The Ultimate Guide to Studying

[caption id="attachment_814" align="alignleft" width="208" caption="Some Owl Dude doing Intense Studying"]Owl Dude Studying[/caption]

"I can't study.
"Studying is so hard!"
"When I'm studying, I fall asleep."
"How to study?"
"Google: Things to do when you are bored."
"Facebook prevents me from studying."
A question I am asked frequently is this: How do you make good grades? The answer is, essentially, to pay attention, study, and work hard. This answer is not sufficient for most people -- including me. In learning information, I have compiled a list of some very good ways to recall information.

1. Quizlet

Quizlet is a little tool that lets you make flashcards and play games with them. But that's not all -- it boasts a very universal API which allows people to make their own inerfaces for Quizlet. With my iPhone, I am able to access my flashcards anywhere. A great app is called iReview Flashcards -- it's free, easy to use, and while glitchy, I can take my flashcards anywhere I want.

But when using this, there is a specific way of studying that will allow you to retain the information better.

  1. Use short definitions/terms. Remembering two ten-word phrases and associating them with different definitions is much easier than one twenty-word phrase.
  2. Play the games. The test/learn mode isn't very visual and won't let you retain the information as easily as a more graphical method where you are timed and must race to get the answer.
  3. Be competitive. In trying to beat the others' scores, you are more likely to remember the correct answers.
  4. Say the terms out loud as you type them. The more ways you retain the information, the more ways your brain makes links between term and definition.

2. The Associative Method

A few months ago, back when I thought school was too hard, I found a really good answer on Yahoo! Answers on study techniques. The answer was written by a psychology student. Here it is:

Find a location that you know well, your house perhaps. Grab a pen and notepad and walk through it making note of large objects that you will remember the location of. Then make another list of all the things you want to remember.
Now say that first thing on your first list is a grandfather clock and the first thing on your second list is that pigs like mud. Make a mental image of the grandfather clock covered with mud and with a pig dancing in front of it. Make sure it's a way out there mental image that you will remember. Do this for every piece of information on your list. When you need to recall the info image you're walking through your house. You see the grandfather clock and all of a sudden you have the mental image pop back into your head of the muddy, dancing pig. Voila, information recalled.

Basically, associate objects with concepts. Adding on to this method, you may want to quiz yourself by just walking through your house, looking at your pens, etc. This method, however, is not the best for things like vocabulary quizzes.

3. Sleep-studying

Record yourself going through your notes in the most exciting way possible. (with emotion!) Right when you are about to sleep, put some headphones on and lay in your bed, listening to your notes to go to sleep. Most likely, you will get through your notes once or twice. Make sure you were concentrating on the notes only, not how your day was etc. Whilst sleeping, your brain will store the information learned right before it easily. Furthermore, frequently the thoughts you have before sleeping become your dream. With this method, I've had dreams about meeting Greek philosophers, talking to a smart guy who knew a lot of words, being a soldier in Rome, etc. Before you sleep, use your imagination to create some sort of story in your mind that you will immerse in as you fall asleep. This method takes a lot of practice, but it works for even the hardest of tests.

4. Pay attention in class

Listen actively, taking as many notes and highlighting as much as possible. This way you retain the information more easily and can associate the experience of learning with your information as you try to remember an answer.

5. Take a nap if you feel tired!

Despite what they say -- do your homework before you nap -- that is not exactly the best idea. Napping does not store information as well as a full rest does. For me, it's better to take a 5-hour nap and stay up until 12 studying than it is to study, nap, eat dinner, then play a video game or watch TV before sleeping. Remember, what you learn before you sleep is what you remember the next day.

Also, make sure you study everything before sleeping. You know how you practice piano one day and can't figure it out, then the next day, you're a virtuoso? Similar concept.

6. Take mental breaks

Studying for extended periods of time can be stressful and will cause you to become bored. Taking a mental break from studying by going off to play a video game, watching TV, etc. will actually be beneficial. Just make sure you keep your train of thought in your memory. When you are studying, study and ONLY study.

7. Take notes.

Not just any old notes... but Google Docs notes! First, your thumbs don't hurt (unless you are a horrible typer), second you can study with other people aided with Skype, and third, you can save and print these documents. You can turn these into audio with a Kindle or something, etc. Google Docs has always worked for me.

Retype your written notes and digitize them! Be your own Project Gutenberg!

If you follow these 7 steps...

I guarantee, studying will be much more productive!

Any questions, adulations, concerns, burnt offerings?

Please leave them as a comment below. I'd appreciate your techniques/comments.

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