By Essie Bester
The matric final exam is around the corner and across the country grade 12 learners are suddenly experiencing more pressure to study. With homework and extramural activities that make for a full programme, it sometimes is difficult to find the time or motivation to tackle your studies.
The following five scientifically tested tips can make learners’ life easier
- Recalling instead of reading
Most earners make the mistake of merely reading (and reading again) through their textbooks, as they think it is the best study method, says the American psychology professor Mark A McDaniel. This method is ineffective as learners have by this time become familiar with their textbooks and therefore are not challenging their brains to think and to remember what they read. Mark says learners should rather recall their work actively by setting their textbooks aside after having read the information, and then either writing down everything they have read or saying it aloud.
- Use the Feynman technique
The Feynman technique is named after the Nobel prizewinning physicist, Richard Feynman, who was well-known for his simplistic explanations of complex concepts. This technique is important when you learn as – by explaining it – you will understand the subject better yourself.
This method is applied in five steps, namely:
- Firstly, you choose a topic that you want to explain. Now decide whether you are going to do so verbally or write it down. It is suggested that you do both – explain the topic verbally and write it down as you progress.
- In the second step you have to explain the concept in simple terms (as to a five-year-old). In this way you will be able to immediately determine where your problem areas lie, as these are the areas where you get stumped or fall back on the use of complicated language and terminology. In this step you also have to include practical applications or examples of the concept.
- Thirdly, you have to revise the explanation and identify the areas where you don’t know something, or where you feel that your explanation is not good enough. After you have established this, you have to go back to your source material, your notes or any examples that you can find to strengthen your comprehension.
- In the fourth step you have to make a comparison in order to explain the concept, which is why you have to link the new concept with the existing information. For example, by learning about fractions is just like cutting up a cake into several pieces.
- Lastly, you have to simplify your explanation. How can you explain it easier, simpler or quicker? Perform all the steps again to ensure that you have simplified the work and explained it to the best of your ability.
- Learn like Leitner
The Leitner system – a study technique in which flash cards are used – is named after Sebastian Leitner, well-known German science journalist and author of the book, How to learn to learn. It is considered to be one of the most effective ways of actively recalling information and helps the brain to memorise topics by creating unique neural paths. Learners create their own flash cards by using words and pictures that can help them to explain the concept.
These flash cards are then divided into three groups or boxes. For the purpose of this example, we call them box 1, box 2 and box 3. Box 1 contains all the flash cards which you as learner don’t know very well and struggle with. Box 2 contains all the flash cards which you know reasonably well, but sometimes still make mistakes with. Box 3 contains all the flash cards which you know very well and are already familiar with.
The flash cards in box 1 have to be revised every day. The flash cards in box 2 have to be revised every two to three days. The flash cards in box 3 have to be revised once per week. When the learner answers the question on a flash card in box I correctly, the card is moved to box 2. When the question on the flash card in box 2 is answered correctly, it is moved to box 3. When the question on the flash card in box 2 is answered incorrectly, it is moved back to box 1. In this way the repetition of the facts on the cards are spread out so that your brain retains the information very effectively.
- Keep your heart pumping
We all know exercise helps to relieve stress and increase blood circulation when we study. But did you know that 20 minutes to an hour’s exercise during your exam study period can improve your brain functionality and memory? Exercise therefore is linked to higher marks,
- Practise with tests
The use of past exam papers is one of the best methods to improve your attitude toward exams. It ensures that your brain is familiar with exam conditions as well as the way in which you have to answer the questions – which lowers anxiety considerably. School projects online specialise in making exam papers for Grade 1 to Grade 10 available. Matrics can also download exam papers at: http://olivershouse.co.za/community-projects/educational-learning-centre/grade-12-past-exam-papers/
Why are practice exam papers an important study technique?
Using practice exam papers creates a feeling of urgency to start studying early, as students have to be able to write down their answers. Researchers say people are inclined to postpone activities (such as studying). If you know your first exam paper is four weeks away, chances are good that you will only start studying two weeks before the exam. Studies however show that undergoing a memory test (such as working through practice papers) can improve long-term memory.