Study Skills in the Time of Covid

There is a lot that has changed due to the pandemic and some of us have grown bitter towards life but there is a lot more that we are to be thankful for. Academically too, several changes have been thrust upon us.

Yes, face-to-face interactions have decreased substantially. Outdoor activities have been curtailed and learning has become virtual. However, let us pause to think about the good that this season could bring.

As most of the classes are being held online, it is essential for us to learn how to study more efficiently so that you can remember them better. This is also a time to organise oneself, so that you work at peak times when your mind is clearer, and you blend studying with completing assignments. It’s a time to catch up on what one has missed so far. This is also a time to sharpen subject skills. We all agree there is a lot more time available and make the best use of it.

The focus of this article is on study skills. The skills I have chosen below are, time management techniques, note taking, ways to study and few techniques to improve memory. These are not an exhaustive list of study skills.

Time Management

1. Make a weekly or daily to-do list- Using a calendar or planner to chart out what you will study that day is important. It is important to come up with an achievable yet challenging plan.
2. Get up early to get stuff done- I know many say that they prefer to stay up late night and study. The rule is that ‘Early bird catches the prey’. As a rule, it is important to wake up early.
3. Schedule your “me” time (so it doesn’t eat up study time)-pursuing a hobby alongside academics is very important. A hobby helps to pick up a skill ad also improves overall concentration.
4. Reward yourself when tasks are complete-Reward yourself with breaks. Breaks are good but they need to be short and crisp and not digress oneself from studies.
5. Set aside time for study each day-Keep to a specific time to study. Choose a place where distractions are less. The place one chooses to study should one that reminds you of happiness, achievement, and challenge.

Note taking
Lecturers will often place great emphasis on the information they provide in class when they design tests. The result is that that your class notes are a vital resource when studying for a test. Therefore, it is important that your notes are complete and accurate.
The best way to be certain that your class notes are complete and accurate is to review them later that day while the information is still fresh in your mind. As you rewrite them, you should correct any errors, fill in any gaps and add any additional or supporting information as required. A ‘side’ benefit from rewriting your class notes is that it reinforces the information helping you to remember and recall it more effectively.

1. Paraphrase what is being taught
2. Take up as much space as needed
3. Review your notes every night
4. Create your own abbreviations as it may not be possible to write down everything
5. Jot down any ideas that are repeated.
6. Notice verbal cues – “Now this is important”
7. Highlight your book/class materials
8. Write down all examples
9. Rewrite your notes after class

Why is note taking important?
Note taking helps with concentration. It helps to focus. A serious student will always have his or her personal notes and these notes come in extremely handy while studying. These notes are useful for summarising and revising before exams when stress levels are high.

Two ways of studying
The method has shown to improve a reader understanding, and his/her ability to recall information. In other words, the reader is more likely to learn, and to learn more, of the material he/she is reading. In this method you follow five steps – Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite and Test (PQRST).

1. PREVIEW an assignment by scanning it. Read the outline at the beginning of the chapter. Pay attention to the headings of the sections and subsections. Read the summary. The point is to get an idea of the main topics and sections of the chapter.

2. QUESTION As you read through each section, start by asking yourself “what am I supposed to learn in this section”. This helps to get your brain in to sync with the topic being discussed.

3. READ. Next, read that section. Do it carefully, think about the meaning and relate this to other things you know about this and similar topics. Do some underlining or highlighting of key words. Don’t overdo it! If you want to take notes, read the whole section first, and then summarize it later.

4. SELF-RECITATION requires that you try to remember the main points of each section and that you say them out loud (if possible) to yourself. Check back against the text, and note the things you missed out. Ensure that you didn’t miss them because you haven’t learnt them. Only then go on to the next section and Question again.

5. TEST yourself after you have finished the entire chapter. How many of the main ideas from the chapter can you remember? Think about the relevance of what you learnt and how it all fits together. Reread any chapter summaries. Even though you have only just read the chapter, now is the best time to test yourself.

What is the SQ3R Method?

