We all know those few students who seem to rarely study, and yet receive top results. There isn’t some innate brilliance there, no “automatic” understanding of the content: Often, people like that have simply ‘tuned into’ the way that they study most effectively. For an incredible blog post exploring the different types of studiers, click here. But, no matter what type of student you are, you can improve your learning if you study smart.
However, studying smart is within every students’ grasp. Throughout your year 12, you’ll have literally hundreds of dotpoints to memorise, formulas, quotes, statistics, essays; you name it and WACE has it. It would be really easy to just spend hundreds of hours trying to learn all of that content, only to come out at the other end having totally forgotten the entire first half of your learning. This post aims to help you study smart, not hard, to save you loads of time in your final year.
Each subject is Unique; Treat Them Differently!
If you haven’t done this already, spending a few hours thinking about the way you are going to study for each of your subjects is an incredibly easy way to boost your study productivity.
What exactly do I mean by this?
Firstly, it’s pretty easy to tell that the way you are going to study for Methods is quite different to the way you are going to study for Literature. The learning goals of Human Biology will be not be like the learning goals of Drama (I assume, having not done either).
Now that we’ve accepted that the method of study is different, my recommendation is to write out a detailed list for each subjects, containing both study options and study tips.
When I say study options, I mean exactly how you could study for that subject (and how you should study for that subject). If you are writing out a list for Apps, for instance, it could include a) Going over your Teacher’s notes, b) Looking through and summarising the theory outlined in your Textbook, c) Answering Textbook questions, in conjunction with your notes, d) Answering Textbook questions without your notes, e) Doing WACE past papers using your notes, f) Doing WACE past papers without your notes etc.
Notice that my list is very, very specific. This is because, when you’re not sure how to start your study for that day, you should be able to look at your list and make a start straight away. Thinking about the best ways to study for each subject will make the experience so, so much easier for you. If you haven’t done this already, I would recommend getting on it as early as possible. You’ll see what a difference it makes!
When I say study tips, I mean general education tips that you’ve picked up throughout your learning, tips that work specifically for you.
Don’t Fall into the Trap of Standard Studying Techniques
My number one study tip is always to do past papers. Do every paper from 1980-2015, and then do them again. Then again. And again. I just think that this is the best way to get a sense of what you can actually be assessed on, as opposed to aimlessly studying everything you can get your hands on.
However, there are more ways to study than just doing past papers or writing notes. Think outside the box, and try to come up with unique ways to interact with your subjects that work for you. For instance, I was a big fan of writing worksheets for myself, which I would photocopy and fill in a few times a day in order to memorise huge amounts of statistics. Coming up with subject-dependant techniques that are individually catered for will help you study effectively.
Options could include worksheets (for a detailed explanation, check out this link), flashcards, discussion groups, pneumonic devices, songs, summary worksheets, angry notes (I did this a few times; where I wrote down concepts I didn’t understand whilst swearing at myself for not understanding them), collages, literally anything that you can think of! Brainstorm these ideas when you’re going through Tip #1. Honestly, this will make study so, so much easier and less repetitive!
Remember That There are More Resources Out There Than You Think
Don’t restrict yourself to just your textbook, or notes you’ve taken in class. Sometimes the most effective study is spending half an hour watching YouTube videos explaining a concept. Websites like Kahn Academy do a great job of explaining Science and Maths concepts.
Being able to visually see something in action is generally the best way to remember it. Don’t think you’re wasting time by watching documentaries or animations to do with a topic you are studying: See if you can test yourself before, and after, watching some videos. You’ll see that your data retention ability has skyrocketed!
One resource that students’ often forget about are their teachers. If you are really struggling, or even just want to be extended, make a meeting over lunch with your teacher. Get them to talk you through some concepts, ask them about what kind of questions you could get, or where they think you need to specifically improve. Teachers, in generally, know their stuff. They’re there to help you; use them!
Two Heads are Better Than One (and Three are Better than Two…)
I couldn’t recommend working in groups more. The only reason I understood most of the Physics and Chemistry concepts was due to group conversations. I’m not going to go more in-depth regarding the ridiculousness of the notion that “working in groups will make my ATAR worse”; all I’ll say is that this idea is just untrue. Working in groups, if anything, is going to boost your ATAR. If you can understand a concept well enough to be able to explain it, or if you’re struggling and need an explanation other than your teacher’s, your peers are your best resource.
If you can, put together a group of people that you can study with and meet up once every two weeks. Go over difficult content, look through some past papers, but mainly just talk to each other about the curriculum. Bouncing ideas back and forward is such a good way to retain information, develop thesis’, understand complex ideas, pinpoint which areas you aren’t so strong with, and solidify concepts you do understand.
Offer to help the students’ around you, because explaining concepts is the best way to know that you understand them. Helping your cohort can be purely selfish: by helping them, you’re really just helping yourself. Also, it sort of feels good to help out your friends.
Manage Your Time; Mo’ Hours = Mo’ Problems
By utilising the tips outlined above, you’ll be minimising the number of hours spent studying for sure! However, even just knowing where to start with study on a given day is tricky. For a great guide outlining the best ways to balance study between all of your subjects, click here!
I recommend writing a detailed list of the tasks you need to complete in a day. The amount of pleasure I get from ticking off a whole bunch of things is probably a bit excessive, but making it seem like you’re really achieving something is a great way to stay motivated. Don’t just endlessly study for a subject; you won’t know when to stop, or how to balance your time. Set yourself specific goals, and once you have achieved them, move on to something else!
This is a great practice to get into, because not only will it help you study more productively, but honestly it will just make your life so much more organised. By implementing a list-making mentality, things won’t fall through the cracks!
And those are my tips! Give them a go and I promise that you’ll see better results from your study. Blindly reading content over and over again is both dull and ineffective. Your brain needs stimulation in order to properly take in information; as lame as it might seem, making study more “interesting” will honestly help you retain information so much better. I really hope that this helps!