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Spending hours studying but not sure if you’re really retaining the information? Learning and education have undergone a huge evolution with technology seeping into every corner of the classroom and home study. However, reading from a screen doesn’t always mean that you’re taking everything in. If you want to understand how to study effectively, it might be time to pack the tablet away and return to the paper and pen approach.

Working consciously when studying is critical. Reading something might help; highlighting the important elements with a colored highlighter is certainly one step further but there are some study techniques with paper that can make a difference to what you can absorb when you study. 

Here are some tips to study better that actually works:

Set your boundaries

Creating a written timetable is always the first step in studying. Not only should you plan your study sessions, but also plan the week around it so that you can pencil in some downtime and slots for exercise.

By putting your timetable down on paper, it shows you are making a commitment to your schedule -that’s a huge step towards effective study. Why not make two copies of your timetable and carry one with you. You’ll become used to checking it to see if you are free before agreeing to do something with others. It also allows them to recognize your commitment to studying and to support you by working around your study session. Pin the other copy up where your family can see it. They want to know how they can support you and, by seeing your schedule, they can understand when your toughest days are and maybe plan to eat your favorite meal. Suddenly, not only are you buying into your schedule, but those around you also feel part of helping you to succeed. 

Ditch the digital

Books don’t buzz or ping, emails don’t pop up and books don’t have push notifications. Digital technology never stops letting us know that it is there and is full of endless distractions and temptations. If you can study from a textbook and make notes with pen and paper, you won’t eat up precious minutes of study time with dealing with messages from friends or emails.

Get ready to absorb

There are some clever approaches that you can use to help you prepare for studying. These help you create a system that you work through with every subject so that your brain can get into a good pattern of learning.

One approach, called THIEVES, is a 7-step guide on how to make your reading more meaningfully.

  1. Title: First, read the title.
  2. Headings: Skim down the headings.
  3. Introduction: Take a quick look at the intro.
  4. Every first sentence in a section: Look at how each section begins.
  5. Visuals and vocabulary: Look at any pictures, captions, and words or quotes that have been pulled out in bold print.
  6. End questions: Look at any questions at the end of the chapter.
  7. Summary: Read the overview of the text.

Start Studying

Many students start by highlighting the important parts of the text, but it’s also where they stop. To study effectively, it’s what happens next that really matters.

When you highlight, make a note in the margin as to why you thought it important. Use sticky notes if you can’t mark the book.

When you have a collection of notes and sticky notes, use them to create a summary of what you have learned and understood. Working with the key points, create an outline summary, and work through it to see if everything is in the correct order. If you have written down, add numbers to your points. If you have sticky notes, you can re-arrange them as needed.

Organize your thoughts

Understanding the different themes and concepts within your work is important. Using different colored sticky notes to represent different strands within your subjects can be helpful and can unpick an area that you can study in greater detail. The more detail that you understand, the easier it is in an exam situation to add your thoughts and perspective on the question that you are answering.

Make your own quiz

Notecards are a great way to understand what you know and how well you actually know it. Create your own set with a keyword or thought on one side and facts and information to back it up on the other side. If you are studying literature or poetry, it can be helpful to include useful quotes that your brain will start to attach to the information. In an exam, you are more likely to remember the associated quote and to make sure that you remember to include it, making sure it is in the right place.