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Study skills (for effective learning): Home

How to learn effectively

Why take notes?

  • Your notes record key information and sources of that information.
  • Notes become a revision resource.
  • Your listening and concentration is aided by note-taking.
  • Taking notes may help you remember what you heard in class.
  • Your understanding is increased as you select your words while note-taking.
  • Class notes may provide information you may not find in books or online.

Note-taking tips:

  • Don’t try to write down everything you hear (no complete sentences)

  • Use your own words if you can 
  • Be selective and practise effective listening by recognising key concepts and identifying and selecting what is relevant. 
  • Learn to distinguish between main points, elaboration and examples, ‘waffle’ and new points by listening for:

  • introductory remarks
  • signals for key information with phrases like: “There are three main aspects”or “This is important…” etc.
  • repetition of important points
  • summaries of main aspects

Our note-taking guide provides more information about the hows and whys of note-taking.

Who doesn't find assignments and exams a challenge! Even the most confident students can get stressed in the process!  When you're under pressure with many subjects demanding your time, when you spend long hours trying to remember information or articulate your ideas in an essay, you might well struggle to perform to your desired standard.

But don't despair! It's not impossible. We have some tips and tricks for you to help you achieve to your best potential. Check out the tabs in this box.

Monash Uni has some great study guides you can download, and you can adapt these to the high school setting.

You might feel self-conscious, but reading aloud increases your ability to remember things.By saying your material aloud, you’re giving the brain another way of remembering it. If you want to check your understanding, why not explain what you've learned to someone. This is the best way to learn something really well.

mnemonic device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory. Mnemonic devices – fun acronyms that form a list of information – are terrific for memory retention. You only need to remember a trigger word or letter, and you’ll remember a whole concept! (Wikipedia) See this list of mnemonics!

Infographics condense often complicated subjects down to an easily digestible visual form. Even just taking notes in the form of graphic illustrations helps you remember more. Visual note-taking is worth investigating. It combines images, text, charts, diagrams, breaking out of a linear format to make connections more visible.

Everyone needs a reward for hard work. Allow yourself some time out to watch your favourite show or a special tasty treat after a designated period of study.Whatever motivates you to keep on track will work, unless it's too difficult to tear yourself away from it to go back to study.

There are so many study apps to help you study. Apps like Flashcards+ and Study Blue offer simple interfaces to create and revise flashcards and notes. 

Feeling distracted? You're not alone. Don't beat yourself up, but make a resolution to do something about it. Create a schedule that will work for you, and motivate yourself to stick to it. If you fail, don't dwell on the failure, just pick yourself and keep trying. You're only human! Think about what kinds of things distract you, and make the changes you need to focus. You don't need to be a victim to distraction when you take control and create the conditions that help you get things done.

Minimise access to any technology that lures you away from your task! Music only if it helps your sustained focus, but not if it disrupts your thinking. If you don't need the internet, turn off your WIFI, and definitely turn off the TV and your phone. 

People can be distracting. If possible, move away from them or negotiate solo time in quiet spaces. Find some creative solutions for your quiet spaces.

You can easily google apps that block distractions, for example, this list.

It’s been found that changing your study surroundings forces your brain into reforming new memories, meaning that you’re more likely to retain information when it’s collected in a fresh setting.This may not be easy when you're sharing a house with your family, but you might be able to reconfigure the furniture in your room to create a new setting. Studying in the same place can day after day can drive you crazy! Could you find a temporary space in a different part of the house? Mix it up a little.

Let's face it, you need sleep! Your body and brain need to rest and recuperate so that you can do your best during the day. When you're tempted to pull an all-nighter, remember that while you sleep, your brain strengthens what you've learned during the day, so you're not doing yourself a favour thinking that studying more and longer hours will make you more successful. Read this article to understand why this happens. 

Check out these tips for a good sleep. Here are some more.

You might get away with it occasionally, but cramming in the last minute is not going to be the most effective way to learn! Plan to digest it over time, ensuring that you stay with each section until you understand it thoroughly before moving on to the next section. A planner and sticking to your schedule will help you feel confident about managing your tasks and avoid unwanted stress.

Did you know that active revision is more effective than passive revision?

Just reading your notes is passive revision, and it is unlikely that you will retain your information this way. Active methods include:

  • explain to your friends, testing each other, swapping notes
  • annotate your notes, eg make spider diagrams from them, highlighting and rewriting, connecting with arrows, etc.

When you do practice essays, rather than writing out a full essay (which takes time), spend time brainstorming ideas, then grouping ideas thematically to allocate to paragraphs, and finally write the introduction (the most challenging!) Listen to this video which talks about the introduction as well as other parts of the essay. 

Check out our Academic Writing libguide for help with essay writing and other forms of writing.

There is no one-size-fits-all magic formula for effective study. You need to think about the tips and techniques, then try to understand how you learn, and adapt what suits you. Experiment with different techniques, and find your own study style.

You might like to take a quiz to find your learning style, but don't take this too seriously, because often you have a mix of learning styles. You may be the best judge of this but the quiz results are interesting to read.

People react differently to study schedules or planning in general. Whether you are a schedule follower or a hater, you do need to devise a schedule that works for you, then allow yourself some wriggle room. If you understand that a schedule will sometimes need to be disrupted, then you may not feel as resistant to it. Make sure you balance it out with breaks and add things in that you will look forward to. It's important to stick to reasonable bed times so you get enough sleep. You may think you are superman and can power through assignments and study into the wee hours of the morning, but you would be wrong, and you will pay for it.

Use the kind of planner that suits you, experiment with paper and online, or use a mixture of both. If you make lists, give yourself the satisfaction of crossing off completed tasks! Put due dates in as soon as you know them, then work backwards from there to work out available times for study.

