Isolate Different Material
There’s a little thing called “interference” that can distract your memory from retaining information accurately. It’s really similar to surfing the radio and picking up two stations at once. This is exactly what happens when you study two similar subjects. In computer science, this could mean confusing two different programming languages. To safeguard against interference, the best practice is to isolate the material in order to focus on each individual subject.
Because online learning is held entirely in a virtual world, it is especially important to isolate topics. There are some tricks to helping your mind subconsciously classify different types of material. For example, try not to study two different topics in close succession without breaks. If you have to study different topics in a single day, give yourself appropriate breaks and move to a different room to study the each topic.
Cramming is taking all of the information of your course and studying it all at once. You probably already know this is a poor studying method, but did you know why?
Quite simply, your memory and focus have limits. When you cram for a test, you exhaust your concentration. This means you could spend 8 hours studying comprehensively, but your mind will be too exhausted to retain all of the information. Taking substantial breaks is an important part of strengthening your memory. If you can’t afford to take breaks, you’ve waited too long to begin your studying!
Giving yourself breaks will allow you to become familiar with which parts of the material are difficult for you to recall, and which parts you understand well.
Mix it up.
Cramming for a test is like running 10 miles the night before a cross-country meet. A better way to train is to run both long and short distances, building endurance while strengthening your weaknesses. In the same way, you need to build a basic understanding of your material and give due focus to the more difficult elements.
Review the material the entire way through a few times. Separate the material into smaller sections that you can study independently. Within each of these sections, identify the more difficult material and study this information on a more in-depth level.
(Note: By giving yourself plenty of time to study, you will have the opportunity to reach out to your peers or your professors with questions about specific material. You can’t do this during a late-night cramming session!)
Once you feel that you have a comprehensive understanding, begin reviewing your material as a whole.
Experts say this is the most important part of studying. Grab a partner and quiz each other. Use flashcards and say the answers aloud. For more comprehensive exams, use subject topics and write summaries of the material. Use study guides, practice tests or join a study group.
While developing a system, remember that the important part of the review process is to identify what you don’t know. Once you’ve overlearned the material, to the point that recalling the facts (or ways in which you apply the facts) is no problem, you’re ready for anything!
A freelance writer and blogger, Mariana Ashley hopes to help prospective students and parents in making online college comparisons so they can find the schools that work best for them. She welcomes your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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