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By using a number of study skills you can give yourself the greatest chance to recall information later, on tests, quizzes, or even in a clinical setting. Using different strategies gives your brain more pathways to use when recalling information. Aside from setting up a good studying site and tuning in to your personal learning style, here are a few more tips for good study results.
Practice and repetition. In learning, practice make permanent! Practice helps the storage of information in long-term memory. Rehearsing is one method of practice. You can repeat information aloud or in a discussion, write or diagram the information repeatedly, or read and re-read information quietly several times. In general, speaking aloud or writing the information yields better results because they are more active processes, compared with the more passive practice of silent reading.
Spaced study. Also known as ‘distributed practice’, this method consists of alternating short study periods with breaks. Study goals are set by time (for example, reading for at least 15 minutes) or task (reading a minimum of three pages). After reaching these goals, you can take a 5- to 15-minute break. This strategy works because it rewards your hard work, is completed in manageable portions of time, and it can keep you from confusing similar details when you have to study complex, interrelated information. And because the work is completed under a deadline of time or task, your time spent studying is used more efficiently.
Interference reduction. Interference happens when new information conflicts with background knowledge. For example, if you’re trying to learn a lot of new terms, and two of the terms are similar, you might have trouble remembering either one of them. To avoid interference, try to relate new information to previously learned information - think about what makes the new information different from the older information.
Associations. Forming acronyms or acrostics can help you recall lists of information. An acronym is a ‘word’ created from the first letter of each item on a list. For example, Roy G. Biv is a popular acronym for the colours of the rainbow in order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Acrostics are phrases or sentences represented on the vertical axis that are created from the first letter or letters of words in a list. For example, in music, an acrostic representing the lines on the treble clef is Every Good Boy Does Fine, which stands for the notes of the scale as they appear on the treble clef, from top to bottom: E, G, B, D, F. Acronyms and acrostics associate key information to an easily remembered word or phrase, thereby improving memory of the information.
Lists. Lists help you organize ideas by categorizing the information according to some common theme. The arrangement of a list depends on your goals and the course emphasis and content. Recalling the name of the theme helps you remember the details of the items on that list.
Imagery. The use of visual aids in studying can help you recall familiar and unfamiliar information. Imagery provides a different way of storing information, since visual images are stored differently in the brain than words. You can also use colour as a visual aid by using various colours to highlight different types of information in your text or notebook, or adding doodles or symbols to your notes.
© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health/LWW