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Make Learning Work For You

I don’t know about you, but I used to hate studying for an exam or test. This is partly due to the fact that I have poor memory skills, but more so that I simply hated sitting down for long periods. I wanted to be outside, play sport, be with my friends, things like that. As time went on I realised that I had to change in order for me to be successful. I just had to find ways to enjoy studying more, to make it more fun. In the end, it worked out OK for me. I am a professor in chemistry now and also have a master’s degree in creative writing. Not bad for someone who hated studying, I think.

Here are some ideas you can use to make studying more enjoyable.

Get rid of distractions

Yes, playing the latest music through your ear pods while studying seems like a cool idea, but you are actually creating an environment wherein you are easily distracted. The same goes for having your phone on messenger right in front of you. Trust me, the world will not go to a complete standstill in the time that you are working. Rather turn it face down and don’t allow social media to own you, you are stronger than that. Distractions only make the work take longer. Rather do what the Fins do in their schools. They work for 45 minutes, play for 15. Take a break every 45 minutes and do something you like, whether it is walking in the garden and listening to your music or just resting or maybe texting a friend, does not matter. What matters is that you switch off from the work for 15 minutes. You’ll find that it makes you much more effective when you get back to work.

Try a study group

Studying with friends is a bit of a minefield. It can be motivating and helpful, as you share ideas that you might not have thought of individually, or you can end up having so much fun that not much studying actually happens. In this case, the latter is not good. You can make it work if there is one very strict or serious friend in the group who keeps you all on track.

I found that when I teach something to others, I actually learn more as I go along. This worked well in the study groups I was part of. Each of us would take a topic or part of a topic and teach it to the rest of the group. Naturally, discussions on the work will evolve from that and you will find that you learn quickly. Another idea is to use quizzes and let the loser make coffee during the break time.

Use nice stationery and colours

Some of us love having different coloured pens within our reach. I always used blue, red, and green pens and sometimes even highlighters to make certain facts stand out from the rest.

Study somewhere different

Studying often gets boring simply because you don’t get a change of scene unless you count going from your room to the library and back. Studying outside in the summer is tricky – there’s sunburn, glare on laptop screens, and ants to interrupt you – but if you can find a shady spot in a garden or park, it can make the whole process feel less stressful, as well as making you less jealous of the people who get to have fun outdoors. Or let your mom or dad stick you for an afternoon coffee at your favourite coffee shop, put on your headphones, and see how you fly through your work while sipping on your cappuccino. Remember to reward yourself afterward.

If being outside isn’t an option, you could be somewhere else in your house. We don’t advise bringing your laptop into the bath but you could read a book or textbook there. Some people learn better by association, so you could assign different subjects to different rooms, and make sure you study each subject in the designated place. After all, the golden rule of studying is that nothing is silly if it helps you learn.

Write comics, short stories, or songs

There are endless songs written that could have been designed to help you study. Use something with a nice rhythm and try to make a song with the facts you outlined in your notes. If songs don’t suit you, try a different creative activity, like drawing a comic or writing a story. This might be a comic that maps out a particular scenario in History, or it could be a story where the conclusion rests on a particular principle in Physics. Add in some puns and wordplay on difficult concepts to make them easier to remember and you’ll have created a useful study aid and enjoyed yourself doing it.

Be silly

There are very few perks to the high-pressure time of studying for exams. One of them should be that you have the freedom to be ridiculous. I remember with deep fondness how some of my friends did the most stupid things during exam time. My favourite story is about two roommates on the second floor of our dormitory who decided to play ‘rescue international’ during a break. What happened was that the smaller one of the two had to ‘escape’ from the room. They took their bed linen and made a rope by tying it all together. He then got out of the window while his friend held on while he slowly lowered himself towards the rose bed below. Halfway down they ran out of ‘rope’ and he ended up with a butt full of rose thorns!

My message is not to do something dangerous, but if you feel that you should go around the house singing songs about Chemistry while pretending to be Queen Elizabeth, you’re on the right track. Ultimately, if it helps you to sit your dog down and instruct him on the history of the ancient Egyptians, or you feel talking ‘whale’ like Dory in Finding Nemo – then go for it, and make studying fun.

Deon Visser

Biolink Attention Training Head Office