Tips on how to study for tests have been around since…well, since tests. Back in the day, people did simple things such as leave Post-it notes all around the house, therefore etching information into their brains every time they boiled water or took a pee.
About Study Hacks
Numerous study hacks are out there nowadays. We are told that for some people, if they read out loud rather than silently, they are much more likely to remember what they read. Another great tip is to become the teacher, so once you’ve got something, teach yourself as if you were in charge.
More in line with the modern era, we are also told to use apps that turn off distracting notifications. But will that get you straight A’s? Today, we’ll look at a super hack, in this episode of the Infographics Show, The Study Hack That Will Help You Get A’s.
Ok, so this hack on how to get A’s is not from some blog that has churned out content taken from someone’s blog or website, who in turn had lifted it from someone’s else’s website. No, this was a serious scientific study that was undertaken by Stanford research fellows.
How To Study Better
The name of the study was, “Strategic Resource Use for Learning: A Self-Administered Intervention That Guides Self-Reflection on Effective Resource Use Enhances Academic Performance.” You could rephrase that in un-academic terms and call it, “How to study better.
” Basically, what the researchers believed and set out to prove was that students were just consuming information the wrong way. If they consumed a better way, they could improve their grades. “We hypothesized that making students more self-reflective about how they should approach their learning with the resources available to them would improve their class performance,” it says in the abstract of the study.
The students that participated in the study were asked to think about what resources they would use prior to sitting an exam. But they wouldn’t just read the way they usually did. Instead they would decide what resources they would use, i.e. research papers, books, websites, lectures, etc, and then they would consume and think about the information using something the researchers had designed, called a “Strategic Resource Use” manual.
The results? The hack actually worked. Those students who used the manual outperformed those who didn’t. They said they felt better equipped for the exam and essentially improved their score, so B+ students became A students.
Note that the average score of students that used the manual only improved one third of a grade. So, a B student might only become B+ student. Still, that’s not bad at all. Ok, so how do students better consume their resources? As we’ve said, it was all about changing how students’ study, which is usually reading and taking notes and then re-reading the notes before the test.
According to Patricia Chen, a post-doctoral researcher at Stanford who led the study, re-reading is basically not helping people. Chen, who has a PhD in psychology, wasn’t the first to drop this bombshell.
How To Make It Stick
Two psychologists from the Washington University in St. Louis called Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel spent years researching the best way to study and they said the same thing. In their book, “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning” they wrote that all that re-reading you do is pretty much ineffective.
If you want to make something stick, you have to employ better methods. It’s a bit like learning a language, you hardly become good at it from writing down long lists of definitions and re-reading them.
You must use the language for it to become ingrained in your memory. This is why the two writers said doing things like designing your own quizzes – heck, have a quiz show with your buddies – will be much more effective.
In Chen’s study it goes a bit further. The students were in a way asked to deconstruct how they learned. Deconstruction is a philosophical term that isn’t used in everyday life, but all it really means is taking something apart and looking at it more closely.
Deconstructing The Subject
For Chen’s students who were given the manual, they were asked to do these things: take 15 of the resources they would be using prior to taking the test- that could be lecture notes, textbooks, practice exam questions, or even private tutoring sessions and discussions with fellow students.
They were then asked to deconstruct these resources. Basically, that meant asking yourself, in detail, how any of these things were useful and why they were useful. This creates a heightened awareness of what students are studying.
They became analysts of their own resources and how they were used. They were then asked to meditate on what grade they wanted and how they might achieve their goal. They were also asked how likely they thought it would be that they get this grade.
Going The Extra Mile
Going this extra mile of course only consolidated what the students were learning. They were in effect quizzing themselves not only on the subject matter but on how effective their modes of learning were.
You could call them “meta-learners.” It didn’t matter if students were regular C, B or A students, if they used the manual they improved. The ones who didn’t use the manual, did not improve. For men or women, for Caucasians or African Americans, rich or poor, if they used the manual they got better.
The results are empirical proof the manual worked. But, why did it work? Well, as you’re probably thinking right now, students generally don’t think too much about how they study. They don’t all deconstruct their methods, or their teacher’s methods.
Understanding Why The Method Works
As Chen said in an interview, “All too often, students just jump mindlessly into studying before they have even strategized what to use, without understanding why they are using each resource, and without planning out how they would use the resource to learn effectively.
”The study has gained widespread attention. Organizations such as the Education Endowment Foundation approve. Do you really need to be using Adderall all night, mindlessly going over notes you have already gone over? Do you need more expensive private tutors? Nope, you need to adopt what has been called “metacognition intervention” regarding how you study.
If you’re a parent reading this, or a student, or even perhaps just a friend of a student, then get the word out. Some teachers do use such metacognition methods already, such as asking students in high school to grade their own work and ask themselves how useful their resources, teacher or class was.
Using Self-evaluation techniques
Asking students to evaluate themselves is another technique related to metacognition called “self-regulation.” You are no longer just a student, but you are critic of yourself and the learning process in general.
Chen says even if you don’t use the manual, there are questions you can ask yourself on a regular basis regarding your way of studying. Some of these are: What you are doing doesn’t seem to be working very well.
Is there something else you can use that would help you do it better? Look at the way you are doing things. Do you think you could have gone about it in a better way? For those of you well past exam age, Chen believes this form of heightened awareness and constant evaluation is a strategy for life and success.
It might even make your love life more successful if you take time to deconstruct your feelings and your lover’s feelings. In one interview Chen talked about this, saying, “Actively self-reflecting on the approaches that you are taking fosters a strategic stance that is really important in life.