Top 10 things to do when you're studying
Try these study tips to take the stress out of studying – whether you're writing Grade 8, Matric or University exams.
1. Find your study style
We're all different – and that includes the way we learn. Before you hit the books, ask yourself whether you're you a visual (see), auditory (hear) or kinaesthetic (hands-on) learner. If you're a visual person: underline or highlight key points in bright colours, look at your teachers or lecturers when they talk and write things down because you'll remember them easier that way. If you're an auditory person, recite things out loud, make up songs about your subject matter; record your notes – use your phone if you have no other recording device – and play them back to yourself. If you're a kinaesthetic or tactile person, walk around the room, chew gum or even squeeze a tennis ball while you're studying; use role-playing with a study partner or demonstrate what you've just read or learnt. Not sure what study style suites your personality? Click here to work out why study style suits you.
2. Study Buddies
Form study groups with friends and peers – it often helps to study in a group and can be easier than trying to do it alone," says Janine Shamos, Resilience Therapist and Lecturer. "Not everyone can sit at a desk and read their work, some need to move around, listen to music, teach their pillows."
According to the Student Success Centre at the Eastern Illinois University in the US, research shows students learn more from teaching each other – but be sure to keep your study groups small (three to six people max!) and only include your peers who are willing to participate.
3. Location, location, location
Whether it's the library, classroom, community hall or your bedroom – claim your study space. It should be a place where you can concentrate and limit distractions. Cape Town Clinical Psychologist and FAMAC-accredited mediator Welmoet Bok recommends that your turn off all outside distractions – like cell phones and computers. "Students I've seen say that they didn't realise how much these distractions upset their concentration and focus until they tried turning them off!"
4. Calm and collected
While external distractions can interfere with your ability to study, inner worries can also get your down. Says Welmoet: "Internal distractions, such as intrusive thoughts, emotions or physical ailments or even hunger pangs can detract from one's focus. It's therefore important to try to make sure that you are as calm and comfortable as possible before getting down to the studies."
5. Past papers
Past or exemplar papers are a great way to familiarise yourself with the type of questions you'll face in exams. They'll also help you work out how much you already know or identify weak areas ahead of time. Matrics, you can ask your teachers for past papers or download them yourself from the Department of Basic Education, The Learning Channel
6. Find your guide
Don't be afraid to use study guides – they're there to help! Matric.co.za recommends you buy your study guides from reputable booksellers including Exclusive Books, Wordsworth, and Van Schaik Bookstores. With exams around the corner, we're loving the Quick-fix books from Guidelines Study Aids, which are small enough to carry around with you. They also address common mistakes learners have made and cover a range of subjects from accounting to Mathematical Literacy. For more info visit http://www.guidelines.co.za/
We also love the Western Cape Education Department's booklet, Tips for Success, which provides advice on preparing for the exams, planning your study time and what to cover in each subject. It also includes advice from those who excelled in last year's exams. Check it out at http://wced.school.za/documents/Matric2011/book/eng/tipsforsuccess.html
7. Table it!
A proper timetable is an essential part of your study survival guide. To draw up a study planner, divide a table into days and timeslots. Fill in the times when you're committed to doing something else like a part-time job, regular class assignments, or exercise. Once you've filled in these areas, you'll see the gaps you have to study.
"It's important to create a realistic study time table with adequate time for catching up if unforeseen events prevent you from studying on a particular day," points out Welmoet. "Make sure study sessions are an optimal length so you can retain focus (between 50 minutes and not longer than two hours at a stretch), then have a break of at least ten to 15 minutes during which you take your mind off the studies completely."
8. Time it right
Listen to your body clock: if you're a night owl, set study sessions at night; if you're an early bird, factor study time into your mornings – but don't overstretch yourself!
Dennen notes that you may want to stay up late or get up super early to study, but this can result in exhaustion and impaired concentration, as well as moodiness during the day – so time management is important!
9. Get physical
Take a time out. You want to study smart not hard! That means allowing time for physical activity. Says Dennen: "Exercise helps the brain by getting oxygenated blood all around the body. It also helps decrease stress levels. So make sure you get at least 30 minutes exercise a day if possible."
10. Reach out
Never be afraid to ask for help! "Find someone in your family who you can lean on emotionally, or talk to about any feelings you might have about exams and performance. It should be someone who can empathise and provide some helpful words of wisdom when you feel overwhelmed. You may also call Childline any time of the day or night, 7 days a week," advises Dennen. Bonus tip: Stay positive
"Good stress management includes using relaxation exercise and mindfulness training, as well as cognitive-behavioural techniques and affirmations to gain control of your thought patterns," says Welmoet. On such technique is Jacobson's Progressive Muscular Relaxation, "which involves alternately tensing and then relaxing the different muscle groups in the body, starting with one's hands or feet," explains Welmoet. Affirmations need to be personalised for each individual, however. Says Welmoet: "They should be short and should ring true to the person concerned, such as ‘I will do the best that I can day by day'."
To remain positive, Dennen also recommends that you focus on your strengths and previous achievements. "Work on any areas for growth with the attitude that all improvement is success!"
To contact Welmoet Bok or make an appointment, visit www.bgpsychologists.co.za
To contact ChildLine, call their toll-free number on 08000 55555, 7 days a week, 24 hrs a day.
SADAG also runs a counselling line and SMS line – 0800 567 567 or 0800 20 50 26 and SMS 31393 –open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm.