How to Study Smarter and Faster for Your Next Exam
We live in a world where speed is a desirable skill. Every student wants to be a fast reader. We admire those that seem to cover study material quickly. If we perceive ourselves as slow readers, we feel inadequate and wish we could be much faster.
I, for one, have found fast-paced reading to be often detrimental to my grades. As my first chemistry finals approached in 10th Grade at secondary school, I was unprepared, and I studied in a frenzy.
I am a fast reader, by many standards. However, chemistry was one of the more challenging courses for me back then, and I had put off studying until the very last minute. I didn’t have a good understanding of the subject. Plowing through the pages only served to make me more anxious and even less prepared. I ended up with low grades that year.
Why I Had Low Grades
In skimming the pages, I missed out on details I needed for good understanding. I could not even explain the concepts I thought I understood and my essays were very deficient. I had gotten a broad knowledge of the lectures, but a general idea is hardly enough to understand concepts, apply them, and as most students desire, get good grades. Even world champion speed readers typically understand only about half the content they read.
When you try to read fast, you basically scan the page to identify keywords and piece together the story. While appropriate for leisure reads such as storybooks, this sort of reading is ill-suited for the material that requires you to internalize and apply, such as textbooks and course handouts.
In order to achieve in-depth comprehension, we should read each word and mentally pause to dissect some words. Our eyes should scroll back and forth because sometimes meaning is only apparent when we read subsequent sentences or paragraphs. If we read too quickly, we might have to go over the material numerous times.
Here are some more tips to help you make the most of your study time:
Every study session should be planned and premeditated. We should preview the material to know what to expect. Prepare beforehand by thinking, ‘What should I get out of this reading? What should I remember and understand?’. It often helps to allocate a reasonable amount of time to digest the material and minimize interruptions for that time.
Actively engage by pausing from time to time to reflect on the information you just read; trying to recall the information. Reflect on what you understood, what you didn’t understand, and how it fits your pre-existing knowledge.
Most importantly, do something with what you just read. Quizzing yourself with practice questions appears to be the highest yield method. You can also write summaries and have discussions.
It Saves Time
This seems like a long way to study at first, but it, in fact, saves time. Being deliberate about your study process enhances its overall effectiveness. Focus on how you use your study time, not on how long you study. Shorter, more intensive study sessions are often more effective than a drawn-out study time. It is afterall not how long, but how well.
Speaking of time, we know that it’s a limited resource especially when studying for an exam or a course.
Here are some effective ways to prepare for your next exams:
The Distribution practice
Space out your study over several short periods of weeks or months. Work a short time on each section every day. The total amount of time will be the same or less than one or two marathon library sessions. But you’ll learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term. Dime minute marathon sessions, or crash reading as we like to call it, is always a bad idea!
People who read regularly, read faster. The more practice you have reading, the quicker you’ll do it without compromising comprehension. Avoid taking complete extended breaks from reading, even during holidays. You can keep up the practice by reading non-academic books or learning something new during breaks.
Full focus and concentration
If you find yourself skipping back to re-read a lot, work on your attention and focus. Think of why learning this information is important and intentionally cultivate an interest in what you’re reading. Eliminate unnecessary device use and even take device-free breaks to keep your mind clear and focused.
It also helps to have a clutter-free reading space with minimum distraction. A significant amount of research indicates that multitasking does not always improve efficiency but actually impacts negatively on results.
Keep At It
Laser-focus comes with practice. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t achieve it on the first try. Just keep at it, and you’ll get better.
As you head back to college or resume your different academic pursuits, it’ll be great to focus on building, learning, and becoming better humans because the world does depend on it. Let us know in the comment section what you do to maximize your study time.
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