The SQ3R Method, SQ3R study method or SQ3R reading method is a similar way to study, understand and remember written information more quickly

1. Survey – First, you take a few minutes to scan the entire text. Pay attention to layout, chapters, sections, graphs, pictures, words in bold and italics. In general, these provide important information about the contents of the text. By quickly scanning through the text first, you create an overview and structure. This serves as the foundation for the active reading and understanding of the text.

2. Question – Ask yourself questions about the text that you scanned during the previous step. You can for instance turn the chapter titles into questions. Write down the questions. Ask yourself what you already know about the topic and what your goal is for reading the text. Try to understand what it is that the author wants to convey. You can use the left margin to write down your questions about the text in a structured way. At a later stage, you can note down the answers in the right margin.

3. Read – Read the text while keeping the structure from step 1, “S” and the questions from step 2, “Q” in the back of your mind. Pay attention to chapters, sentences printed in bold, explanations under graphs and images. Read ‘actively’, write down (additional) questions while you are reading and try to find answers to previously asked questions. Write down answers and explanations in the right margin of the text. Take your time for the more complicated parts of the text and read it again if you need to. Give less attention to unimportant information. Reread per part and repeat these parts to yourself in your own words.

4. Recite – Repeat (aloud) in your own words what you have read. Ask yourself questions about the text. Explain what you have read to someone else or you can also do this in your imagination. Making a summary in your own words provides extra support.

5. Review – Read all the relevant parts of the text again, look at your notes. Possibly improve on your notes, paying extra attention to the parts you found difficult. Read your own questions on the left side of the text (cover the answers on the right) and try to answer them. This step is the most effective if you do it a day after step 1 through 4. After following these five steps, you will have actively read a text and you will be better able to remember and explain what it is about.

Memory Enhancing Methods
Mnemonic Devices
A mnemonic (you don’t say the first “m”) or mnemonic device is a tool that helps you remember things. With mnemonics, you associate information that you want to remember with something you already know very well, like a picture, place, person, or word. This helps new information stick in the brain, and it also makes it easier for you to recall that information later.

An acronym is a word formed by the first letters of a phrase.
Acronyms can be used to remember a list of words. When you were little, you were probably taught that “Roy G. Biv” stands for the colours of the rainbow. This way, you could remember the specific order in which each colour appeared: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
Or, to help you remember English parts of speech, your teacher may have taught you to PAVPANIC (pronouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, adverbs, nouns, interjections and conjunctions).

To make an acrostic, you use the first letters of the items on your list to make a whole phrase or sentence. For example, to remember the planets of our solar system: “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” The first letter of each word stands for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

The method of Loci

The oldest known mnemonic strategy is called the method of loci (“loci” is the plural of locus, which means location, or place). It’s based on the assumption that you can best remember places that you are familiar with, so if you can link something you need to remember with a place that you know very well, the location will serve as a clue that will help you to remember.
You can use this method to remember lists of items, important points in a speech, names of people at an event or meeting, things you need to do, even a thought you want to keep in mind. This method works well because it changes the way you remember, so that you use familiar locations to cue yourself about things. Because the locations are organized in an order that you know well, one memory flows into the next very easily.

To conclude, being a student is a wonderful phase and in a sense we need to be ‘students’ through life. Excellence in studies is a calling from God. This is the best way to walk the talk and it speaks volumes. Cultivating healthy study skills is one of ways to excel. In my personal experience as a student I have learnt that God has called us to be faithful in what He has entrusted us with. God’s definition of success is different from what the world says. Enjoying a relationship with God daily, hard work, determination, and discipline will reap rich rewards.

Dr. Sharon Ruth. Consultant Clinical Psychologist. Victoria Hospital/Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute. She lives in Bangalore with her husband Sukumar who works with WIPRO. They have a long association with UESI with her dad being the first SS of UESI KA.

1 Comment
  • Jose Thomas
    Posted at 09:31h, 26 February Reply

    Wonderful Useful & Timely article

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