Monthly Archives: February 2016

Studying and The Brain

Photo Credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/B2hRq1JnBGk/maxresdefault.jpg

Photo Credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/B2hRq1JnBGk/maxresdefault.jpg

What do teachers and students mean when they say review or study?

In my conversations with students they say they are going to study or review for a test. What does that mean though? Teachers will tell students to study or review a particular chapter or section before a test. However, students are not taught how to study or review material. Most students read over the textbook or their notes again and don’t interact with the material. In order for our brains to truly learn and retain the material we need to do something with what we have read.

First, we encode information by reading. The information goes into our brains and we become familiar with the material. Then, we need to retrieve the information to use it.  We have to get it out. In psychology this is referred to as the “retrieval effect.” “The more things you have it (information) connected to, the easier it is to pull it out, because you have lots of different ideas that can lead you to that particular material,” Mark McDaniel, a Professor of Psychology at Washington University. “And the things you retrieve get more accessible later on, and the things you don’t retrieve get pushed into the background and become harder to retrieve next time.” Hence, the reason why students need various strategies and quizzable tools when preparing for tests. Students need to quiz themselves before the teacher does to see how much they know and reflect on how to retrieve the information in the future.

Tips to help students successfully “retrieve” information for tests:

  1. Stop using the words, study and review. Be specific! How will you study or review for a test? For example, I am going to make flashcards for Spanish class, or I am going to quiz myself for my math test by completing practice questions.
  2. Form or join a study group where you can quiz your friend(s). Two heads are better than one! In your group you could each make up 5 test questions and exchange and discuss them.
  3. Take notes in a format where you can quiz yourself later. Cornell Notesare great or write the term on one line and then below it write the definition. This way you can fold your paper up and slowly bring it down as you quiz yourself.
  4. Read your notes out loud. It might even be helpful to record yourself.
  5. Use mnemonic devices to help make the information stick. It can be a song, rhyme, acronym, image, or a phrase that helps you remember the material.
  6. Create and answer your own quiz using helpful websites like Quizlet orGoConqr.
  7. Use your senses: smell, touch, hear, see.  The more senses you use when learning material the more likely you are to remember it.
  8. Have a whiteboard at home? They are great to use when quizzing yourself or getting information “out.” Mind maps are fun to draw and help with the retrieval process.
  9. Relate the information to something you already know, something in real life.
  10. Self-questioning is a helpful habit to form! It will increase your comprehension. The following questions are great to ask yourself when checking for understanding.

How were ___ and ___ the same?  Different?
What do you think would happen if___?
What do you think caused ___ to happen?
What other solution can you think of for the problem of ___?
What might have prevented the problem of ____ from happening?
What is important about ______?  

**For more tips on how to ace tests read my post, Test Taking Tips: Strategies on How to Reduce Test Anxiety

Melanie Black of Student Futures is a certified academic life coach for students and teens. She has a passion to help students succeed. Academic coaching helps develop life skills for students as well as gives them academic strategies, which help to decrease anxiety and stress in students. Contact Melanie Black today for a free consultation at Melanie@studentfutures.org or (904) 487-8269.