Study Skills for your Students

With examinations round the corner, here are strategies for pupils.

M.U.R.D.E.R (Ah! What a pleasant thought for those struggling with studies!!!)

Set a positive mood for yourself to study in.
Select the appropriate time, environment, and attitude
Mark any information you don’t understand in a particular unit.
Keep a focus on one unit or a manageable group of exercises.
After studying the unit, stop & put what you have learned into your own words.
Go back to what you did not understand and reconsider the information.
Contact external expert sources (e.g., other books / your teacher / your study buddy) if you still cannot understand it.
In this step, ask three kinds of questions concerning the studied material.
If I could speak to the author, what questions would I ask or what criticism would I offer?
How could I apply this material to what I am interested in?
How could I make this information interesting and understandable to other students?
Go over the material you’ve covered.
Review what strategies helped you understand and/or retain information in the past and apply these to your current studies

Adapted from Hayes, John R., The Complete Problem Solver, Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers, Hillsdale, NJ: 1989. ISBN: 0805803092


Skim the headings of the entire chapter. Your most important goal is to find out how the chapter is organized.
If the major terms in the headings are unfamiliar – look them up.
The same material could be organized more than one way. If the way it is organized helps you to remember the main topics, then use that organization. If you notice some other way it could have been organized that makes more sense to you, then use that method.
Turn the subheadings under the major headings into questions that you expect to be answered in that part of the text.
Try to see if the questions you anticipated are answered. Reflect on what you read; put it in your own words. Try to connect what you are reading to things you already know. Don’t mark or highlight words or passages as you come to them the first time. Wait until you have reached the end of a small section, maybe a paragraph or two and look back to decide if there is anything there that you probably wouldn’t remember without highlighting it. Try to learn through trial and error how much marking is the minimum you need to do to remember all the material.
This is the most critical part.
After reading a small section, perhaps a page or two CLOSE THE BOOK and try to write down the main ideas and as many details as you can, and then check yourself.
Put  main ideas & details in your own words; don’t just memorize exact words in the text.
When you check, look for important things you omitted or got wrong.
Do it again. Do it as many times as you need to until you can close the book and reproduce the material accurately, but meaningfully, not just by rote.
Once you can do that immediately after closing the book, then start trying to do it after being away from the book for a while. First take short gaps, like an hour, then longer gaps, like a day or two.
This is hard work. You might start by first trying to be able to make just a skeletal outline and build up the ability to fill in details.
Develop your own mnemonics for memorizing points that you find confusing.
After some time has passed, try to reproduce the material as you did above. The key here is that you must give yourself enough time to forget some of the material so that you are forced to really re-generate the material. Re-generate means that you use your mnemonics and connections from the easier-to-remember main ideas to pull up the details.
Research has shown that reflection, spacing your study, and organizing all improve learning significantly.

Found this method in Atkinson, R. L., Atkinson, R. C., Smith, E. E., & Bem, D. J. (1993). Introduction to Psychology Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, but could not trace its original source

S.Q.3R (S.Q.R.R.R)

Survey (1 minute):
Before beginning reading look through the whole chapter. See what the headings are — the major ones and the subheadings; hierarchical structures seem to be particularly easy for our brains to latch onto — check for introductory and summary paragraphs, references, etc. Resist reading at this point, but see if you can identify 3 to 6 major ideas in the chapter.
Question (usually less than 30 seconds):
Ask yourself what this chapter is about: What is the question that this chapter is trying to answer? Or — along the curiosity lines — What question do I have that this chapter might help answer? Repeat this process with each subsection of the chapter, as well, turning each heading into a question.
Read (slower for some of us than others!):
Read one section at a time looking for the answer to the question proposed by the heading! This is active reading and requires concentration so find yourself a place and time where you can concentrate.
Recite/write (about a minute):
Say to yourself or write down a key phrase that sums up the major point of the section and answers the question. It is important to use your own words, not just copy a phrase from the book. Research shows that we remember our own (active) connections better than ones given to us (passive), indeed that our own hierarchies are generally better than others.
Review (less than 5 minutes):
After repeating steps 2-4 for each section you have a list of key phrases that provides a sort of outline for the chapter. Test yourself by covering up the key phrases and seeing if you can recall them. Do this right after you finish reading the chapter. If you can’t recall one of your major points, that’s a section you need to reread.

