Psychological research has found out a lot about how people learn. What we’re about to tell you is the real deal. It has been tested and shown to work in scientific labs and schools from middle school to college.
If we only had one sentence to tell you the secret, it would be this: The key to doing well is to test yourself on what you’ve studied by asking yourself questions, finding the answers, going back and restudying what you didn’t know, and testing yourself again and again until you learn the material.
Even when you know it, you should keep testing yourself throughout the semester to make sure you remember it. We will talk about 3 secret study tips that will help you to do well in exams and more.
What to Do Before Class
Your teacher has given you readings from your textbook and maybe also from other sources. How are you going to learn all of this?
1. Use the 3R technique: Read. Recite. Review
Say you have to read a chapter before the next class. Follow these three steps:
Read a section of the chapter. Then close the book and hide your notes.
Recite (speak aloud) everything you can remember about what you’ve just read. You don’t need fancy equipment. You can recite to yourself, to a friend, to your cat or even to your coffee mug or a plant in your room.
Review the section by reading it again to correct anything you got wrong, or to revisit important information that you overlooked when you recited.
In one study that looked at how well different ways of studying worked, students in three groups read long, technical entries from the encyclopedia (McDaniel, Howard & Einstein, 2009).
One group used the 3R method, another group read the articles twice and did nothing else, and a third group read the articles only once but took notes as they read.
Everyone took the same test a week later. Students who used the 3R method did much better on the test than those who used the other methods. Also, using the 3R technique took students less time than reading and taking notes.
One reason this method works so well is that when you do the second R, you can see right away what you didn’t understand, learn, or remember. This lets you know what to focus on when you do the third R, which is review.
2. Dig Deep
You can’t read your textbook quickly and superficially the way you check your Facebook page. Many students think that the mind is like a bin or a sponge, where you can just dump information in and it will stay there.
Sorry. You have to process the information until you get it for it to stay there. When you try to understand something, you send a message to your brain that it is important enough to remember.
As you read, try to make connections between what you are learning and what you already know. You might have read about the four main points of view in psychology (biological, learning, cognitive and sociocultural).
You could think of examples from what you’ve read or from your own life for each one: “Many of my friends take medicine to deal with their depression or anxiety, which makes sense from a biological point of view.”
3. Use your Imagination
Students who can picture ideas are more likely to remember them than those who can’t. The most important part of this technique is making your images talk to each other.
Despite what you might read on one of those “Train your brain!” websites, you don’t need to make up weird images; you just need to make the images interact (Wollen, Weber & Lowry, 1972).
So, when you read in chapter 4 that “glia cells,” which come from the Greek word for “glue,” are the most common cells in the brain and hold neurons in place, you could imagine squirting a big bottle of glue labeled “glia” under neurons.
4. Test Yourself
Let’s say you just finished reading the first part of a chapter and are ready to start the recitation phase. First, try to remember as much as you can. Then look at the chapter’s outline on the first page and use it to help you remember more.
Check the words in the margins, cover up their definitions, and try to explain them in your own words. Write down or speak your answers on your computer, tablet, or phone so you can listen to them later.
Write down anything you can’t remember as you go, but don’t look up the answers yet. When you’re done, go back and see how well you knew the terms in the margins or how well you answered the questions in the self-tests.
Now it’s time to review. Go back to where your part of the chapter starts and read it again. Please remember the parts that confused you as you read. When you’re done, make sure you can answer the questions you couldn’t before.
What to Do Before Class
Your instructor has assigned you certain readings from your textbook and possibly other sources as well. How will you learn all of this information?
Secret #1: Use the 3R technique: Read. Recite. Review.
Let’s say you’re supposed to read a chapter by your next class. Use these three basic steps:
- Read a section of the chapter. Then close the book and hide your notes.
- Recite (speak aloud) everything you can remember about what you’ve just read. You don’t need fancy equipment. You can recite to yourself, to a friend, to your cat or even to your coffee mug or a plant in your room.
- Review the section by reading it again to correct anything you got wrong, or to revisit important information that you overlooked when you recited.
In one study comparing the effectiveness of various secret study tips, students in three groups read long, technical encyclopedia entries (McDaniel, Howard & Einstein, 2009).
One group used the 3R technique; a second read the articles twice and did nothing else; a third read the articles once but took notes while reading.
A week later, everyone took the same test. The students who had used the 3R technique did much better on the test than students who used the other techniques.
What’s more, it took students less time to use the 3R technique than to read and take notes.
One reason this method works so well is that when you practice the second R, you see immediately what you had trouble understanding, learning and remembering, so you know what to concentrate on when you do the third R: review.
Secret #2: Dig Deep
You can’t read your textbook the same way you check your Facebook page, at a quick, superficial level. Many students assume that the mind is a bin or a sponge; you just pour information into it, and it stays there. Sorry. For the information to stay there, you have to process it until you get it. When you put in the effort to understand something, you are signaling to your brain that the “something” is worth remembering.
An excellent way to do this, as you read, is to try to connect the new information to information you already know. Suppose you read about the four basic perspectives of psychological science (biological, learning, cognitive and sociocultural).
Taking each one, you could think of examples you have read about or that apply to your own life: “Many of my friends take medication to manage their depression or anxiety; that would follow from the biological perspective’s approach.”
Secret #3: Use your Imagination
Students who visualize ideas remember them better than students who don’t. The key part of this technique is to make your images interact. Despite what you might read on all those “Train your brain!” websites, you don’t need to conjure up bizarre images; you just need to make the images interact (Wollen, Weber & Lowry, 1972).
