There is this strange part of me that I tend to keep repressed that actually enjoys studying. Making note sheets, quizzing myself with flashcards, and begging my boyfriend to quiz me just brings me some sense of strange joy. Like I said, this Morgan is usually quite repressed, hiding behind the me that binge watches YouTube videos and looks up Amy Poehler gifs instead of doing what I should be. But when my productive side comes out, it’s in full force.
So while I’m not always the best at studying, I do know what works. My lovely friend Christal at Simply Zaspy and I were talking about college and she wanted to know how I manage to retain the info I learn here and I thought, “Hey! That sounds like an excellent blog post idea!” So despite having a million different studying posts here, I thought I would make one all about how I retain the information.
Copy it down!
No matter how you take your notes in class, if you don’t understand the concept you should copy them down again later when you’re studying. This is for a number of reasons:
- Copying it down by hand is really going to help you commit it to memory! This is especially important for those of you who take notes on your computer. It is super easy to mindlessly type out what the professor is saying without actually processing it!
- Your notes are going to be neater when you slow down and copy them down nicely, that means you aren’t going to waste time trying to decipher your handwriting later on.
- If you only write down the concepts you don’t understand, you can then take this sheet in to the professor or TA’s office hours and have a list of every idea that is unclear to you so you know exactly what you need to discuss.
When you’re copying your notes down, be very mindful in thinking about what it is you’re actually writing down and the ideas behind it. This isn’t something to rush through – really try to understand the ideas!
Discuss the ideas with a friend.
One of my favorite teachers in high school taught me something I’ll never forget: If you can’t teach the concept to a friend, you don’t actually understand it.
I’ve fallen into the trap of memorizing the rhetoric behind an idea, but not being able to apply it so many times. There is a big difference between knowing something and actually understanding something, and if you can’t distinguish the two you are going to be hurting when it comes time to take the tests.
If you try to explain the concepts to a friend and find that you can’t – then have another friend teach it to you, go to office hours, do something. This is a great test to do and you don’t actually even need a friend. Just try explaining the concept to yourself in your own terms, and if you can’t do that, you don’t know it as well as you think you do.
Flashcards are my best friend when it comes test time. I make them for just about everything. The act of making them in itself is going to help you learn, and then quizzing yourself will help you memorize.
If I am consistently getting a specific card correct, I will phase it out of the pile until I know all of the cards. If you don’t want to make paper ones, I also love using quizlet.com! And if you go to a big school like I do, chances are if you Google something like: “UIUC SHS 240 Quizlet” you will wind up finding a set of flashcards somebody else already made, saving you time.
Those are my three favorite strategies to use to help me retain the information that I learn here at school. While studying isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea – remember that it’s important and you’re doing it for a reason!