This video about making a term planner is designed for university students, but is equally as helpful for you.

Use online calendars, eg. Google calendar, or download weekly calendars (2021) or yearly calendars.

Taking notes is much more powerful than most people realise! 

  • Your notes record key information and sources of that information.
  • Notes become a revision resource.
  • Your listening and concentration is aided by note-taking.
  • Taking notes may help you remember what you heard in class.
  • Your understanding is increased as you select your words while note-taking.

Read our note-taking guide for more detailed information.

There's no single formula for breaks in your study schedule. It would be reasonable to take an active break after an hour, but some research recommends working for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Tell that to someone who's on a roll! And how long the break should be is also negotiable. Ten minutes is a good amount of time for short breaks, but long breaks that include a walk, snack, push-ups or some fresh air, would probably need at least half an hour. Watching an episode of Netflix as a reward may work for you unless you end up bingeing on the whole series! In any case, your brain needs regular breaks to rest and recharge, and your body will thank you for getting up and moving around every 20 minutes. 

Which time-management strategy works for you? Some people love the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique gives you a strategy for measuring your productivity. When you use it you record how many Pomodoros a task takes, how many Pomodoros you do in a day, and how frequently you have internal or external interruptions. But for some this technique stresses them out for several reasons.

And what happens if you're on a roll, and feel energized to work on?  You might prefer the Flow-Time technique. This technique also helps you track time, uni-tasking (working on one task at a time) and take breaks, but is more flexible than the Pomodoro technique. 

Here is a list of time-tracking apps, and another. Trello can be synched with Pomello, enabling you to see how much time you’ve spent on individual tasks.

During remote learning, many of you realised how important it was to continue to connect with others. Keeping in touch with your  friend/classmates continues to be important even when we're back onsite. Studying with your classmates can keep you all motivated. You might arrange to study together in the library at school, or you might study virtually on the weekend. We've watched some of you use the whiteboard to teach things to each other in the library study rooms. A great way to learn!

Few people genuinely enjoy exams. It's always anxiety-provoking when you feel you're being assessed, and can be worse if you don't know what success might look like, or how to best prepare. Feeling confident about these aspects will make the exam itself a less daunting experience. Read more about preparing for exams in this guide from The University of Reading.

To keep track of things in a calendar on your wall, print out one of these 2021 calendars. You may prefer to follow a weekly schedule.

If you want your brain to perform to its best for study and exams, you also need to look after your body. It is recommended that you:

If you find yourself overwhelmed by nerves or anxiety, you may want to contact our Wellbeing team.

The best advice is from your peers! Use the arrow to see what they all recommend.

From Adit

You can download Notion from their website. This app that allows you to create schedules for your days, track events, register live resume, record homework, take notes; it's an all in one study app that's free and flexible to use, and the pro version is free if you use your school email.

Concepts is a free drawing app that's good with your HP pen. Very good to take notes for concept heavy subjects like biology (so everything is more intuitive and conceptual).

From Chanul

My personal best ways to balance out schoolwork with life/achieve better outcomes at school:

  • Regular bike rides/walks, because getting outside helps you to reset
  • Playing the guitar or saxophone. Practising an instrument punches stress in the face and makes you feel good.
  • Playing some games! Watching YouTube! This stuff is okay, as long as you regulate your usage and keep these breaks short.
  • Eating something healthy, drinking some water, or just getting up and stretching regularly.
  • Using online and physical calendars! Nobody's really above a good old calendar to stay organized.
  • Talking to friends about any work and trying to "teach" each other about different topics, so that content stays in your heads. Effective, possibly colour-coded note-taking is also a must when there's lots to remember.

So, a key takeaway is to never work in huge chunks. Take rests. Another is to never let workloads consume you.

From Koebe

My personal best aid for anything is getting enough sleep and waking up at the same time every day (normally I wake up at 6 every day).

  • I also like practising in short bursts with short breaks in between since the mind can't stay focused for long periods of time. I like 15-30 mins followed by a 1-5 min break so any timer/alarm clock is great.
  • Using any sort of meditation app to relieve stress is also great for the mind such as Headspace or Calm
  • Workouts can be anything you like, but I like HIIT because it has a lot of benefits even though it's short and there's a lot of rest (you can search up videos on YouTube if you want and do them 2-3 times a week)
  • Coursera - Great website which is free and has plenty of courses online about various topics such as French, Economics or learning python.

My take is that there are many free and valuable sources on the internet and especially YouTube, but you have to know where to find them and how to use them. It's up to you to see what you like best.

From Qi 

As students of the high, we have all become accustomed with the notion of ‘hopping on the study grind’. However, a key factor that must not be overlooked is that the ‘grind’ is only at its most optimal standard when you are truly immersed and enjoying the work that is been completed. Hence, here are some tips to assist everyone becoming high achievers throughout their time at MHS:

  • Whilst you may have to complete subjects that you’re not overly interested in junior school, still aim to derive some passion or interest from the tasks at hand. There are a myriad of resources readily available on the internet, and many can vastly improve the mundanity attached with learning new concepts or completing work etc.
  • Ensuring that you work in a tranquil and quiet setting is imperative to unlocking a productive session – music can also be effective but aim for calming soundtracks which will not deter your thinking.
  • Aim for 30-40 minute study periods (with breaks in between), and if possible, turn off notifications on your devices. This is to ultimately ensure that you won’t be distracted and your focus can entirely be delegated to the task/work to be completed.
  • Hold onto Teams – many students have already completely neglected this application, but it is a treasure which the remote learning period has granted to us. Whether it be scheduling study sessions, or exchanging ideas with your classmates, it still remains to be a fundamental pillar of my academic growth.

Just a final sentiment boys:
‘Invest in your dreams and pursuits, grind now and shine later’ – A Scripture