So when you read in chapter 4 that “glia cells” (from the Greek word for “glue”) are the most common cell in the brain and that they hold neurons in place, you could visualize squirting a big bottle of glue labeled “glia” under neurons.
Secret #4: Test Yourself.
Suppose you’ve just read the material in the first section of a chapter, and it’s time for you to begin the recite phase. Start by trying to remember everything you can. Then look at the outline on the first page of the chapter and use it to jog your memory and remember even more.
Check the terms in the margins, cover up their definitions and try to define them in your own words. Jot down your answers, or speak them into your computer, tablet or phone so you can play them back later.
As you go along, make a note about anything you can’t remember, but don’t look up the answers yet. When you’re done, go back and see how well you knew the terms in the margins or answered the questions in the self-tests.
Now you’re ready to review. Go back to the beginning of your section in the chapter and read again. Keep in mind the parts that tripped you up as you’re reading; when you finish, make sure you can answer the questions you couldn’t last time.
What to Do During Class
- Keep Your Head up and Your Pen Down
5. Keep Your Head up and Your Pen Down
Do what Elliot Aronson (2010) did as soon as you can after class. After doing badly on his midterms because he didn’t take good notes, he came up with a new plan: “At the end of every class, I would find a little corner, or sometimes even the nearest stairwell, read over my scribbled notes, and neatly summarize them in a page or two.
When it was time to study for the final at the end of the semester, my notes’ secret tips told me what the course was really about. More than that, they showed how far and how the professor thought, as well as how the lectures and readings fit together.
I had taken my first step toward learning how to get to the heart of a subject… I also found that I was learning to love learning, and perhaps most importantly, I was learning to think critically and question claims that didn’t have any evidence to back them up. It was as if for the first time in my life, I truly understood what it meant to be an undergraduate.”
You, too, can have that “Aha!” moment. When you go over your notes, pay close attention to what you learned in class. Organize and rewrite your notes if they have doodles, arrows, asterisks, missing definitions, and phrases that just don’t make sense.
Fill in the missing definitions or other information by looking at your textbook, your friends’ notes, or asking a teaching assistant or instructor. These activities are another way to find out what you know and what you need to learn.
Studying for Exams
7. Once You Learn It, Don’t Drop It
You might want to skip over parts of a chapter you’re sure you already know. Don’t do it. Instead, use one of the most important research findings: Students who retest themselves by remembering things they already knew do twice as well on exams as those who didn’t retest themselves on familiar material (Karpicke & Roediger, 2007).
8. Forget About Cramming!
Many students get the idea that the only study secret tips for exams is to stay up all night, drink gallons of coffee, and read their textbooks and notes over and over again until their eyes bleed.
Most students choose what to study next based on what they have to do next (or overdue). Few students make a plan for studying and then follow it (Kornell & Bjork, 2007).
The problem with cramming is that it makes you feel like you know the material when you don’t. In fact, you won’t remember it for long, even though you might remember some of it for a while.
That’s because you haven’t taken the time to organize the documentation in your memory, link it to what you already know, and create new mental roads that will help you find information later, like on the exam. This is one of the reasons why many students “blank out” on the test.
There is a better way to spend your time than to stay up all night. Instead of trying to test yourself all at once, test yourself regularly, like once a week (Bjork & Bjork, 2011), and make sure to include material you already know. The best way to do well on a test tomorrow is the same as the best way to do well all semester.
9. Forget About Your “Learning Style.”
If you’ve ever taken a test and been told you’re a “visual” learner, does that mean you’ll have trouble paying attention in class, especially compared to your classmates who have been told they’re “auditory” learners? The answer, thankfully, is no. There is no proof that people learn better when the method fits their preferences, and there is also no proof that methods that don’t fit their preferences don’t work (Pashler et al., 2008).
Visualizing things helps everyone, as does just paying attention when you listen. In fact, learning-style tests don’t seem to do much other than make a lot of money for the companies that make them. The nine secrets to learning work for all types of students in the same way. This applies to you.
In the psychology major, you’ll learn about what makes people tick, get a better understanding of political and social issues, and learn ways to control your emotions, improve your memory, and get rid of bad habits. We hope you will enjoy what you read and remember it.
But in the end, no course or book, no matter how good it is, can do your work for you. This is the tenth secret of learning.
3 Secret Study Tips
Preparing for exams is the worst thing that can happen to a student in school or college, so they keep looking on the internet for the best ways to study.
For the same reason, “3 secret study tips” is still one of the most searched-for questions on the internet. If you have the same worries, you can rest easy, because we’ve got you covered. Here are the top three secret ways to study that might help you do well on your exams:
1. Plan The Day Well
Planning even the smallest tasks, like setting aside time to use social media or make a phone call, can make a big difference in a student’s life.
Students should plan everything, from what they will do in their free time to what they will eat in a day, in order for their smart and secret study tips to work.
The students’ health and productivity also depend a lot on what they eat and how well they eat. So, the students should plan their day ahead of time to get the most out of it.
2. Give Enough Mock Tests
Giving practice tests is the most important thing you can do. No matter what kind of test a student is taking, they should always take mock tests.
Giving a mock test is a great way to learn more about the real test. If a candidate has studied for the tests, they will be able to easily pick out the most important ideas, questions, or lessons once they start taking the mock tests. The candidates can work more on the things they think need to be fixed.
3. Have a Balanced Study Routine
Students should find a good balance between school and other things in their lives so they can stay motivated over time.
It’s not easy to study for tests with full dedication, concentration, and focus. But candidates can definitely do better if they study in a balanced way.
Taking care of family, talking to friends, playing games, and going for walks can actually help candidates study better for any test.