Is it difficult for you to study? Do you feel that you read and read and do not retain the necessary information? If you have been studying for a while, or school really wasn’t your thing, you are likely to ask yourself those questions when preparing for an exam, especially standardized ones like the GRE or GMAT . In case this is happening to you, it is much more likely that the reason behind is that your study techniques are not adequate, rather than that “you are not good”. Most people do not know the proper methods to prepare, as they only “memorize” or “review.” However, there are tools and strategies that you can use to your advantage at this time.
In this post we will share these tips and talk about what to do and what not to do when studying and preparing for an exam. Whether you want to take a job entrance test, you will take the GMAT to be admitted to an MBA or you are in the final exam stage at the University, you can take advantage of them: they are valid at any time!
What not to do?
Quality vs quantity :
Among students there is an erroneous belief that the more you review the better understanding of the concepts you will have , and you will be able to obtain better grades. However, it is proven that what matters is how you study, rather than how much you study. Study sessions that are too long will cause you to lose concentration, thereby reducing your retention and your ability to learn. In short: study efficiently and effectively!
* Tip: Relate everything you learn with this formula
Concentration * Time spent
Imagine that you study 8 hours the day before the exam with a concentration of 3/10. You will achieve a job of 24. If you studied 3 hours with a concentration of 10, you would reach an apprenticeship of 30. Therefore, it is of little use to study a lot if you are not 100% concentrated, and it is certain that the more you study, the less attentive you will be.
Underline / highlight and reread:
It is common that, when you are studying – especially if you do it with a physical book – you underline what you consider “most important” and then reread those points later. Although it may seem like a good thing, since you are eliminating everything irrelevant from the text, it is an ineffective technique since simple reading does not intensify learning. This, because the only thing you do is memorize the text, instead of understanding and internalizing it.
Mass / Block Study:
Studying en masse implies studying and studying an entire topic until you “master” it – although in reality it is just memorizing it – and moving on to the next topic, without going back to review it (or just checking it at the end). When you finish studying, do not doubt that with work you will remember 20% of what you “memorized”. Studying en bloc is a similar technique, but this does not involve memorization, but rather reviewing the content in another way, such as exercises. The problem remains that a single topic is reviewed and moved on to the next, which does not ensure that, at the time of the exam, you remember the first thing you studied.
When you are studying very concentrated, managing to learn everything you had proposed, it is likely that you feel encouraged and want to study more. Do not do it! Internalize what you have learned, review it one more time and take a break.
Study after eating:
Studies suggest that after eating foods with a high proportion of lipids, the concentration decreases by up to 10% and it is more difficult to concentrate for more than 10 minutes. Therefore, seek to study before eating and, if you will do it after, take care that your diet is healthy and take special care of your health.
And above all: MULTITASKING
Returning to the point of quantity vs. quality, you may find that you are very good at concentrating on several things at once. What you are doing is taking part of your attention away from a specific activity, and assigning it to another. If this is the case at the time you study, your “concentration level” – measured from 1 to 10 – will be affected. With this, your level of learning will also do it. Before saying “I am very good at doing a thousand things at the same time” say “I will allocate half an hour to each activity”, and thus give 100% of your attention: you will achieve more!
What to do?
Once you know what is wrong, here are some important points to consider when studying. The important thing to consider at all times are two things: you have to make the forgetting curve as flat as possible  and BE INTERESTED in what you are learning.
Create and consider a study guide:
You need to make a type “syllabus” with the specific topics that you must master. Thus, you will have control of your progress and will be able to focus. In addition, you can write down your performance in each topic, to know in which areas you can try a little more or not.
Before starting any topic, especially if you don’t know enough about it, do a diagnosis or “pre-test” of what you are supposed to know. Whether you research a quiz, test, or ask a friend who knows more about the topic to ask you. It is not important that at this stage you answer the questions correctly, but that you give yourself an idea of what you should know at the end of the study. In addition, it is possible to take an interest in the subject and review it more thoroughly: desirable effect!
When you read, you don’t just interpret what you read. When you were a child that is the first thing you learned: to recognize words, and, at least, to understand the ideas behind it. You must take the next step. Contrast what you already knew with what is in the text, interpret it with your previous knowledge, evaluate what you read, compare, paraphrase, even, investigate a little more. This is usually done in subjects a little more theoretical than mathematics or physics. However, you can always access more knowledge. Do it!
You don’t want to study everything in a single 7 hour session. Focus on one topic for half to an hour for 7 days. You will retain more, you will satisfy your doubts and thus you will not lose all your focus.
Self-assessment and flashcards:
Here are 3 study techniques. When you are reading and learning, develop exam-type questions (depending on the exam you are going to take), write them down on cards. On one side write the question and on the other the answer: that is, make flashcards. Then, evaluate yourself with them.
Now, it’s not just asking yourself what’s on the flashcards and memorizing, but thinking about your answer. Even give an additional related data each time you ask yourself the question. This data must be interesting and it can be an application, a theory, even a chapter of a series where the concept is used. The curve of oblivion will become much flatter.
Afterwards, we recommend this self-assessment to be like this: answer the questions. If you answer them immediately, save them and review them 3-4 days later. If it takes a while, with difficulty, save them and review them on the second day. If you answer it wrong, do not study it again the same day. Learn the answer, and answer it the next day. After a few days or weeks, you will have the concepts mastered.
We do not mean that you do an unordered practice. This technique is useful for practical subjects, and refers to answering problems related to the same topic, but not using the same strategy repeatedly. Consecutive problems should not be solved with the same technique, but should make you think about what knowledge to use and what tool you need to solve them. It is more effective, and replicates the situation of an exam.
Become the master:
Study the topic as if you were going to explain it to someone else, ideally as if you were explaining it to a five-year-old. This forces you to really know what is happening. It is easy to memorize, but it is more difficult to transmit knowledge. This strategy is excellent for any subject, topic, or area of study.
One more tip:
Analyze how it is easier for you to learn. This includes whether you are more visual, creative, auditory, or practical. If you like to study with noise, with music, or in total silence. Even if you concentrate better in the park, or at home. This can help you relate your memories to particular situations. For example, if at GRE time a permutations problem appears (and you don’t remember the formula well), you may remember that you studied it in Park N, and that same day you played with some dogs that passed by. This will bring back the memories of that day, and you will remember better.
So, try to apply these strategies conscientiously and you will see how you retain more and study better to master the exam topics and obtain excellent scores.