I take study very seriously. And if it doesn’t look good, then I don’t get very far. Call me fickle or perhaps more kindly a visual learner, but when it comes down to it the study tools are in my opinion as important as the content itself. So I thought I’d let you all in on my study essentials…
Before I get into it this isn’t a sure set guide. You don’t need to rush out and buy all the things I use, this is just a glimpse into what works for me.
Every semester I tend to change up how I approach study and taking notes. I’ve done Word Notebooks, Evernote on the iPad, refill, Kikki. K notebooks… this semester I splurged a bit and treated myself to a collection of Moleskine’s. Sigh it’s a naughty splurge for a student I know, but there’s something nice about having beautiful paper and nicely wrapped notebooks…
Curious about what’s on the page?
Rather than trying to keep track of lots of different sources of information, I like to condense all the important bits into one place. I summarise things into my own words (to make sure that I understand what I’m copying) and paste in images/ diagrams. This way when it comes to revising you don’t need to have the textbook, lecture slides, course book and your own notes all floating around. To keep things visually interesting I put the titles and important pieces of information in coloured pen.
With exams kicking off in under two weeks, hopefully you’ve got your notes under some sort of control. If not, don’t panic! There’s still time (at least this is what I’m telling myself!) First things first is to get your head around what you actually have to do. I’ve made up a study calendar and to do list template to help get things into order (you can print them off for yourself here and here!)
The calendar and my to do lists sit on the wall above my desk, on the calendar I have marked in all my assessment dates and then I’ve divided each of my assessments into what I actually need to do to prepare myself, chucking up key points onto the to do lists. I find having a to do list really cuts down on procrastination as rather than sitting around wondering what to do next I have the next thing sitting there waiting for me (also crossing things off is pretty relieving).
Next up are the supplies. I’m going to assume that you have refill and spare paper at the ready. These are the bits I use to put information to paper.
I’ve shopped around with black pens but when it comes down to it I always go back to Bic’s Orange fine tip biros. They’re cheap, lovely to use and go and go.
For titles and important bits of information I use Staedtler Fineliners. These are a bit pricy on the outset but I bought a 20 pack at the beginning of the year and the pens are still going strong. Don’t mess about with Smiggle or other cheap rip offs, they end up costing more in the long run.
Highlighters are always a must and at the moment I’m using a pack of Warwick highlighters from UBS. They’re non offensive enough.
Closing up the pen front are some double ended felt tips from WHS at Whitcoulls. I chose these ones because of the variety of colours and use them for mind maps.
Last but not least we’ve got post its, a note book for general note taking/ drafting and Whittaker’s Strawberry chocolate. The note book and post its are from Kikki. K and the notebook was a must buy – it’s pages have serrated margins (win). As for the chocolate? – Energy, duh!
Once I have my notes all tidily organised I move on to mind maps. Using one A3 page per subject I try to fit all the key ideas I can on the page. I don’t go for high detail here – it’s about summarising and making connections. It’s also a way to rationalise what you’ve learnt. Case in point is the mind map above – I thought that the cardiovascular topic was huge, but now I can see that it’s not actually so scary.
For all the bits that don’t quite make sense/ definitions that I need to know, it’s flash card time. Keeping on with the pretty theme I’ve made a printable for flashcards printing off two/ four per page to change the size.
With all the above sorted all that’s left is to practice – practice exams, practice essays, work on what’s confusing rather than what you like. Because like they say…
Practice makes perfect!
Make a plan. Cut up what you need to cover and give yourself a short break once you finish a section. The break will help consolidate topics in your head and also ensure that you don’t go lala. (Also a break is 5-15 minutes tops, not a couple of hours) ((Treats are good too!))
Don’t just rewrite things blindly. Sure you may feel like you’re studying but you’ll go into auto pilot and learn zilch. Try and put things into your own words, if you can’t then you probably don’t understand what you’re writing about. (Google is your friend on that score)
- With the above point in mind, mind maps are your friend. They don’t have to be complex but they are great for letting you see the bigger picture of what you’re working on – and also for seeing where things overlap or connect.
- Test yourself. Sure you may feel like you know what you’re doing but sometimes exam questions can be a B****. Past exams and text book question sections are great. If you’re writing essays then try writing essay plans – all you need is to find a question or a topic and then list all the things you could talk about if you were going to write that essay.
- YouTube. YouTube isn’t just great for fail videos and beauty gurus, I’ve been watching videos on things like blood pressure to help me pass that goddamn medsci 142 exam.
- Be realistic. Chances are you don’t need to cover EVERYTHING thats been given to you. Be strategic, work out what you’re actually getting tested on and adjust your study accordingly.
- Do some writing. Computers are great but if you rely on them too much your hand will have some wicked cramps by the end of the exam if you’re writing essays. Retrain it to write.
- Last but not least, try to explain things you’re struggling with to someone who doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about. If you can explain it to them, then you probably know what you’re talking about.