Tomayto, tomahto. Study methods to help you nail your exams

If all-night study sessions, a diet of two-minute noodles and a steady stream of instant coffee gets you through exam week, you may be doing yourself more harm than good.

13 May 2015

The internet is littered with study tips guaranteed to get you top marks on exam day, some more useful than others. So we’ve waded through the sea of post-it notes, uneaten toast crusts, dried-up highlighters and pizza boxes to find you the most effective way to ace your education.

The Pomodoro Technique


The Pomodoro Technique (meaning tomato in Italian) is the ‘it’ kid of time management. Popularised in the 1980s, the study method which has outlived slouch socks, New Kids On The Block and MC Hammer pants, works on the premise of writing in short, uninterrupted bursts to maximise focus and creative freshness.

The process is simple: set a clock (preferably tomato-shaped) for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted; break for 5-10 minutes; repeat. After four rounds take a 15-20 minute break and revel in how you just nailed a huge chunk of the assignment you’ve been putting off for weeks. Then do it all over again.

Put on your leg warmers, tie your hair into a side pony and prepare to soak up knowledge like a maniac.

The SQ3R reading method


Its name isn’t pretty but the results are. SQ3R or SQRRR is a reading comprehension method named after its five steps: survey, question, read, recite and review. This post-war study technique uses distributed study instead of cramming (the kryptonite to long-term memory retention).

Firstly SURVEY the text – don’t read it – to identify headings, sub-headings, pictures and

QUESTION what you already know about the subject and turn the headings into questions.

Now READ. Try and answer the questions you’ve already asked. 

RECITE – don’t worry about coming across as unstable – ask yourself questions and summarise what you’ve learnt. Out loud. Maybe even in the mirror. Worst case scenario it will be a visual reminder to take a break and shower. 

And finally, REVIEW. It’s an ongoing process but it will really help all of that info simmer into a hearty stew of knowledge. Each day, reacquaint yourself with the important bits. Test yourself and try not to gloat too much about how clever you are. Seriously, you’re nailing it.

Flash cards

Put on your leg warmers, tie your hair into a side pony and prepare to soak up knowledge like a maniac. Flash cards can be integrated into the above techniques because they are adaptable, like Kevin Bacon and 1980s dance moves.

Research has found that flashcards are the bee’s knees in study tools because they use active recall, a technique that involves dragging information out of the recess of your brain. This builds little knowledge pathways, making it easier to retrieve the information later on. Best of all the ol’ two-sided flash card is super easy to make. Put the question on one side and the answer on the other and carry those little cards of knowledge with you everywhere. Got a spare few minutes on the bus? Struggling through a mind-numbing Tinder date? Grab out your flash cards and put your time to good use. You’re welcome.

While we’re at it, remember that stress is an exam room killer… so eat well, get plenty of rest, exercise and get outside into that delightfully gentle Queensland sun.

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