Vocabulary Studying Tips Help (page 3)
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 chapter.
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 keyword 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 ten-minute sessions each day will yield better results than sitting down with a textbook for an hour straight. Index card note scan 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 ten 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).
Sleep on It
When you study right before sleep and don't allow any interference—such as conversation, radio, television, or music—to come between study and sleep, you remember material better. This is especially true if you review first thing after waking as well. A rested and relaxed brain seems to hang on to information better than a tired and stressed-out brain.
Make note cards with definitions for each kind of learning modality:
Here is an outline of the learning strategies covered in this chapter. Using the same information, make a map or diagram of the same material.
- How to study most effectively
- How to make study notes
- Notebook pages
- Index cards
- Reasons for using index cards
- Memory methods
Preparing for Standardized Tests
Most of us get nervous about tests, especially standardized tests, where our scores can have a significant impact on our future. Nervousness is natural—and it can even be an advantage if you know how to channel it into positive energy.
The following pages provide suggestions for overcoming test anxiety both in the days and weeks before the test and during the test itself.
Two to Three Months before the Test
The number one best way to combat test anxiety is to be prepared. That means two things: Know what to expect on the test and review the material and skills on which you will be tested.
Review the Material and Skills You'll Be Tested On
The fact that you are reading this book means that you've already taken this step. Now, are there other steps you can take? Are there other subject areas you need to review? Can you make more improvement in this or other areas? If you are really nervous or if it has been a long time since you reviewed these subjects and skills, you may want to buy another study guide, signup for a class in your neighborhood, or work with a tutor.
The more you know about what to expect on test day and the more comfortable you are with the material and skills to be tested, the less anxious you will be and the better you will do on the test itself.
The Days before the Test Review, Don't Cram
If you have been preparing and reviewing in the weeks before the exam, there's no need to cram a few days before hand. Cramming is likely to confuse you and make you nervous. Instead, schedule a relaxed review of all you have learned.
Get some exercise in the days preceding the test. You'll send some extra oxygen to your brain and allow your thinking performance to peak on the day you take the test. Moderation is the key here. Don't exercise so much that you feel exhausted, but a little physical activity will invigorate your body and brain. Walking is a terrific, low-impact, energy-building form of exercise.
Like your body, your brain needs proper nutrients to function well. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in the days before the test. Foods high in lecithin, such as fish and beans, are especially good choices. Lecithin is a protein your brain needs for peak performance. You may even consider a visit to your local pharmacy to buy a bottle of lecithin tablets several weeks before your test.
Get plenty of sleep the nights before the test. Don't overdo it, though, or you'll make yourself as groggy as if you were overtired. Go to bed at a reasonable time, early enough to get the hours of rest you need to function effectively. You'll feel relaxed and rested if you've gotten plenty of sleep in the days before you take the test.
At some point before the test, make a trial run to the testing center to see how long it takes to get there. Rushing raises your emotional energy and lowers your intellectual capacity, so you want to allow plenty of time on test day to get to the testing center. Arriving ten or fifteen minutes early gives you time to relax and get situated.
Plan some sort of celebration—with family or friends, or just by yourself—for after the test. Make sure it's something you'll really look forward to and enjoy. If you have something planned for after the test, you may find it easier to prepare and keep moving during the test.
It's finally here, the day of the big test. Set your alarm early enough to allow plenty of time to get to the testing center. Eat a good breakfast. Avoid anything that's really high in sugar, such as donuts. A sugar high turns into a sugar low after an hour or so. Cereal and toast, or anything with complex carbohydrates is a good choice. Eat only moderate amounts. You don't want to take a test feeling stuffed! Your body will channel its energy to your digestive system instead of your brain.
Pack a high-energy snack to take with you. You may have a break sometime during the test when you can grab a quick snack. Bananas are great. They have a moderate amount of sugar and plenty of brain nutrients, such as potassium. Most proctors won't allow you to eat a snack while you're testing, but a peppermint shouldn't pose a problem. Peppermints are like smelling salts for your brain. If you lose your concentration or suffer from a momentary mental block, a peppermint can get you back on track. Don't forget the earlier advice about relaxing and taking a few deep breaths.
Leave early enough so you have plenty of time to get to the test center. Allow a few minutes for unexpected traffic. When you arrive, locate the restroom and use it. Few things interfere with concentration as much as a full bladder. Then, find your seat and make sure it's comfortable. If it isn't, tell the proctor and ask to move to something more suitable.
Now relax and think positively! Before you know it, the test will be over, and you'll walk away knowing you've done as well as you can.
Combating Test Anxiety
Okay—you know what the test will be on. You've reviewed the subjects and practiced the skills on which you will be tested. So why do you still have that sinking feeling in your stomach? Why are your palms sweaty and your hands shaking?
Even the brightest, most well - prepared test takers sometimes suffer bouts of test anxiety. But don't worry; you can overcome it. Here are some specific strategies to help you.
Take the Test One Question at a Time
Focus all your attention on the one question you're answering. Avoid thoughts about questions you've already read or concerns about what's coming next. Concentrate your thinking where it will do the most good—on the question you're answering now.
Develop a Positive Attitude
Keep reminding yourself that you're prepared. In fact, if you've read this book or any other in the Learning Express Skill Builders series, you're probably better prepared than most other test takers. Remember, it's only a test, and you will do your best. That's all anyone can ask of you. If that nagging drill sergeant voice inside your head starts sending negative messages, combat them with positive ones of your own. Tell yourself:
- "I'm doing just fine."
- "I've prepared for this test."
- "I know exactly what to do."
- "I know I can get the score I'm shooting for."
You get the idea. Remember to drown out negative messages with positive ones of your own.
If You Lose Your Concentration
Don't worry about it! It's normal. During a long test, it happens to everyone. When your mind is stressed or overexerted, it takes a break whether you want it to or not. It's easy to get your concentration back if you simply acknowledge the fact that you've lost it and take a quick break. You brain needs very little time (seconds, really) to rest.
Put your pencil down and close your eyes. Take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, and let it out slowly. Listen to the sound of your breathing as you repeat this two more times. The few seconds this takes is really all the time your brain needs to relax and refocus. This exercise also helps you control your heart rate, so you can keep anxiety at bay.
Try this technique several times before the test when you feel stressed. The more you practice, the better it will work for you on test day.
If You Freeze
Don't worry about a question that stumps you even though you're sure you know the answer. Mark it and go on to the next question. You can come back to the "stumper" later. Try to put it out of your mind completely until you come back to it. Just let your subconscious mind chew on the question while your conscious mind focuses on the other items (one at a time—of course). Chances are, the memory block will be gone by the time you return to the question.
If you freeze before you even begin the test, here's what to do:
- Do some deep breathing to help yourself relax and focus.
- Remind yourself that you're prepared.
- Take some time to look over the test.
- Read a few of the questions.
- Decide which ones are the easiest and start there.
Before long, you'll be in the groove.
One of the most important—and nerve - wracking—elements of a standardized test is time. You'll only be allowed a certain number of minutes for each section, so it is very important that you use your time wisely.
The most important time strategy is pacing yourself. Before you begin, take just a few seconds to survey the test, noting the number of questions and the sections that look easier than the rest. Then make a rough time schedule based on the amount of time available to you. Mark the halfway point on your test and make a note beside that mark of the time when the testing period is half over.
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