Some tips on study techniques
If you find studying hard, you’re not alone. Lots of people find it really difficult so we hope that this article will help give you some tips on technique to make the journey as smooth as possible.
Make sure you manage your time and environment
Having an area that is comfortable, has lots of fresh air and good light is important when you’re studying but the key thing thing when you’re working towards an exam is making your studies a priority. This can be challenging when you have to think about your job as well, particularly as it will take time to learn everything you need to know.
Our tip is to look through the content to get a feel for the amount that there is, review the syllabus and spend time looking at old exam papers. Build an understanding of your own learning patterns: there is research that indicates that study lasting more than 40 minutes can become counter-productive, so remember to take a break after 30-40 minutes.
Whatever you do with your break, get up and move away from your screen - try and get some fresh air if possible.
If you’re studying for professional exams then you’re likely to find the process quite unlike school or university work. It can be a lonely pursuit if you don’t find the opportunities to access support. Help is available, but you generally need to take the initiative and find it yourself.
When it comes to the exam, don’t forget to answer the question
It is amazing how many times people believe they have answered the question and then don’t really understand where they went wrong. There are a few things that you can think about to help you avoid this common exam trap.
The most frequent mistake is that despite having read the question, the response is not well tailored and precise. If your answer addresses the topic generally, rather than the question specifically you are going to lose marks. You may be keen to show off your knowledge, but keep it relevant to the question.
Examiners will use certain words in a question. These keywords can unlock the question by giving you a clear indication as to what they want in the answer. You just need to understand the key, so below is a list which should help.
- Advantages and Disadvantages: To look at the beneficial and negative outcomes of something
- Analyse: To determine the elements, features and possible outcomes of a concept
- Apply: To make a theory relevant and suitable within a chosen example. To put a concept into action
- Assess: To determine the effect, results or reasons for something
- Comment: Observations, expansions, criticisms and thoughts, premised on knowledge about a particular issue or concept
- Compare and contrast: Identify the similarities and differences between two or more objects, issues, concepts
- Consider: To reflect on an event or piece of information leading towards the proposal of a solution
- Define: Identify the central qualities of something and determine its meaning
- Describe: Use details and examples to outline the key characteristics
- Differentiate: To recognise the unique features and characteristics of an issue, concept or object and to establish how it is different from something else
- Discuss: To consider and examine via argument
- Examine: To scrutinise and investigate an issue or concept carefully
- Explain: Provide detail that makes an issue or concept clear. To interpret information and determine its meaning
- Identify: To recognise the main features of an issue, object or concept
- Illustrate: Make an issue or concept clear using examples (this does not necessarily mean you are required to draw something)
- Predict: Use a variety of factors to determine a possible future outcome
How can you show understanding of a topic as opposed to simply showing knowledge? Use examples to give context. Markers in exams do not want to see you quoting back long sections of the learning materials, they want you to demonstrate that you understood what you read and that you can apply that knowledge.
Find a friend and teach back
Find a friend and try teaching back. Explaining concepts to somebody else is a great way of finding holes in your logical understanding that you never suspected were there. Strictly speaking, teaching back means repeating a lesson back to your teacher to ensure you’ve grasped it, but anyone will do. If you can’t find a colleague, plan a lesson in your head or on paper or imagine how you’d explain a topic step by step to somebody unfamiliar with it.
Get some exercise
Adding to the wealth of evidence that even a little exercise actually encourages the growth of brain cells and blood vessels around the brain, researchers at the University of Texas recently found that exercise improved short and long term memory.
By contrast, starving your brain or body can make it harder to learn. Don’t forget to drink water and eat foods that will keep your energy levels adequate during your study times.
Good luck with your studies.