Note Taking Skills: Writing Skills Success Study Guide (page 3)
A practice exercise for this concept can be found at Note Taking Skills: Writing Skills Success Practice Exercise.
How successful you are at studying has less to do with how much time you put into it than with how you do it. That's because some ways of studying are much more effective than others, and some environments are much more conducive to studying than others. Another reason is that not everyone retains information in the same way. Discover how to adapt your studying strategies to the ways you learn best. You will probably pick up some new techniques for studying, and will also gain insight on how to prepare for standardized tests.
Think for a minute about what you know about how you learn. For example, if you need directions to a new restaurant, would you
- ask to see a map showing how to get there.
- ask someone to tell you how to get there.
- copy someone's written directions.
Most people learn in a variety of ways: seeing, touching, hearing, and experiencing the world around them. Many people find, however, that they are more likely to absorb information better from one learning source than from others. The source that works best for you is called your dominant learning method.
There are three basic learning methods: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (also known as tactile).
- Visual learners understand and retain information best when they can see the map, the picture, the text, the word, or the math example.
- Auditory learners learn best when they can hear the directions, the poem, the math theorem, or the spelling of a word.
- Kinesthetic learners need to do—they must write the directions, draw the diagram, or copy down the phone number.
If you are a visual learner, you learn best by seeing. Pay special attention to illustrations and graphic material when you study. If you color code your notes with colorful inks or highlighters, you may find that you absorb information better. Visual learners can learn to map or diagram information later in this study guide.
If you are an auditory learner, you learn best by listening. Read material aloud to yourself, or talk about what you are learning with a study partner or a study group. Hearing the information will help you to remember it. Some people like to tape-record notes and play them back on the tape player. If you commute to work or school by car or listen to a personal tape player, you can gain extra preparation time by playing the notes to yourself on tape.
If you are a kinesthetic learner, you learn best by doing. Interact a lot with your print material by underlining and making margin notes in your textbooks and handouts. Rewrite your notes onto index cards. Recopying material helps you remember it.
How to Study Most Effectively
If studying efficiently is second nature to you, you're very lucky. Most people have to work at it. Try some of these helpful study methods to make studying easier and more effective for you.
Make an Outline
After collecting all the materials you need to review or prepare for the test, the first step for studying any subject is to reduce a large body of information into smaller, more manageable units. One approach to studying this way is to make an outline of text information, handout materials, and class notes.
The important information in print material is often surrounded by lots of extra words and ideas. If you can highlight just the important information, or at least the information you need to know for your test, you can help yourself narrow your focus so that you can study more effectively. There are several ways to make an outline of print material. They include annotating, outlining, and mapping. The point of all three of these strategies is that they allow you to pull out just the important information that you need to prepare for the test.
Annotations help you pull out main ideas from the surrounding text to make them more visible and accessible to you. Annotation means that you underline or highlight important information that appears in print material. It also involves responding to the material by engaging yourself with the writer by making margin notes. Margin notes are phrases or sentences in the margins of print material that summarize the content of those passages. Your margin notes leave footprints for you to follow as you review the text.
Here is an example of a passage that has been annotated and underlined.
You are probably familiar with the basic format of the traditional outline:
- Main idea 1
- Major detail
- Major detail
- Minor detail
- Minor detail
- Main idea 2
- Major detail
- Major detail
You may have used an outline in school to help you organize a writing assignment or take notes. When you outline print material, you're looking for the basic ideas that make up the framework of the text. When you are taking out the important information for a test, then you are looking for the basic ideas that the author wants to convey to you.
Mapping is a more visual kind of outline. Instead of making a linear outline of the main ideas of a text, when you map, you make a diagram of the main points in the text that you want to remember. The following diagrams show the same information in a map form.
Make Study Notes
The next step after you have pulled out all the key ideas is to make notes from which you will study. You will use these notes for the intensive and ongoing study you'll do over the period of time before the test. They're the specific items that you targeted as important to know for the test. Your notes should help you understand the information you need to know and, in many cases, commit it to memory. You should be sure to include
- the main ideas you underlined or highlighted in the text
- the main ideas and important details you outlined or mapped from the text
- specific terms, words, dates, formulas, names, facts, or procedures that you need to memorize
How Do You Make Study Notes?
Some people like to write study notes in the back pages of their notebooks or on paper folded lengthwise so that it can be tucked between the pages of a text or review book. This format is good to use for notes that can be written as questions and answers, cause and effect, or definition and examples. You can also make notes on index cards.
Using Index Cards
It can be very helpful to write your study notes— especially those that contain material to be memorized—on index cards. Vocabulary words are significantly easier to learn using index cards.
- Advantages of making notes on index cards are:
- The information on each card is visually separated from other information. Therefore, it's easier to concentrate on just that one item, separate from the surrounding text. You remember the look of a vocabulary word or a math equation more clearly when it is set off by itself.
- Cards are small and portable. They can be carried in a purse or a pocket and pulled out at any time during the day for review.
- Study cards can help you with the necessary task of memorizing. If you write the key word or topic you are trying to learn on one side, and the information you must know on the other side, you have an easy way to quiz yourself on the material. This method is especially good for kinesthetic learners, who learn by doing.
Making Memorizing Easier
There are many ways to take the drudgery out of memorizing information.
Take Small Bites of Time
Most people memorize information best when they study in small periods over a long period of time.
Memorizing facts from index cards that can be carried with you and pulled out for a few 10-minute sessions each day will yield better results than sitting down with a textbook for an hour straight. Index card notes can be pulled out in odd moments: while you are sitting in the car waiting to pick up your friend, during the 15 minutes you spend on the bus in the morning, while you wait to be picked up from school or work, and so on.
You'll find that these short but regular practices will greatly aid your recall of lots of information. They're a great way to add more study time to your schedule.
Break It Up
When you have a list to memorize, break the list into groups of seven or any other odd number. People seem to remember best when they divide long lists into shorter ones—and, for some reason, shorter ones that have an odd number of items in them. So instead of trying to memorize 10 vocabulary or spelling words, split your list into smaller lists of seven and three, or five and five, to help you remember them.
Create Visual Aids
Give yourself visual assistance in memorizing. If there's a tricky combination of letters in a word you need to spell, for example, circle or underline it in red or highlight it in the text. Your eye will recall what the word looks like. With some information, you can even draw a map or picture to help you remember.
Do It Out Loud
Give yourself auditory assistance in memorizing. Many people learn best if they hear the information. Sit by yourself in a quiet room and say aloud what you need to learn. Or give your notes to someone else and let that person ask you or quiz you on the material.
Mnemonics, or memory tricks, are things that help you remember what you need to know.
The most common type of mnemonic is the acronym. One acronym you may already know is HOMES, for the names of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior). ROY G. BIV reminds people of the colors in the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet).
You can make a mnemonic out of anything. In a psychology course, for example, you might memorize the stages in death and dying by the nonsense word DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.) Another kind of mnemonic is a silly sentence made out of words that each begin with the letter or letters that start each item in a series. You may remember "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" as a device for remembering the order of operations in math (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, and Subtract).
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