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  • Writer's pictureBrian Ricks

3 Tips for Better Study Techniques

It's tough being a busy student. Trying to find enough time to keep up with homework and studying is not easy. Being able to block off a few hours to study is great, but there are ways to squeeze in some extra studying/review time throughout the day. Whether you have 5 minutes or 15 minutes, the idea of studying in "micro-sessions" can help you prepare for your next exam more wisely. By incorporating micro-sessions into your daily schedule, you’ll be able to get more done in a day then you thought possible.

All of these suggestions, however, require some advance preparation. Plan in advance to download things to your phone or whatever mobile device you carry. Make this part of your overall study plan to ensure that you always have something productive to do when you've got a few minutes to spare throughout the day.

Use Flash Cards

My top recommendation is to use a deck of flashcards or a flashcard app on your phone. Flashcards promote better recall and help make connections faster between different ideas. Flashcards are classically used for memorization, but they don't have to just be things like vocabulary and definitions. Use them to test yourself on the meaning of different variables in an equation, how different properties relate to each other, and other solution strategies for various problem types.

Create Your Own Flashcards

I favor creating your own flashcards using a deck of index cards because the process of planning and writing them out helps reinforce the information you're trying to learn. As a result, you get a custom set of flashcards tailored exactly to what you need to know. If you’re not sure how to start, ask your tutor! I’ve helped many students organize their notes and plan out their flashcards to help them study more efficiently. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a valuable skillset to have in almost any course you take in the future.

Using Flashcard Apps

There are a lot of great websites and apps for flashcards on both Android and iOS which can work really well too. You can still create your own flashcards as well as download flashcards that others have shared to use directly or modify. Some of the most popular apps include Anki, Quizlet, Cram, and Adobe Spark. While the list of apps is lengthy, check out a few options and see what you like best.

Buying Premade Flashcards

If you are studying for one of the popular standardized exams like the SAT, ACT, AP exams, GRE, or MCAT then you also have the option of buying a set of physical flashcards. Big test prep companies like Barron's or Kaplan are the more popular brands students purchase. This is the least effective method because you don’t get the benefit of planning out and creating them yourself. It's also the most expensive option, but using pre-made flashcard decks is still better than nothing.

Download Study Guides

My next recommendation is to download any equation sheets, solution guide examples, and important diagrams to your mobile device. Focus on problems that help explain and illustrate key concepts that are more complex than what would go on a simple flashcard.

Looking through these guides a few times per day while waiting in line or on your commute will naturally help you get more familiar with the course material. Practice explaining what each equation means, what the major steps in a solution method are & why, or what the important takeaways are from diagrams and graphs in your head. This is particularly useful in courses like chemistry and physics, where you may need to be able to interpret a graph, recognize equations, and/or construct a free-body diagram in order to solve a problem.

Review Instructional Videos

Finally, try downloading instructional videos on the topic you are studying. YouTube is a great resource because of the vast amount of videos it houses on numerous topics. Other video streaming services you like will work fine as long as they have the capability to download videos offline. Offline downloads ensure that you always have them available, even if you get stuck somewhere without a good mobile signal.

One of the best and most comprehensive resources on YouTube is Khan Academy, which covers the majority of math and science subjects up through the early college level. Most of the videos are 5-8 minutes long with a voiceover and whiteboard style writing making them easy to digest for visual learners. Students can learn how to set up and solve math-based problems in chemistry, physics, and math courses easily.

For visual concepts rather than math-based, I don’t have any specific channel recommendations. If you don’t like the presentation, just try another one. There is so much content out there that you are bound to find a video style that works for you. Use your tutor as a resource to help you find video content about whatever topics you need.

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