March 22, 2023

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What are the most effective ways to study for exams?

It is normal for students who study hard for exams but do not get good marks to feel frustrated. There are people who feel that they forget what they have learned in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Both are important challenges for college freshmen They deal with very large and complex content They often have to combine their studies with work, beyond what they get at school.

There are students who put in enormous effort, but in the wrong way and accumulate a lot of superficial or declarative knowledge.And unable to reach the ideological level”, he said BBC News Brazil Matthew Bernacki is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of North Carolina (UNC), USA.

Bernacki was devoted to the science of learning, which translated into practice Help students make the most of the time and effort they invest in their studies. In his work he explains which techniques have proven more or less effective according to his own scientific research and that of other researchers in the field.

Rereading and underlining do not guarantee that people will learn the content found in various scientific studies.Freepik

Based on their results, we present you with three typical techniques that they consider to be less effective, along with alternatives for how to change them in practice.

Although reading and underlining texts are an important part of learning, they are usually not enough for students to master the material studied. Rereading, in particular, requires effort and time, because it is not always worth it “gives a false familiarity with the content”.

One of the recommended techniques is to explain the content and test the knowledge gained.
One of the recommended techniques is to explain the content and test the knowledge gained.Freepik

“When you leave the text, you can’t reproduce what you read,” says Bernacchi. “As for underlining, there is conflicting evidence: “If (the technique) is used as a deliberate process, reflecting what is underlined in the text, taking notes and using them to improve the (study) strategy, it can be very effective,” says the researcher.

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“But if you underline for no particular purpose or do it as a way to focus on the text, you may get less benefit.”

“Active” learning: The UNC Learning Center views reading as a pre-learning step. To really learn the content, it is very useful to actively engage with it. Here are some ideas from the Center to do so:

It is common practice to study the day before the exam and try to do well. But effort usually only helps to perform well in that exam and not to actually memorize the content.

“We tend to cram the whole study into a very small space, which may work immediately, but not over the long term,” Bernacki explains.

Short, spaced study sessions: Instead of studying for hours the day before the exam, Shorter study sessions are more effectiveBut there is a gap of several days in the content you want to learn.

“What matters is how you use your study time, not its duration,” says the Learning Center director. “Long sessions can cause loss of concentration and, consequently, less learning and retention.”

In practice, you can leave everything for the day before and study at the same time (or less). The upside is that it gives your brain time to strengthen the neural connections to that learning, making it more likely to become a lasting memory.

Trying to study late the day before an exam is not conducive to long-term learning
Trying to study late the day before an exam is not conducive to long-term learningFreepik

3. “Multi Task”:

Several investigations already show that Read with distraction For example, from WhatsApp messages or videos on TikTok- Incompetent Not only because you divide your attention, but because constantly changing screens or devices waste time and energy.

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Replace this with:

The “Pomodoro” Technique, or Study in Blocks: Bernacchi’s recommendation to avoid distractions is to establish study blocks. For example, Mark 35 minutes on the clock and during that period, disconnect from all distractions and devote yourself exclusively to reading the material.

After that, you have five minutes to give your brain some distraction, such as eating a snack or checking your messages. Then you come back for a 35-minute study block.

This method is called “Pomodoro”, which refers to the tomato-shaped devices used to count the minutes. This technique not only avoids wasting time with distractions, but also helps Stimulate the brain with the expectation of “reward”.

It also positively affects our motivation by improving the way we study, achieving greater efficiency and self-regulation.
It also positively affects our motivation by improving the way we study, achieving greater efficiency and self-regulation.Freepik

Bernacki used these techniques and monitored their results among groups of students primarily in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. First-generation college students are young people who are the first in their families to attend collegePeople usually have little analytical techniques to operate during this difficult period.

In a 2022 study published in the journal Journal of Educational PsychologyBernacki and colleagues examined how a curriculum that focused on science learning and self-regulation strategies affected biology students who were at risk of academic failure through an algorithm. Students scored 12% better than the control group on end-of-course exams.

However, Bernacchi points out that It is not enough to use previous techniques like mantras All will work, but it is important to identify which techniques are most appropriate for each learning objective. This happens through what experts call self-regulation in research.

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“It’s about analyzing the task, understanding what the learning objective is, what resources I have, and choosing the appropriate strategy,” he explains.

“Sometimes knowledge is very concrete and obvious: for example, a fact, a definition, a formula, which can be read more concisely. But other things are more complex, involve multiple steps, or require more conceptual understanding. It is very difficult for them to study at the same time. So you have to develop your own knowledge and your own answers so that you can self-assess: ‘Did I get this right?’, he concluded.

Bernacki says these techniques are scientifically based and can be used by any student in the world who wants to improve their performance.

* By Paula Adamo Itoda

BBC Mundo