Understanding your brain
Your brain is made up of two hemispheres, the left and the right and both work in different ways. Your left brain is more logical and is used for reasoning, understanding language and calculations. Your right side is more creative and looks at shapes, patterns, colours, sizes, images and sounds.
To get the most out of your brain, you should try to use study skills that allow you to utilise both sizes of the brain. You can do this by using all your senses and different reminders (shapes, colours, images).when you are studying. In this way you are getting the most out of your brain. This article discusses the following:
- Reading techniques
- Consolidating your lecture notes
- Getting organised
- Memory techniques
- Motivating yourself
When reading articles, recommended books or textbooks you can use one of the following reading techniques depending on the purpose of your reading.
- S - Survey: Look at headings, highlighted words, contents pages and summaries to get a sense of what the reading is about.
- Q - Question: Think about what questions you have about the reading - who, what, where, when, how?
- R - Read: Read the reading actively, making notes or underlining important words.
- R - Recite/Recall: Close the book and test out what you have learnt by seeing how much you can recall.
- R - Review: Revise the work again a few days later. Use old exam questions to see where your weak points are.
IPSO: This technique is used for more critical reading or studying tasks:
- I - Issue: First establish what the issue or debate is of the topic.
- P - Position: Establish what the author's position is on the issue.
- S - Support: What support is given for this position.
- O - Outcome: What conclusions are drawn.
Consolidating your lecture notes
Before you begin the studying process, you need to consolidate the notes you have made in lectures:
- Underline headings and subheadings.
- Rewrite any illegible portions.
- Underline important sentences and paragraphs.
- Fill in any gaps in your notes.
- Ensure that you understand all the concepts.
You need to consolidate all the information from your lecture notes, textbooks, recommended books and articles. Making detailed summaries of everything is often not practical within the time constraints you have at University. Therefore you need to find another way of pulling all the information together.
On each page of your notes, draw a vertical line, top to bottom, 5cm from the left side of the paper. Write your notes on the right of this line and leave the area to the left of the line. You can use this space to fill in any additional information from your textbooks and articles. Thus you are using your lecture notes as a basis of your study notes.
Drawing a mind-map allows you to put many pages of information on a single chart. Start in the centre of the pages with the heading. Link all the important information, facts and ideas around it. Use keywords, symbols, shapes, patterns, images. Be creative and use colour.
Advantages: Visual; contains lists and sequences and shows causes, is often easier to recall; uses both left and right brain functioning; helps one think from general to specific and puts subjects in perspective.
The key to successful study is ORGANISATION. Draw up your own calendar and put it in a visible place in your study area. Fill In important activities and times you cannot work.
- Be realistic about the amount of work you can do in a given time.
- If you have half an hour to spare, use it to do small tasks i.e. reading.
- Use existing study habits that you know work for you.
- Have some flexibility in your planning and adapting your diary once you know how long it takes to do the work planned.
- Stick to your schedule.
- Balance your studying time with rest and fun activities.
- Break regularly during studying.
It is always a good idea to plan to spend more time on your weaker subjects. To start with your timetable, begin with your favourite subjects. Tackle your difficult subjects when you are feeling fresh.
1. Organise it
- Learn from the general to the specific - get an overview of the work by skim reading before you start studying.
- Make it meaningful - ask yourself why you need to know the work.
- Create associations - Make links to things you already know about the subject.
2. Use your body
- Relax -Get yourself into a relaxed state of alertness that is free of tension, take a few deep breaths before starting.
- Learn actively - stand up, pace around, use your hands, act it out.
- Create pictures - use diagrams, cartoons, sketches, mind maps, visualisation, humour.
- Recite and repeat - repeat out aloud the work so that you are using other senses. Repeat until you know the work to embed it in memory.
- Write it down -Write what you know down. This imitates what you do in your exam.
3. Use your brain
- Reduce interference - turn off your radio or TV.
- Consider your concentration cycles - when is your optimal time to concentrate - use this time.
- Overlearn - especially to enhance speed, accuracy and confidence.
- Escape the short term memory trap - review within a few hours.
- Distribute your learning - take regular breaks and give yourself small rewards.
- Be aware of your attitudes - acknowledge how you feel about a subject. Relate it to something more interesting if possible.
- Choose what not to store in memory - extract core concepts, decide what is important to remember.
- Combine memory techniques - use what works for you.
4. Recall it
- Remember something else - if you can't remember something, recall related information or brainstorm around it. This could cue what you need to remember.
- Use it before you lose it - use the information, teach it, review it regularly to maintain accessibility in memory.
- Remember, you never forget -If you have processed it, it's in there somewhere. Keep positive!
Many students have effective studying techniques, but find it difficult to actually get down and do the work.
You need to stop negative thoughts like, "I'll never be able to make it" or, "I'll never grasp that concept." These thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. Positive ideas and thoughts breed a positive attitude. In other words if you think success, you will become successful.