Saturday, August 28, 2010

Learning How to Improve Memorization and Study Skills

Hey there! As it is in pretty much every aspect of life, there is, in fact, an art to studying. It is an art that few grasp immediately, some learn over time through trial and error, but most never truly grasp completely. There is, obviously, no set way that is the only way to correctly study. But there are many proven methods that work for the general populace.

Below I will share with you the methods I applied that helped me through high school and a bit of college, where, in my second year, I am still using it today. However, it is up to you to personalize these methods to your unique learning abilities. To further help you, I will provide tips throughout on how to do just that. Let's begin!

The Crucial Ingredient

Prayer! Praying will eliminate every opportunity to mess up, make careless mistakes, or overlook important information. Before studying, pray that the Holy Spirit leads your attention to the correct things to study and to help you absorb it completely and understand it to the fullest. And make a quiet prayer before quizzes and tests asking for wisdom in answering correctly everything better than your own abilities and within the time constraints. Most importantly, you must have faith in what you are asking and know that God is faithful to hear your prayers and answer.

If you skip this all-too-important step, you will leave yourself vulnerable to careless mistakes, mis understandings, and may even end up memorizing the wrong thing! Just remember God is your source of ALL things. So ask him for what you need! Wisdom and full understanding.

Getting to the Meat of it

Studying from you textbook is pretty simple. The main thing to do there is highlighting. Get lots of color highlighters! All the colors of the rainbow! But what do you highlight? There are four main things you should look out for: bold print terms, key ideas, chapter review answers, and things your teacher draws attention to more than once.

  • Bold print terms are obvious. If the writer of the book thought it was important, then you should probably pay it some mind.
  • Highlight ALL key ideas. It takes a bit of practice to recognize when something is important. Following along how your teacher walks through the chapter will give you a hint on how you should judge the important stuff.
  • If there are question-and-answer sections in the chapters, highlight these answers within the text. These review sections are meant to draw your attention to the most important information.
  • Finally, whatever the teacher puts emphasis on is important to take note of directly in the text. A good hint is if the teacher mentions more than once, especially in the same day. A bell should go off in your head when that happens. If the teacher spends a lot of time and effort to make sure everyone understands something in particular, that's a loud signal to take note of it.

What highlighting does, other than the obvious, "higlighting the important stuff," is help to make your brain give special attention to those colored sentences, even if you don't consciously give your full attention. Furthermore, different colored highlighters help alot of people. Color coding the various types of information or various sections just adds to the fun and makes your brain more willing to pay attention. That is unless you get easily confused by the multiple colors, then stick to one. I for one cannot do the rainbow thing, but I had a friend in high school who used five different colors at once, alternating in colors for each thing she highlighted. I couldn't even look at the page too long without getting dizzy XD

Storing it all up

So now you got the information from your text all sorted, knowing what's important and what's trivial. But that's not enough, unless you have a photographic memory, in which case you most likely wouldn't need this How-to, you need to now get this information into your long term memory.

What you need to do is look over at all those key terms right before bed. Make sure it's the last thing you do before sleeping. In most cases you will find yourself thinking about it the next morning or even dreaming about it. That's good! That means the info made it to your long term memory. This is an especially useful trick on the night before exams. The sleeping part is important though! Don't stay up the whole night studying. Then your brain won't get a chance to process it correctly.

Also, for the question-answer sections in the texts, write out the answers including the question in it. For eg, if the question is "What is the capital of New York?" The answer wouldn't be "Albany" It would be "The capital of New York is Albany." That's basically just helping you take notes from the questions, furthering subliminal memorization.

If you are a quick memorizer, that's as far as you usually have to go. But if it takes you a bit longer to memorize things, then you should most definitely take this extra step. It's a bit more work, granted, but it ensures your brain's absorbing of the facts.

Make outlines.

There's an art to it. But basically you just outline with roman numerals (or regular numbers if you prefer) the chapters from your text with the key terms. So you would have "Chapter title" then below that the subheading and then below that phrases or sentences containing the key terms you highlighted from the text IN ORDER. It can be a bit tedious if you highlighted alot of stuff but if you do it right, you might not ever have to go back to it again! All this does is get your brain to give its undivided attention to the words themselves helping further to ingrain into your long term memory.

Here I'll give you an example. It can work for pretty much any subject once it has a text book, and even those without a textbook too, if you take really good notes. Using Chemistry as an example, Chapter one's title is "Basic Concepts." Then Chapter 1 is broken up into sections: intro, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. Then under each of the sections are subheadings like "Goals of Science", "Dilemmas and integrity in science", etc. Then under each subheading, there are one or more paragraphs containing bold print terms, key ideas, and such. Ok, so now you have a picture, hopefully, of the layout. Here's what my outline of chapter 1 would look like:

I. Basic Concepts of Chemistry
-- U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) - athletes using steroids.
-- Chemists used a GC-MS for forensic work

 1.1 Chemistry and it's Methods
   A. Hypothesis, Laws, and Theories
     a. A hypothesis - a tenative explanation or prediction based on experimental observations
     b. Quantitative information is numerical data, such as the temperature at which a chemical substance melts or its mass.
     c. qualitative - nonnumerical observs., eg. color, physical appearance
     d. a law
   B. Goals in Science
     a. prediction
     b. control
     c. explantion and understanding
   C. Dilemmas and Integrity in Science
     a. experimental results should be reproducible
     b. conclusions should be reasonable and unbiased.
     c. credit should be given where it is due.

 1.2 Classifying Matter

So, you can see that you could state your ideas in words or phrases like in point 1.1-A-a, or in sentences like in 1.1-A-b. And sometimes you don't even have to elaborate on a point like in 1.1-A-d. where I just said "a law" something like that is probably not too necessary to elaborate on something so trivial since you could easily deduct that, hey that's a law (unless your teacher has you all reciting the definition in class, then it would be important to write down).

Also some sections like the very beginning of the chapter had no subheading so i just put the few key ideas out of it. This outline can be waaaaaaaay more detailed. If you're the type of person who needs a lot of repetition, detail is VERY important, but if you are the type of person who can look at a word or phrase and remember the sentence that would go with it, in other words, you've got a photographic memory (or close to) single words and short phrases are the way to go.

You can use outlining for math too, with the chapter, heading, definitions, and written out examples.

You can also study from this if you like. I don't usually because I make mistakes in notes and end up studying the wrong thing. Aaarrgg! Not cool. I usually study straight from the book.


This works well for things like your Politics, History, the sciences, and maybe languages. But mainly, for the languages, there are two things - Write! Alot! Write out your vocabulary, your grammar rules, conversations, EVERYTHING! Then read them aloud. Second, find someone to speak to if you have oral stuff to do. This helps memorization.

For English, if it is writing, the internet is a vast resource for learning to improve that. If it is grammar, practice makes perfect. Do lots of examples over and over until you get it.

The same goes for Math. You only get better in Math by practice. Or a genius IQ. That works too. You can't really study Math (unless there are terms you have to know). I always think it's funny when people say they are going to study Math. You don't really study Math. You practice Math. Believe me, even if you don't get, just copying out example on a piece of paper over and over will help. Your brain is subconsciously working at it and eventually everything will click. Of course this takes longer for some than others, especially if they're dead set against Math XD. And, doubly of course, there WILL be people who can actually "study" math.

Wow. You're still reading?!?!?!? Seriously, take you're time reading through this. It could be really useful if applied diligently. I hope your grades improve dramaically and then averyone will be like "I want to know their secret!" then you'll be able to help someone else too!

Did you find anything in here you disagreed with? Anything you would like to add? Comment below! I would love to hear from you :) God Bless and happy studying ^^