Some people say it’s the worst thing about school. The thing that makes you sweat. And cry. And question every decision you’ve ever made, every fork in the road that brought you to where you are now. No, I’m not talking about the dodgy chilli and baked potato combo in the school canteen. I’m talking about...
Imagine if there had been a thunderclap just then as you read that. That would’ve been cool. I totally get it. Studying can be so intimidating. Whether it’s for an exam or a class test, very few people actually enjoy it, or even know how to do it effectively. This article is here to help!
Learning types: which one are you?
The first thing it’s helpful to know is what kind of learner you are. This may not be something you’re particularly familiar with, but we all learn differently. As a result, different methods of studying work for different people. Here is a quick rundown of the four main learning types.
You’re a visual learner if you learn best when presented with visual aids. This could be charts, diagrams, colours, pictures; anything that makes a page more visually appealing. This kind of learner will take in information much more successfully when it’s presented as a whole, like a summarising chart, rather than a sequence of slides. For example, if this person was learning to juggle, it may help them to see a diagram of the patterns the balls make in the air, or to watch someone else juggle.
You’re an auditory learner if you take information in well when it’s presented to you vocally. You may only need to hear information to take it in and remember it. You might find group discussions a helpful way to deepen your understanding of a topic or enjoy reading notes aloud to hear the information a second time. Our trainee juggler here might find it useful to listen to the different steps in juggling and hear the step by step theory involved in learning to juggle. (I know this juggling example is already getting pretty weak).
You’re a reading/writing learner if you find information easiest to process when it’s in written form, either in presentations or worksheets, or even your own handwritten notes. You find text-heavy slides don’t overwhelm you but rather help you absorb and understand the information. You might find research using online articles very helpful. Thank goodness you’re here. (Didn’t even bother with a juggling metaphor for this one).
You’re a kinesthetic learner if you find you take information in best when you take a hands-on approach. You need to actually do something in order to understand it, and you enjoy tactile learning. Physical juggling lessons where you actively put it into practice and try to juggle yourself will help you become a master juggler in no time. (Saved it).
Study skills for your learning type
Now that you hopefully understand a little better what kind of learner you are, you can choose which method of studying will work best for you. There is no one right way and it can be great to mix and match. In fact, often the best way to learn is to combine the different learning types with a focus on the one that works best for you.
Let’s run through a few ways to up those study skills and make you the master of all things revision. The following ideas combine several of the different learning types, and you can change methods up to make them more suited to your preferred style.
- Break the topic up into easy to manage chunks. Don’t put too much information on each card.
- You can make these super colourful, add diagrams, doodles. Make them nice to look at, especially if you’re a visual learner.
- Read them out to yourself or have someone else read them to you. Hearing the information back can help your brain double down and really take it in.
- Categorise them into themes so that all the relevant information for a topic is in the same place.
Songs and Rhymes:
- This one’s a little off the wall but putting facts into songs can make them super memorable, especially if you’re an auditory or kinesthetic learner.
- The brain remembers rhymes very well so putting information into a rhyme can help you recall it more easily.
- Use a song you like and know well. Studying doesn’t have to be borrrringggg. I once got 100% in a history exam because I put all the facts about Hitler’s rise to power into the song Never Gonna Give You Up. I Rick Rolled Hitler.
Brain dumps and mind maps:
- Put your central topic into a bubble in the centre of a page and have all subtopics coming out of that. Keep adding branches to their relevant topic until you have a wonderful visual representation of all the information.
- Use colours to make it pretty and to make corresponding themes clear.
- You can stick these all over your walls and read bits out to yourself each time you pull your curtains or do your hair.
Write essays and do practice papers:
- Practice the exam as it’s going to be and make note of your strong and weaker topics.
- This type of studying means kinesthetic and reading/writing learners learn through doing.
- If doing a whole paper is a little intimidating, turn it into a quiz. Have people test you by reading out questions and give a quick spoken answer. This is great for auditory learners.
Teach someone else:
- Many people learn best when they teach others. Give someone else a lesson on the topic.
- Explain to them the main theories and themes covered in the topic.
- You can write things down for them or speak it aloud and ask them to speak back to you what they have learned.
Putting Your Study Skills Into Practice
It’s all very well talking about different ways of studying. But we all know actually getting round to it can be… difficult. We’d all rather watch an episode of our favourite programme or walk over Lego with no shoes on. But it really doesn’t have to be daunting.
The trick here is to be kind to yourself. That’s nice, isn’t it? No one can study constantly. The pressure of this is overwhelming and can actually have a negative impact on your learning. The trick is to have discipline but also balance.
It helps to put something encouraging into place. Do an hour of studying and then treat yourself to one episode or one chapter of your book. Do two hours of studying and then go to the park with your friends or family or dog. Do a morning of studying and then have a fun plan in the afternoon, something to look forward to and reward yourself with. Studying isn’t easy and it’s so important to give yourself a pat on the back. These brain breaks are as important as the studying itself and by revising in short but effective time slots alleviates the guilt of having fun when you know you have an exam coming up (we’ve all been there).
Go forth and nail those exams
You now have some tools to study really effectively in a way that suits your learning type. Don’t stress and have faith in yourself. There are always people around who will help you with study skills if you’re ever struggling, you don’t have to do it alone!
Looking for even more great tips? Prefer listening over reading? Listen to The Mentoring Scheme Podcast's episode on revision: