I did a few stints of teaching at the university level earlier in my career. It didn’t take me too long to realize that even when students know what they “must” study, they don’t know “how” to study. They end up using study strategies that are mostly useless–or completely useless!
Now, as I prepare people for the IBLCE exam, I see people using the same inefficient “study” tactics. I see them putting in their time, but their likelihood of remembering what they are “studying” is low. Here, I have listed six strategies that will not work well for anyone who hopes to pass a high-stakes exam.
Depending on listening to the instructor
I hope you find it interesting that I’m the one mentioning this, since I am the instructor! I can talk-talk-talk, and believe me, I can talk as well and as fast as anyone! And of course I want people to listen to me! But if they are depending on me to tell them everything they need to know in order to pass the exam, they may find themselves failing the exam.
Research in the education field has clearly shown that only 2 percent of what is heard in a lecture is actually retained in memory. Are you depending on this as your only or one of your main strategies? If so, then 98% of your information is somewhere in the wind.
Trying to capture everything in notes
OK, here again, I suppose I should feel flattered that people are trying to write down every word I say. But let’s get real. I write a course manual for my 90-hour course that consists of over 600 pages of outline and notes. Yet, people seem to think that whatever is currently coming out of my mouth is some pearl of wisdom, and they scramble to write it down.
Don’t you think that if that information was critical, I would have written it in the course manual? And, don’t you think that by focusing on recording every word, you’re likely to miss the main point? Honestly, details aren’t that important in a high-stakes exam, and you’ll need to find other strategies. Having the big picture is a key to success.
Memorizing: Just about useless!
There are very, very few facts that are worth memorizing. I admit that there are facts worth memorizing, but there’s a low likelihood that the IBLCE exam is going to ask for these tiny pieces of trivia. So yes, definitely, I do tell folks in my course that they should memorize the temperature required to achieve Holder pasteurization. But in truth, I’ve never had an IBLCE exam item that asks me for such straight recall. (I just always feel like it might be lurking out there somewhere!)
Constant highlighting and underlining
Aiiyyyyy. I’ve seen people do this for years. In fact, I’ve seen people who highlight nearly every word on that page! Does that mean that all of those words were equally important? Not likely.
Now just for kicks, I looked at a book that I was reading earlier this afternoon. I highlighted only about three sentences per page, and I jotted some thoughts in the margins. But my pages are not a mass of yellow.
You’ll need to figure it out for yourself, but I highlight only those things that are central to the concept I’m reading about, information that was surprising to me i.e., it did not “connect with what I had known previously, or information that I feel compelled to integrate into the work I do in a day.
Repetitive and useless copying of notes
OK, I admit, I honestly used to do that. I would hand-write my notes, then I would re-organize them and type them. (Luckily, I am able to type faster than anyone I know, but still, this is a pointless exercise!) I’ve seen some students who copy their notes over and over. But for what purpose?
Copying notes is just a physical and visual regurgitation of what you’ve already seen or heard. True, there is probably some science to prove the old adage, “Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips.” But let’s not get carried away.
Reading and re-reading everything
Again, I’ve seen people do this. But interestingly enough, some of the people I’ve seen do this are the same ones who read past the words that they didn’t understand. I’ve heard from some fairly credible sources that the reader experiences up to 90% loss of comprehension if she continues reading despite skipping over words and/or not understanding individual words.
That makes a lot of sense to me, because honestly, if I tell you there is a plethora of information—and if you don’t know what plethora means—then you honestly don’t know if there is a little, a lot, accurate, tainted, or otherwise! Context, while helpful, can often leave you bereft of a word’s meaning.
I’m trying to impress upon you that real studying means more than just putting in your time, and doing meaningless repetitive activity.
Looking for tips about what will work? Read on.