How to study

2 youthzone pia nichols
Pia Nichols
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As the Grade Six, CXC, UWI, and other exams approach, many students who’ve been preparing for the past months are now intensifying their studies. And others who’ve neglected their books for quite some time are cramming right now.

Whether you’re at the primary, secondary or tertiary level of preparation or cramming, the exam tips we’re about to give you will help you memorise important concepts, develop paragraphs, and attain that grade you desire. For those who believe that there’s no point of return, hope still abounds.

Let’s start with mnemonics. This is a learning strategy that can help us improve our vocabulary and remember certain topics, facts, concepts and ideas that must be quickly retrieved. There are many different types of mnemonic, such as songs, acronyms, rhymes and in many other forms.

Researchers Jacqueline Lubin and Edward Polloway noted that “mnemonic instruction has been promoted as an effective strategy to teach science and social studies students with learning problems including learning disabilities (LD) or mild intellectual disability (MID)”.

For example, English A/B students may want to remember the acronym SHAMPOO, which represents seven literary devices: Simile, Hyperbole, Analogy, Metaphor, Personification, Oxymoron and Onomatopoeia. And as many of you know, in math, BODMAS stands for Brackets Of Multiplication, Division, Addition and Subtraction. 

The MEAL plan is another excellent strategy for organising paragraphs. Many times, students have some great points, but just don’t know how to develop them. This plan, which Walden University and many other institutions embrace, prevents you from digressing. M = main idea (a strong topic sentence), E = evidence (support for the main idea), A = analysis (an explanation and analysis the source information), and L = lead-out (a conclusion of the topic at the end of the paragraph).

Against a backdrop of increasing educational challenges, Antigua and Barbuda’s top CSEC student for 2021, Pia Nichols, secured 17 grade one passes. She excelled in the arts, pure sciences, and business subjects. Pia credits her stellar performance to her unwavering faith in God, devoted parents, and hardworking teachers. She also shared some effective learning strategies.

Pia told YouthZone that she “read as much as possible” the same topic in different books, which helped her to understand the material from diverse perspectives. With the syllabus as your guide, you should familiarise yourself with multiple viewpoints so that you can see the whole picture, which writer Kim Korona said, “better enables us to find the root cause of the problem and discover a solution that takes the needs and feelings of everyone involved into consideration”. 

For example, if you are a sociology student examining the significance of religion, you should go beyond highlighting the functionalist theories of collective conscience and social solidarity. You must also discuss Marxists’ views of religion, which they describe as “the opium of the people” and “a kind of spiritual gin”. And you can also look at the feminists who maintained that there must be a religion for women. Don’t become blinded by one-sided perspectives in this complex world.

In her relentless pursuit for excellence, Pia stated that there were certain things like chemistry equations she “just had to memorise”. How many of us believe that our intelligence is so superior that we can remember without jotting things down? Well, Pia left nothing to chance. She took notes and wrote them out several times until she could write from memory.

As much as many students hate taking notes, it is a vital strategy that can help you in all spheres of life. Author John Savage explained that effective notetaking is based on recognising the essentials: “main ideas and details, separating relevant from irrelevant information, summarising, and the like.”

Notes can also be written on graphic organisers such as mind maps (to simplify complex ideas), Venn diagrams (to compare and contrast), and flow charts (to identify specific steps). Educator Mark Llego described organisers as “visual representations of information that help to clarify and organise ideas”. And don’t worry, they are all online.

Joining a small study group may also help you at this time. I know you may hate this social learning style because parasitic personalities may lurk, but have no fear. Small study groups provide “opportunities to articulate ideas and understandings, uncover assumptions and misconceptions…[and] enable students to discover deeper meaning in the content and improve thinking skills” (Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, 2022). If you are a solitary learner and believe that the group might hold back your progress, focus on self and work independently.

Acknowledging the various types of learners, Pia advised struggling students to “spend some time figuring out what their most effective study method is”. Is it watching videos or making analogies?

Once you’ve pinpointed that learning style, capitalise on it. And please don’t ignore your study timetable. While last-minute cramming may still result in passing grades, remember that time is a valuable, non-renewable resource you will never retrieve.

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