Learning new things can be one of life’s great pleasures. As we all know, there is more to studying than getting a diploma or certificate. It is more to do with following where our personal curiosity leads us and feeling a sense of grasping a subject in depth, and gaining a sense of expertise. So how can you be sure that you are getting the best from your studies? Do you just regard coursework as a means to that diploma – or do you positively enjoy your study time? Here are six tips to help you get the best from your studies:
1. Understand the coursework - using your own words. You may enjoy reading a part of your coursework, but has this information remained with you? One way to find out is to attempt to describe what you have learned, away from your course material. If you find yourself stuck for words, or not able to explain a concept, then it is time to return to your course material for clarification.
2. Ask questions if necessary. Unlike your possible perceptions of your former school teachers, your tutor is on your side this time, and here to help you every step of the way. Do not be afraid of asking a ‘stupid’ question – there really is no such thing when it comes to study and learning. So if there is something that you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask.
3. Make up quizzes: Once you feel confident about your understanding of a topic, try testing yourself. If it helps, you can try and reproduce examination conditions as much as possible: do not speak, turn your phone off, time yourself. You can set yourself a study quiz, and so long as you approach it with the right mindset, you can get a good idea of how much you really know. You gain more awareness of where you stand in relation to what you’ve studied so far.
4. Use Flashcards. This means using writing down definitions and summaries briefly on a card. They essentially act as prompts for you – to remind you of the more in-depth knowledge. These are especially useful just before you take an examination.
5. Be creative with tools to help you study. Perhaps you have always read your course material with a highlighter in your hand, emphasising the key sentences. That may help, but there are many other methods to use, and it can be fun to experiment with whatever works best for you. Try using mind maps or online study planners. You may find it useful to keep your flashcards with you at times when you may find yourself with extra time – waiting for an appointment, or filling spare time.
6. Set your goals and construct a flexible study plan: In order to be successful you need to know exactly what you want to achieve. So set your study goals at the beginning of your course and outline to yourself what you need to do. With your study goals in mind, it makes good sense to have a flexible study plan as opposed to a rigid one; life has a habit of throwing you off course, and you will need to be able to steer yourself back to the right path if necessary. Your plan should state what you need to achieve reasonably and when. It should allow you to add and change features but concise enough so you know you’re covering each topic as best you can at this point.