Whether you’re entering high school, starting a university degree, or enrolling in vocational education and training, establishing good study habits is vital for successful completion of any course of study.
With the start of the new school year and people of all ages about to embark on a course of study at tertiary level, now is the time for students to put the groundwork into establishing good study techniques that will ensure they gain every possible advantage.
Note-taking practices such as mind mapping – a diagramming technique using keywords, branches and colour – help us make connections between ideas and see a bigger picture that we might otherwise miss.
Former teacher and best-selling author of Brainpower Smart Study: How to Study Effectively Using a Tested and Proven 8-step Method, Nina Sunday, advocates using colour as a study tool. Nina encourages students to abandon the laptop when making notes and to embrace colour and new study methods, ideally using a variety of coloured pens.
Most students use one pen (and, therefore, one colour) when constructing their notes, meaning no page is visually different or distinct from another. That’s a problem for memory because colour has long been proven to stimulate the brain and capture attention, making it easier to encode and recall information.
“Change pen colour for each new topic,” says Nina. “Your notes become colour-coded to help you visually separate and recall the details of one topic from another.”
A favourite with students, the STABILO Point 88 pen is a best-seller at stationery and office suppliers like www.staples.com.au. STABILO’s latest offering, the NEON highlighter (pictured), is a marker that merges modern and vintage STABILO aesthetics.
Here, Nina Sunday shares her 8 steps for getting the most out of your studies:
Step 1: Preview the big picture: Preview for a minute or so, skimming through the manageable chunk you have chosen to pick up the gist of what it’s all about (30 seconds – 1 minute)
Step 2: Notes outline using key headings: Make an outline for your notes or memory map, dividing your page into segments and leaving space to add the detail later. Keep your headings short; key words or short phrases only. (30 seconds – 2 minutes)
Step 3: Read for understanding: Read your manageable chunk for good understanding, to acquire and absorb the information. For any important keyword or key idea that sums up what the sentence or paragraph is about place a tick in the margin next to the line you are reading or highlight the key word. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of the ideas come from around 20% of the work (3 – 5 minutes)
Step 4: Reread a little faster: Reread to check you’ve absorbed everything truly important. Tick and highlight if there is anything important you’ve missed before (2.5 – 4.5 minutes)
Step 5: Postview: Perform a postview, scanning only those lines you have ticked or highlighted as important. You are reading only the important parts of the manageable chunk of information. This is your final ‘cram’ before starting to make your notes for immediate recall (30 seconds – 1 minute)
Step 6: Start notes – first from memory: As soon as you have finished the postview, cover your reading material and add to your notes whatever you can immediately recall. Use the headings in your outline as memory triggers for the detail you’re adding. (1 – 4 minutes)
Step 7: Add notes, using another colour: When your notes are complete with as much as you can retrieve from memory, only then open your reading material again. Go through the text and cross-reference i.e. check whatever you ticked or highlighted is included in your notes. If not, add it in using another colour (1 – 5 minutes)
Now take a ten-minute break
Step 8: Retell: after your ten minute break (no longer), verbalise what you can remember out loud to yourself or to someone you know. Review again after 48 hours, then 7 days, after you first studied the material.
‘Brainpower Smart Study: How to Study Effectively Using a Tested and Proven 8-step Method’ by Nina Sunday is the culmination of a 20-year study of neuroscience, memory and learning. You can buy this book online at:
- Co-op Bookshop paperback $27.00*
- Angus & Robertson Bookworld paperback $63.99*
- Booktopia paperback $62.25*
*All prices are quoted in Australian dollars and are subject to change (up or down) by the retailer.