4 Study-techniques that are proven to work

It’s crunch-time again and you’re feeling overwhelmed because you failed your last exam. It might seem hopeless, but changing up your study method might be just the trick to turn your academic nightmare into a dream.

Flash forward

The Leitner method was created by German scientist, Sebastian Leitner in the 70s and is still used today. It aims to help students learn the study material they know the least by using repetition with flashcards.

To use the Leitner method, you will need flashcards and three small boxes. Label each card with the number of times you’ll study each one. For example, go over Box 1 cards every day, Box 2 cards every two days and Box 3 every three days. Place the cards you know the least in Box 1, the ones you still need time with in Box 2, and the ones you know well in Box 3. You can use up to seven boxes depending on the number of flashcards you have, but remember to repeat the box you know the least, the most.

Getting it write

Research by Jane Vincent from the London School of Economics, found that while e-learning methods have dominated academics, good old pen and paper still has the upper hand. Nearly 650 students from 10 countries took part in a study to discover whether handwriting or typing is favoured when studying. Handwriting emerged the champion.

It’s no mystery why. Writing notes by hand helps you retain information better and learn new content as you’re summarising the info and mentally taking notes too. In comparison, using your laptop may be distracting because you probably have seven other windows open at the same time. To make the most of handwriting, take notes using your own words. This way you think more carefully about what you write down.

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Teach others, teach yourself

Ever wondered how teachers manage to retain all the information that they share with learners? Research suggests that the act of teaching and knowing that you’ll have to share information with others helps you to learn and absorb new information. Using this method will allow you to be more engaged and actively recall information you have learnt. Try this by teaching what you’ve studied in an imaginary classroom or better yet, teach a sibling, friend or classmate.

Interleaving

We’re all familiar with the “blocking” method. This means you learn by repetition, and then you move on to the next thing. For example, you learn A A A A A, then you learn B B B B B , then you learn C C C C.

‘Interleaving’, on the other hand, is a new technique, and it requires quite the opposite. In stead of practicing one thing repeatedly, you switch between different related tasks. The operative word here, is related tasks. This is not an excuse for multitasking (something that just makes you less productive). So, how do you know which tasks / practices are related?

Research seems to show that interleaving is better than blocking when you train sports, or “category learning”. The studies show that if you’re practicing a sport, or a musical instrument, it is better to alternate several skills, than to focus on one skill only. The same rule applies to studies: in math, learn algebra and geometry together, alternating doing one problem in each category. Or mix up chemistry and physics, instead of focusing on only one.  This way, your chances of improving could increase by about 25% or more!

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