It is a known fact that different people study best in different ways, or rather absorb information in different ways.
Since leaving University I have attended a number of short (a few days) and very expensive training courses. Observing and speaking to the trainers on these courses made me reflect on the way I approached my degree studies.
What professional trainers tell me
There are three distinct learning styles, Visual, Auditory and Haptic.
Professional trainers vary learning styles throughout a course, switching style every 20 – 30 minutes, using presentations, exercises, group activity and discussion.
How I studied at University
This knowledge made me reflect on how I studied:
- I visualized graphical information I was studying
- I sometimes read / thought out loud
- I often paced around whilst thinking about information
- When I got stuck on a problem I would sometimes go for a walk and think about it
- I preferred quiet study environments free of distraction
These activities resemble traits of the three learning styles. Most people are a mix of all three personality types.
To get the best results from your study time you should experiment and reflect on what works best for you, devising your own mode of study.
First of all consider:
- At what time of day do you find study most effective?
- In which environments do you study best?
- How do absorb and retain information studied?
Study Tips: Memory
When you first study information it is retained in “short term memory”
As you persist with your studies information passes into “long term memory”
In order to do well in exams you need to get information into long term memory, revision close to the time of the exam should serve as a refresher, putting information back into short term memory, which will reduce the amount of time it takes to recall information during an exam (information in short term memory can be recalled more quickly than information in long term memory).
Study Tips: Repetition
The key to committing information to long term memory is repetition. The more time you invest studying a particular topic, the better your chances will be of retaining it in long term memory. To achieve this, read through notes regularly right the way through your course. Do not leave your notes un-read until the day before an exam!
To make your studies more effective, you should also consider what type of learner you are, Visual, Auditory or Haptic.
Study Tips: Visual learners
Visual Learners study best when the material is graphic, for example diagrams, graphs, charts, tables etc.
Visual learners study best un-disturbed, so seek out a quiet environment free of distraction.
Take detailed notes during lectures, adding diagrams, graphs, charts where appropriate. You may also find “Mind Maps” an effective tool.
I found that looking away from a page / diagram, or closing my eyes and actually visualizing the information was the most effective means of retaining visual information.
Study Tips: Auditory Learners
Auditory learners study best when they can hear the material.
Try reading aloud, see if you can find tape recordings on the subject you are studying, and consider making tape recordings of your notes, which can be replayed to yourself as part of your revision. If you do this be sure to summarize notes, as you would when using the Cornell note taking system on paper.
As well as reading aloud, plan your study aloud, think aloud etc. Although this may seem odd, it will help you retain information.
Take every opportunity to discuss your study with lecturers and other students.
I found discussion and thinking aloud very effective, though thinking aloud is best done in private.
Study Tips: Haptic Learners
Haptic’s are people that can’t sit still! This kind of person tends to pace around and like having music or a television on in the background. Distraction is a problem for Haptic’s trying to study!
Haptic learners should vary their activities and consider studying whilst doing something physical such be as pacing around.
Haptic learners respond well to the use of color, try using highlighting pens and vary the appearance of notes.
If you get stuck or frustrated with a problem try switching tasks for a while, or going for a short walk.
Make a note of distractions to act upon at a later time, as opposed to stopping your study to do something different.
If it helps, play music in the background, but do not tell yourself you are a Haptic learner just because you like listening to the radio, most people will find it a distraction!
I found listening to the radio a distraction so did not do it. Don’t try and convince yourself you are a Haptic learner on the basis that you like listening to the radio.
I did find going for a walk to think over a problem, or a change of environment (room or location) helpful.
In summary, work out what approach suits you, it is likely to be different to that taken by your peers. Don’s assume that what works for your friends will work for you, or vice versa. Learning styles are quite distinct between individuals.