Study skills

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Detail from Study, Charles Sprague Pearce (1896), Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Study skills and study strategies are abilities and approaches applied to learning. They are generally critical to success in school[1], are considered essential for acquiring good grades, and they are useful for learning throughout one's life, in support of career and personal interests.

They include removing distractions, time management and notetaking.[2]


[edit] Resource availability

Educational institutions often offer student counseling, or provide resources for improving study skills. [3] There are a vast number of resources marketed as study skills. The learning methods offered for sale range from how to manage time, to notetaking, to smart drugs and nutrients for improving performance during study. [4]

[edit] Types of study skills

  • Revising keywords rather than whole text.

This enables you to reduce the amount of information that you have to revise.

[edit] Study methods

A study method, study system, or study technique, is a formalized learning process or procedure of study. Each is considered a study skill, and each may in turn be comprised of many study skills, combined for effectiveness.

[edit] The PQRST method

A student studies for their final exams.

One method used by structured students to keep them on track is the PQRST method.[5] This method prioritizes the information in a way that relates directly to how they will be asked to use that information in an exam. The method can also be modified to suit any particular form of learning in most subjects. It allows more accurate timing of work rather than the student having to decide how much time to attribute to a topic. PQRST is an acronym for Preview, Question, Read, Summary, Test. [6]

  1. Preview: the student looks at the topic to be learned by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus.
  2. Question: then questions to answer are formulated once the topic has been thoroughly studied.
  3. Read: reference material related to the topic is read through, and the information that best relates to the questions is chosen.
  4. Summary: the student summarizes the topic, bringing his or her own ways of summarizing information into the process, including written notes, spider diagrams, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, or even voice recordings.
  5. Test: then the student answers the questions created in the question step as fully as possible, avoiding adding questions that might distract or change the subject.

[edit] The Black-Red-Green method

This is a thoroughgoing method [developed through the Royal Literary Fund] which helps the student to ensure that every aspect of the question posed has been considered, both in exams and essays [7]. The student underlines relevant parts of the question using three separate colours (or some equivalent). BLAck denotes 'BLAtant instructions', i.e. something that clearly must be done; a directive or obvious instruction. REd is a REference Point or REquired input of some kind, usually to do with definitions, terms, cited authors, theory, etc. (either explicitly referred to or strongly implied). GREen denotes GREmlins, which are subtle signals one might easily miss, or a ‘GREEN Light’ that gives a hint on how to proceed, or where to place the emphasis in answers [1].

[edit] Re-writing notes

Re-writing notes is time-consuming, but one of the most effective ways of studying.[citation needed] There are two types of information that can be written over again: notes taken in class, or information out of a text book. Highlighting important information prior to re-writing notes is an effective use of time management.

[edit] Summary skills

Summary methods should vary depending on the topic. Some methods are better suited to different subjects and tasks, e.g. mnemonics may fare better for learning lists or facts while spider diagrams better for linking concepts.

Mnemonics is a method of memorizing lists and organizing them.

Example: Learning the points of the compass. Never Eat Shredded Wheat reminds us not only of the points of the compass but in the order they occur when encountered clockwise.

Spider diagrams: Using spider diagrams or mind maps can be an effective way of linking concepts together. They can be useful for planning essays and essay responses in exams.

Diagrams: Diagrams are often underrated tools. They can be used to bring all the information together and provide practice reorganizing what has been learned in order to produce something practical and useful. They can also aid the recall of information learned very quickly, particularly if the student made the diagram while studying the information. Try buying a notebook with no lines and make a sketch, diagram, or pictogram of the information you have just learned. This could form part of the Summary part of the PQRST method or in any other way. These pictures can then be transferred to flash cards that are very effective last minute revision tools rather than rereading any written material.

FlashCards (A5 index cards): These are effective revision tools but students often set out to make them and they become more of a chore. It is much more effective to make cards at the time that you are revising. If these cards are made during the summary part of the PQRST method then are directly associated with what you learned. The cards are less effective when students set out to make them late in a revision cycle merely as tools to look at during the 20-30 minutes before an exam. The cards are indeed useful for last minute reading as they offer nothing new and therefore is more likely to focus on what you know and not alert you to something you don't know so well.

[edit] Traffic lights

It is a common pitfall in studying to set out to learn everything that you have been taught in an orderly and precise fashion. If time, boredom, and fatigue were not variables that can impact on your studying and even health then this may always be possible. More normally you will have a set amount of time (that doesn't encroach on leisure time for any reason) to learn a set amount of topics. An easy way to separate what is really important to know (likely to constitute the majority of exam marks) from what you would like to know if you had infinite time and energy is the traffic light system.

Green: Take a green pen and label or place a star next to everything that is essential to know for your exam. These topics should be studied first and allow you to progress to the less number of amber and red topics. These should generally be the first few on a syllabus and be the easiest concepts to learn but also the easiest to underestimate.

Amber: Take an orange or gold pen and label everything that is neither essential to know or is not too time consuming to learn. This should form the mainstay of your learning and range from topics leading from the green range of topics to ones leading to the red range of topics.

Red: Take a red pen and label everything you would want to know if you had all the time and energy necessary but not at the expense of the essential green topics and desired amber topics. This would include overly complicated ideas and subjects that may add one or two marks but may cost you if you focus all your attention just on knowing the more difficult bits and underestimating the importance of accumulating the green and amber topics first and to a greater extend. A greater focus on green and amber topics may also lead to topics that seemed red to become more amber as time goes on.

The color system reminds students that it is easier to get moving on green topics, and discourage wasted time on red and amber topics. It is reminds students to keeping learning in a progressive manner, and not to stagnate when topics become more red in nature due to being tired and bored.

[edit] See also

Organizations Promoting Study Skills

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Contributions of Study Skills to Academic Competence." (in EN). ISSN-0279-6015. Educational Resources Information Center. N/A. Retrieved on 2009-02-01. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Study Skills Self Help Information" (in EN). Virginia Tech, Division of Student Affairs. Retrieved on 2009-02-08. 
  4. ^ Richman, Howard. "Study Methods, Study Skills, Study Tips" (in EN). © 1998-2009 Sound Feelings Publishing, Tarzana, California.. Retrieved on 2009-02-08. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ stangl, werner; Robinson, Francis Pleasant (1970). Effective study. New York: Harper & Row.. "The PQRST Method of Studying" (in EN). Retrieved on 2009-02-01. 
  7. ^ Royal Literary Fund: Mission Possible: the Study Skills Pack
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