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Study Tips

October 11, 2022

Studying is a challenge. It’s boring-at times, especially if all you do is repeatedly stare at your PowerPoint slides. I can relate because I’ve struggled with this for a long time. I’m sure someone out there may benefit from this advice; hence, here are studying strategies from a Life Science student.

Read your slides.

You need to know your stuff, folks. So, please open those slides and pay attention to the professor's points. I used this method in some content-heavy courses, such as Neuroscience. Although every presentation has many slides, it can be challenging to determine what material is essential or testable. When a professor spends more time on a subject than others, you can typically anticipate what material is crucial. Is it clear that the professor keeps bringing up a topic or that their voice has a different tone? Have they spent ten minutes on a single slide? It's more likely that this information will be tested if you said yes to either of these questions. 

Re-read your slides.

To be a genius, you must constantly review your lecture notes because guess what? It will not stick the first time. Unless you have done independent research or have read about specific topics for fun in preparation to learn about them, then bravo! You're one step ahead of the game and have a higher chance of remembering the content! However, in reality, I am not this person; I wish I were. Wouldn't it be great to read something, absorb it, and be done with it? Yes, but we're not robots, so let nature take its course and go with the flow. I guarantee that revisiting topics will make learning more pleasant. I can assure you that by reviewing the subject again, you will have a higher probability of remembering the topic, making learning new stuff easier. Consistently reviewing material will help you have a solid prior grasp of previous information so that when you study the new content, you can make connections that will strengthen your memory!

Make your own notes.

I understand the material is right in front of you, so it seems time efficient to read and redundant to rewrite. To be honest, I could have something in front of me, stare at it for a day or two and not understand it until I do the physical action of writing it out. Passive learning is primarily ineffective because listening and reading the material without actually engaging by reflecting, reviewing or writing the material out will not result in long-term memorization.

The act of writing by hand activates a particular area of the brain. Writing by hand compels your brain to think about information in greater detail, which helps to effectively store that information in long-term memory. You may call me a kinesthetic learner, but reading alone won't cut it because I get distracted easily! Can you relate? Make your notes, then. Let's type them instead of breaking our hands and limbs if the course contains PowerPoints with more than 50 slides! It is quicker, you may draw many connections from the notes you write, and it is better than not engaging with the material.

Test yourself.

I was opposed to this method and believed it was stupid and meaningless until I started quizzing myself and noticed that my grades improved and I remembered the information better. We may believe we know something, and it is all fun and games when the material is in front of us, but when we shut the notes and ask ourselves questions, we frequently find ourselves unable to recollect that information. But isn't that essentially what we need to accomplish on the test? So, if we can't do it now, how can we do it on exam day? I realize how stressful this is, and the simple solution is information. If you know what you're doing, you'll be more confident and won't be afraid of anything the exam throws at you.

Making flashcards is an example of active learning and quizzing yourself. It would take me forever to write down the information, so I used Anki instead. Anki is a spaced-repetition application/software that helps me create a variety of flashcards, and the software is set up to test me on topics based on how well I develop. If I get the correct answer, I may pick "good" or "easy," or if it is something I didn't know, I select "again," which means the algorithm will repeat it as many times as it takes for me to declare the information as "this is easy!" Anki was the key to great lab tests for my Life Science classmates! I expect the founders of Anki to be surprised as to why there is such a spike in downloads from Ontario Tech University, haha! 

Be confident.

Anxiety is so paralyzing. You can know your material inside, and out but there is this voice that often creeps up out of nowhere saying, “What if you fail?”. Challenge that with “No, what if it all works out”. As weird as it sounds, I often go into exams thinking I am the professor and that there is no one in this world that knows this stuff better than me. In a way, I am “angry” yet ambitious because I am trying to challenge this voice in my head. And the best feeling is the outcome. Guys, there is nothing sweeter than walking out of an exam knowing you killed it! Remember you are the beast; with your preparation the test will get annihilated!

Understand your why.

Burnout is real. It's easy to become confused and overwhelmed and to get lost in the midst of it all. When you're feeling overwhelmed, take a minute to relax and take a breather because breaks are crucial, and remember where you started, why you started, and how far you've come. By reminding yourself of your objectives and what you want to accomplish, you will remember that you have a purpose and that hard work leads to success. I never advocate for comparison, but I try to realize that if you do not want to do "x," there is a chance that someone else will be willing to do "x". So, why don't you just do "x"? Why not push past your limitations that will ultimately result in your greatness? Just do it! If not, then no worries, we will find another way, there is always another way, you just need to keep on the lookout. It all starts with understanding your ‘Why’. 

You can do this. 

Thank you for reading this post. I hope it was useful in some way. Learning is undoubtedly a journey, and as you travel through it, you will discover more about who you are as a person, how you learn, and how you will improve over time.