Adapted from: Robinson, Francis Pleasant (1970) Effective Study (4th ed.). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060455217

Survive Exams!

It’s December and we are on the threshold of a brand new year…one with immense promise and potential. While many of us adults look forward to the New Year, there could be some of you students who want time to stand still! You guessed it right, exam seasons begin from now to March / April and these Board Examinations – be it in Grade XII or X will make or even mar your future.

Many in this part of the world at least do not want to take chances with a school based examination. I am inclined to agree with the parents of these students – with the veil of recession still enveloping and engulfing the gulf region, it is not surprising that parents do not want their wards to opt for a school based examination. They aver – what the future hold in store no one knows!

So how can you survive the onslaught of exams and still be a winner? These tips on handling the pressure of exams could hold you in good stead, hopefully and make you a SURVIVOR who can last the onslaught of examinations.

Start early. Well, easier said than done. And let me tell you only a handful of students ever do this!! You can’t turn the clock backwards. Besides it is futile trying to cram everything on the eve of the exam. So the thing left for you to do now is start from today. Now!! It is not late even now. Believe it and plan a schedule for yourself. And be truthful to yourself and to your plan.

Understand. Do you know the syllabus well? At least, are you acquainted with the topics and areas? Do you know the pattern of the question paper? Do you know the weightage as per the Board’s blue print of the question paper? If you don’t, go to and click the examination link. You will find sample papers, weightage and blue print details there. Do you know to manage your time? It would be a good idea to do a full paper or two under exam conditions. Keep the phone off the hook, cut out distractions and disturbances. Seek the help of your parents and they will delightfully do it for you.

Routine – plan and keep to it especially during holidays / study leave. Set aside 8 -10 hours every day for study. You know your peak times and off peak times. Use time judiciously as there is no point in waking up early and dozing off and on if you are not a lark by constitution. You could be an owl; so sit up late. Look at what you have to learn and break it up into manageable chunks. And don’t put it off!

Vanish – from distractions. Select a place where you will not get distracted. I know, your friends mean a world to you. However, it is a truth that you will accomplish more if you study on your own. TV, mobiles, I-pads, blackberry, social media and internet … all are out there to demolish your concentration and shred your plans. Keep your balance; you need inner strength the most to say a firm NO to distractions.

Immerse – yourself in your studies. Condense, summarize, and make notes … do what you are comfortable with. Mnemonic devises are a great aid to memory. You know what they are right? Rainbow colours, for instance, can be remembered as VIBGYOR: Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. Create your own to memorize important information. Develop memory enhancers like flash cards, content / mind maps.

Vow – to get some sleep. Many students make the worst mistake by studying sleeplessly on the eve of the examinations. This spells disaster. You need at least 4-6 hours of sleep every night to function normally. Being sleep deprived will not help you face the challenges of an examination. In fact, you may even black out due to sheer exhaustion or blank out while sitting with the question paper in the exam hall.

Omit – cramming on the eve of the exam. This can only confuse you. Relax and take deep breaths before an exam. This supplies the much needed oxygen to the brain and enlivens the grey cells. This will also help you to focus.

Review the lessons. Do practice and work out past papers. Many websites provide them. This will also give you insight into the oft repeated questions which exam paper setters are fond of. Practice diagrams. On the day of the exam read instructions and questions properly, make good use of the reading time CBSE allows you. It would be good to answer easy questions first to gather momentum. But at the same time remember to write in sequence. Neat and clear presentation leaves the evaluator with a good impression. Don’t waste time on 2 mark questions when you have 10 mark questions to tackle. Don’t write too much – it is another time waster. Keep a time schedule and see that you have answered all questions.

So, be a SURVIVOR, & wish you productive study hours and successful examinations.