Do you know your study strategies?

It’s that time again. With April just around the corner, the prospect of exams is near. Unless you have been keeping up with your schoolwork regularly, it is time to sit down and “hardcore” study — this is not an easy feat for most. With constant distractions and increasingly beautiful weather, students prefer to go outside and play a little Frisbee rather than sit in their rooms. Even then, when you finally buckle down, what ensures that the information stays in your mind? Well, I feel that there is no universal, concrete method of studying. But if you cater to your specific studying style then you can increase your chances of acing your finals.

The first mistake most students make is that they assume they learn using the same method as friends. According to “Felder & Soloman: Learning Styles and Strategies” there are four strategies students can use to learn information: active-reflective, sensing-intuitive, visual-verbal and sequential-global. Active learning deals with retaining information using an active method, such as discussing or explaining it, while reflective learners prefer to think about subjects quietly. Students who use a sensing-learning technique remember facts while intuitive learners try to make connections through innovation and creating relationships.
Intuitive learners, however, are able to understand new concepts and mathematical formulations better than sensors. The visual-verbal strategies are quite straightforward: either you remember best when you see pictures, diagrams, or when using written or verbal explanations. Lastly, sequential learners learn using linear steps while global thinkers tend to learn information randomly and suddenly understanding the bigger picture.

Many students feel that they benefit working alone rather than a group, or vice versa. Active learners prefer to study in groups while reflective students profit from a solitary environment. These “solitary” studiers may choose to study in groups, creating distractions and eventually causing their group members to go off task. Visual students can highlight notes to create a better understanding of specific concepts, while verbal students work better in groups and benefit more from summarizing material in their own words.

Another assumption students make with studying is that it involves organizing information and applying the information to a real-world environment. While this is true for some students, there are others who learn from random knowledge and abstract ideas. For example, sequential learners follow logical steps when finding a solution while global learners absorb material almost randomly and suddenly are able to understand the larger concept. As well, sensory learners find examples in order to apply information to the real world while intuitive learners ask others for concepts that link the facts together in order to create more abstract theories.

Lastly, many students assume that you can apply the same learning strategies for every subject. This assumption is false. For example, applying an intuitive learning strategy is better suited for courses involving abstract ideas and mathematical formulas, such as calculus, physics and economics. However, when dealing with systematic calculations and memorization, a practical-sensory approach is beneficial. This strategy is better suited for subjects such as accounting, psychology and organizational behaviour. Nevertheless, one must note that a balance of these two strategies is always the most advantageous.

Exams are right around the corner, so don’t make elementary assumptions that may hinder the effectiveness of your studying. By identifying your unique learning strategies and rebuffing the assumptions that you study using the same methods as others, you can find the environment best suited for you.

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