Studying techniques whirl around online like viral TikTok videos.
but are they all able to maximise your marks?
Earlier in this Studying 101 series, we learnt that most students are still using 3 Popular Time Wasters for Studying. Plus we discovered the power of Encoding and how without increasing cognitive load, you aren’t likely to remember what you’re studying.
So let’s explore the 3 best studying techniques that truly maximise your marks.
If you’re preparing for an upcoming exam, don’t sweat it! Bettering Youth tutors are experienced at tutoring for 11+ exams, SATs exams, Year 8 Transfer exams, and GCSEs . We’ve supported hundreds of students through the exam process and we know how to help you manage your exam prep journey.
Check out our growing ‘Studying 101’ blog series that covers all the ways to maximize your studying. Today, we explore; The best studying techniques that are backed by the latest research.
Be sure to click the links below in the table of contents to access the other parts of this Studying 101 series.
Table of Contents:
- The study habits that are counterproductive (I dish the deets on why)
1.3 Summarising/Making notes
- How to remember more: Encoding
2.3 Self Referencing
- The study methods that do help
3.2 Active Recall
3.3 Spaced Repetition
3.4 Interleaving Practise
- Organising your time
- How to overcome Performance anxiety
- Dealing with anxiety
How our brain learns
Our brain consists of numerous parts that are responsible for a variety of tasks.
Learning, requires a whole-brain approach. More specifically, the cells within the brain: neurons.
Neurons communicate to one another in order to achieve an outcome. A signal (message) is fired from one neuron, along its axon (telephone wire) to the next neuron. The more the neurons ‘talk’, the stronger the connection becomes and the less effort it takes.
This is why we say things like ‘practise makes perfect.’
It’s because the more we repeat an action (or thought!) the stronger the bond between neurons is and the easier it is to complete the task.
Quick Recap on Encoding
As we learned in the Encoding blog, the more active the brain is in the learning process, the easier it will be to retrieve the information. This is because the brain is expending a significant amount of cognitive energy to engage with the information and transpose it to the long-term memory.
Three ways to encode are:
Each of these activities can be used to help you remember what you study.
4 Effective Studying Techniques
Remember, studying is not highlighting, re-reading or summarising.
It’s about actively engaging with the material and encoding it.
So how do we so effectively?
1. Pre-testing is key to studying effectively
At the start of our sessions, Bettering Youth tutors will ask students to self-assess their capacity to achieve a particular outcome.
This process encourages active engagement with the content and a reflective approach to learning. This means that from the first 5 minutes within an online tutoring session, children are starting the process of strengthening the relationship between neurons and increasing learning capacity.
“the increased posttest performance of students who were tested on material they did not previously know, allowed to study, and then tested on the same items again when compared to those students who had only study time and no pre test”Richland, Kornell and Kao. 2009 Journal of Experimental Psychology
The key point with pre-testing or self-assessing prior to learning is to follow through with detailed modeling, coaching, and learning.
2. Active Recall
Using flashcards is not a novel studying technique. In fact, most of my Biology Minor was achieved with the use of Flash Cards. Now, many students turn to the online version, Anki.
The reason why using flashcards can be so helpful is because it allows our brain to have to work to actively retrieve information. Plus, it helps us to identify knowledge that we may not know yet.
Other helpful methods to use active recall are:
Blurting is when a child reads a text or watches a video and then writes down everything they can remember from the topic.
This can be organised into a K-W-L (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart and can link active recall to pre-testing.
Mindmaps are a great way to organise information into chunks so they are easily remembered. Pair mindmaps with blurting when organising an essay answer to help you memorise the key points or quotes you want to include in your answer.
3. Spaced Repetition is a key studying technique
While many students still rely on cramming before exams, the best way to study is to space it out.
This is because cramming, or mass studying, doesn’t allow the connection between neurons to strengthen.
We know that the best way to help us remember something is to move it from short-term memory to long-term memory and continue to strengthen the neuron pathways by repeating the retrieval process.
In the book How We Learn, Benedict Carrey shares how spaced repetition increases our ability to learn information.
Spaced repetition how to:
This studying techniques requires your child to actively recall information. The portion your child remembers can be grouped together and examined at a later time (longer interval). While the sections they didn’t remember are returned to the pile to be studied again (shorter interval).
This can be helpful when approaching times tables, number bonds, and key vocabulary.
A great way to keep yourself and your child organised is through Leitner’s method of using flashcards.
Apps like Anki are fantastic at creating flashcards and spacing them out for repeated practise
4. Interleaving Practise will support studying
This is a studying process that requires mastery of a topic prior to exposure.
Once the child has mastered a few skills, they can approach a variety of questions at once.
For example: a student is preparing for a GCSE Maths exam. They have mastered fractions and percentages, so now they can practise both fraction and percentage questions within the same study block.
This mixed approach means that they won’t be able to simply repeat the same method over and over.
Instead, they’ll have to continuously adapt their approach and ensure they understand what the question calls for.
How it helps with studying:
Interleaved practice requires students to choose a strategy on the basis of the problemRohrer, Dedrick, and Stershic 2014: Journal of Educational Psychology
itself, as they must do when they encounter a problem during a comprehensive examination or subsequent
Summary of Top Effective Studying Habits
Studying effectively is a key component to success in our current education system.
Regardless if you’re preparing for a GCSE exam, Year 9 transfer exam, 11+ exam, or SATs exam… knowing how to employ effective studying techniques is an empowering way to help lower your anxiety.
If you’re keen to learn more about effective ways to study, then be sure to check out our other blogs in this Studying 101 series.
You’re also welcome to get in touch if you’d like a Maths or English tutor to support you along your journey.
11+ Exam resources:
GCSE exam resources:
Anna, GCSE English Tutor
Meet Anna, Bettering Youth’s GCSE English exam tutor and host of the GCSE English Course:May Half Term