through your notes really gets the information in your head.
Have others test you verbally
A quicker way to test yourself is to give your notes to a family member or a friend and have them test you on the content. This works in the same way as the brain dump but is quicker as you’re talking the answers, not writing them down. A way you can test yourself when you’re alone is to explain a process or topic to something/someone around you; I use my dogs, a cuddly toy or even just a lamp and explain the concept as clearly as I can to them.
Lots of people use a ‘mind palace’ technique to memorise a process or list of things. This is when you choose an object or room that you know extremely well and assign different parts of it to a step of the process or item on the list to. For example, I could memorise the factors affecting short term aggregate supply and assign them to my alarm clock; so labour costs is the face of the clock, price of raw materials is the ‘hour’ button and levels of tax and subsidies is the ‘minute’ button, etc. I haven’t used this technique myself before as I only discovered it recently, but I fully intend to use it over the next year for my a-levels!
This is the method that I use for memorising lists and it works similarly to the mind palace technique above. I use these in economics mostly for factors affecting different markets, supply and demand, etc. As well as being extremely useful in the exam itself, they’re great beforehand as they don’t have to make sense and you can have fun creating them and testing yourself on them! So for macroeconomic evaluation points, I use CCCREEMTTT - it sounds a bit like ‘cream tea’ and makes me smile whenever I use it! They are a genuine lifesaver for me!
Use actual tests
After making sure that you know the content using the above methods, using practice papers or textbook questions really is the best way to perfect your exam technique. Mark your own work so you can see the mark scheme and get accustomed to the way in which they mark and what they’re looking for in your answers.
Focus on what you don’t know
It’s easy to summarise all the above points in just a few words; focus on actively studying what you don’t know. It’s all too easy to revise the same first chapter of your textbook each week because you know the content and it makes you feel good to get the answers right, however that isn’t helping your future self as you’re neglecting the topics that you don’t know.
Try and be true to yourself and really question whether you’re studying in the most efficient way possible (’has reading the textbook for half an hour really helped me to understand this?’). Once you get into the habit of actively studying and finding which of the above methods works for you, you’ll find that you know and understand the topic and enjoy testing yourself and finding what you really know.
Thank you for reading and let me know which tip was your favourite or if there are any others that you’d like me to add! Go to my masterposts page here to see individual posts on how to study history, economics, maths and for GCSEs!