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Study methods: Which one is right for you

Studies have found that engaging only one of your senses is the least effective method of retaining information. That means that you are likely to remember something that you’ve experienced with two senses e.g sight and sound than just something that you only hear or see. This means that simply transferring and rewriting notes from a textbook is, unfortunately, the least effective way to study and remember things in the long term.

The best study methods are those where you continuously reflect on the knowledge that you have and rearrange them into other modes, for example, converting your school notes into mind maps or flashcards. Not only does this provide the continuous exposure and repetition to the new information but also forces you to think about how the information is related to each other, how they are different and what information is relevant. This allows you to compartmentalise and store the information better so that it’s not an indiscernible sludge of knowledge in your brain. If you can differentiate between all your knowledge, then it’ll be easier to retrieve it later too.

1. Mind Maps

Mind maps are useful visual aids for text-based subjects like history or English where you’re expected to analyse and evaluate lots of information, find the relationships and links between it. The process of converting your written classroom notes will strengthen your analytical ability as you organise the information and decide where things go on the mind map, in what order and in relation to what. This is where the compartmentalization process happens.

Don’t worry about how pretty your mind map looks. My initial mind map usually looks my brain has vomited but this is still useful because it shows me what I know and then I can work towards organizing the information into another mind map or into another form such as flashcards. Because mind maps serve almost like a visual imprint of your brain, they can be useful if you remember things visually because all the individual pieces of information are transformed into a single image that you can retrieve and zoom in and out of to see the details, so it works like a photographic memory.

2. Flashcards

Flashcards may not be as appealing as mind maps but their advantage is that they are portable, so there is no excuse for not revising. Flashcards work best when you have a lot of material that needs to be memorised or requires a recall. This can include subjects like history to remember dates and geography to remember case studies but it can also include subjects such as biology which require recall of processes as well as languages to memorise vocabulary.

The uses of flashcards are endless and you can make as many flashcards as you need and in as much detail as you want to. Digital flashcards are also an option if you want to be able to store it on your phone, share it with others or prefer typed notes over handwritten ones.

3. Teaching Others

Teaching to video tutorials and audio recordings such as songs are a good option if you enjoy speaking out your revision. Talking out loud, despite how crazy it might seem, is an excellent study strategy because when we talk through our understanding of a subject we will stop, er and um if our understanding is broken and missing in places. It is also harder to lie to yourself about what you know when you speak it aloud because you will notice your conscious efforts to evade your own questions about your true understanding.

This can signal to you that there are aspects that you need to go over. Speaking out loud the material with different emotions or in different characters is also a fun way to spice up what would otherwise be a boring process of revision.

All three method can also be combined so you can turn your mind maps into voice notes and speak them through in full coherent sentences. This is also a good practice for structuring your essay and helps you prepare a flow for your essay which means you will spend less time in the exam preparing one. You can also turn your array of flashcards into a mind map by condensing all the information and organising the flashcards into broader categories. The key to finding what the perfect study method for you is by experimenting with different methods and seeing what works best for you.

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