Wouldn’t it be great if you knew a way to study that almost guaranteed that you would retain everything that you read in preparation for an exam? Well, there is; it’s called active studying. Unlike passive studying, which is a hit-or-miss affair, active studying encourages the retainment of practical, useful information from everything you read.
Active studying consists of several techniques you can easily apply to make yourself learn more efficiently. But you have to be ready to get out of your comfort zone and stretch your brain.
Active Versus Passive
You are probably already familiar with how passive learning works. You have an assessment test coming up in a couple of days, so you dedicate an hour or two of each day to read a chapter of your text quietly. You aim to memorize as much of the text as you can so that you can repeat it on the exam paper. You believe that the more text you’re able to cram into your head, the higher your chances of passing.
Active learning presents a much more effective way of absorbing knowledge than reading and re-reading pages of text. In this method, you do more than flip through the pages. You actively engage with the material by asking questions about the text to develop a deeper understanding.
You seek to have a deeper understanding to use the knowledge to solve real problems. Instead of filling your head with facts as passive learning, you seek to personalize the information and make it relevant to yourself.
Becoming an Active Learner
Here are a few tips you can apply to become an active learner:
Create Study Materials Like a Powerpoint
Go through the content thoroughly to create your own summarized study materials out of it. After going through a paragraph or chapter, note down the important details in bullet form.
As you write out your summarized points, you force your brain to get a firmer grasp of the material.
Review Self-made Tests
Some students are lucky enough to have texts that come complete with study questions after every chapter. But what if this isn’t the case? In that case, you can just create your own assessment test.
If you don’t quite have the wherewithal to make your own test, you can search for past papers on the subject. If you can’t get them at your campus, you can surely find them online.
As you answer the questions, resist the temptation of peeking back into the material until you have attempted all the questions.
Record and Listen to Classroom Lectures
There is a difference between active listening and passive listening. Engaging in active listening will enable you to glean more from lectures than you otherwise would.
Active listening entails jotting down the key points of lectures. The mere act of writing down notes drastically increases your brain’s ability to remember them. What you’re putting down in your notebook should not just be what’s on the lecturer’s slides, but what you understand from what the lecturer is saying.
To free up your mind to focus on the key points, you can record the lecture for future reference. Later on, you can go through the recording and weed out the key points. Consolidating these with those you wrote down during the lecture, you can create flashcards for future study sessions.
Use Flashcards Daily
Flashcards have been used since time immemorial to help break down complex scientific subjects into bite-sized pieces that students can absorb more easily. They help learners continually assess their grasp of concepts as they learn.
If you cannot answer flashcard questions, you are forced to re-engage with the subject material. It’s much better to re-familiarize yourself with the content without the pressure of an exam around the corner. This is why you should make a habit of using your flashcards daily.
Take a Prep Course
There was a time when finding prep courses or practice questions for an exam was difficult. Today it is easy to find such resources online; you need only the key in the right keywords, and Google will find them for you. You won’t need to look hard to find Lsat online prep courses and the like.
When choosing a prep course, choose one that will require you to write down your answers rather than simply selecting an answer from multiple choices. This will put your powers of active recall to the test.
Becoming a more effective learner and improving your performance in exams will require you to take a step outside your comfort zone. This is the essence of active learning- pushing your brain to see practical applications for absorbing information. Rest assured, you will find rewards for this effort in your exam grades.