Why you’ve already forgotten how this sentence began

"Memory write/read failure" by  Marek Isalski (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Memory write/read failure” by Marek Isalski
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

It is easy to under-appreciate how much you read on a screen each day – hey, look you’re doing it right now – and this ease and availability of content is one great benefit of the Internet. But, it seems  most technological advancements have a flip side and what researchers from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, have found definitely affects you as students or researchers!

As the average student is faced with weekly readings reaching double digits each week, it stands to reason that you’re attempting to read many of these on screen wherever possible. However, in their paper ‘Is Google making us stupid? The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour’  authors Val Hooper and Channa Herath reveal that unfortunately, online reading appears to have negative effects on our cognition. Concentration, comprehension, recall and absorption rates all scored lower when reading online compared to paper-based reading. It appears that this offline/paper-based reading allows for ‘deep reading’ and the ability to annotate papers further assisted in information absorption and retention in both the short and long term.

All these benefits, of course, have to weighed up against the dollar cost of printing out every item you have to read and the environmental impact of doing so as well. But being aware from the outset that reading online may be putting you behind-the-eightball then you can employ some strategies to help get the most out of your readings on the screen and to counter this possible screen-nesia.  QUT Library’s Studywell has some strategies and resources for effective reading and notetaking.

There is an element of irony in this post being published in an online medium so do your best and try to remember what you’ve learned here today – may I suggest taking some notes by hand to assist in you in your retention?

Reading for exams

Exam preparation

Copyright QUT Library CC-BY

The end of the semester is approaching and you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by your looming exams. Remember this mantra: “It is never too late for a good decision”. Most students get to this stage in the semester and they are behind in some (if not most) their reading. It is easy to fall behind when you are focussed on getting assignments submitted and keeping up date with lectures. Try not to give yourself a hard time for the work you haven’t done, but to think rationally about what reading you can achieve between now and the exam.

10 steps to get the best exam result possible from where you are now:

  1.  Set a time table for the exam preparation week (28th October to 1st November). Here is a guide: allot 13hrs per subject (1 hr x 13 weeks).
  2. Decide the best use of your time based on the sort of exam you have. E.g. if you have a multiple choice exam, only read what you need to write and answer your own multiple choice questions.
  3. Learn how to skim read. Now is not the time to read everything. Now is the time to read strategically to pass.
  4. Divide each hour of study time into two 25 minute segments.
  5. Decide on a manageable task for each segment beforehand, e.g.,

    Segment 1: Skim-read the PowerPoint slides for Week 3 lecture and write 1-2 pages of notes on what you are confident will be on the exam.

    Segment 2: Skim-read the key reading for Week 3 and write 1-2 pages of notes on what you are confident will be on the exam.

  6. Put the timer on when you read and make notes. Do not get distracted for those 25 minutes.
  7. Get up and move around when you take a break. Stretch. Get a cuppa. Pat the cat. Do some yoga
  8. By the end of the exam preparation week you should have 20-40 pages of notes for each subject. Use these new notes to guide your study until the exam.
  9. Focus your energies on the areas you are most unsure about.
  10. On the day of the exam, write out a single page of notes on the things you absolutely must not forget and memorize these.

Remember: You have a limited amount of time and energy. Use both strategically and let go of perfectionist standards as much as you can.

Like this? Check out these other QUT Library Blog posts on exams

Quick TipsExam ChecklistThe A, B, C, D of Multiple Choice, Exam Study Planner


Getting over that final hurdle : Exam Prep

It’s that time of year again, when the end of the year is so close you can almost touch it, but before you can really relax, you have to deal with the dreaded final exams. We wouldn’t blame you if you felt like doing this:

But before you do, remember that the end is in sight, and before you know it, you’ll be kicking back on the beach, exams a distant memory. Here are a few hints for avoiding stress and getting through the final weeks of semester.

The easiest way to avoid (or manage) stress in these final weeks is to have a study plan and gather all the important information (such as date, time & location of your exam) as soon as possible so that it doesn’t cause unnecessary panic the night before or the morning of.

Some study tips to help you prepare in the days and weeks before your exam include:

  • Take advantage of the revision questions at the end of chapters in your textbook (if available);
  • Be active, not passive. Avoid just reading over your notes or textbook – highlight, underline, rewrite or create concept maps instead;
  • Revise regularly, not just a couple of days or the day before. The more you revise, the easier it becomes to remember;
  • Make mnemonics (words or sentences to help you remember), charts or flash cards;
  • Eliminate distractions;
  • Chunk your time, and take regular breaks;
  • Write your own exam questions and swap them with a friend.

On the day of your exam:

  • Get to your exam early, and ensure you’ve got the right materials with you, including your student card;
  • Use any perusal time to identify questions you can answer easily and answer these first;
  • Read all questions at least twice;
  • Leave plenty of time to review at the end.

If you’ve run out of time to do much of the above, you might like to check out this structured approach to cramming.

Finding it difficult to get motivated? Try these handy hints from Counselling about overcoming procrastination.

And check out Studywell for tips about preparing for different types of exams, including multiple choice, short answer, and essay.

Quick tips – revising for exams

  1. Create mind maps of the whole subject and each topic.  Memory works better if the information is in a context
  2. Draw diagrams.  Use colour and symbols.  Visual memory is the strongest for most people.
  3. Reduce whole topics down to key facts, definitions, forumulas on one A4 sheet.    It helps you work out what is important and what is detail.
  4. Use flash cards or post-it notes and revise often.  A key to memory is repetition.
  5. Don’t just read your notes.  Write them out and say them out loud.  It’s called multiple sensory input where your brain does not just get visual input but auditory and kinaesthetic input as well.
  6. Write your own exam questions and then answer them.  Information framed as a question means your brain immediately thinks about the answer.  Ask questions of the same type as the exam.
  7. For essay exams write an introductory paragraph for each topic that you can adapt in the exam.  Include key facts/ theories/ideas/arguments.
  8. Use memory aids – acronyms, acrostics, peg-words.  Information is remembered better if linked to something:
  • Acronyms – words created from first letters of a string of terms, e.g. ROYGBIV are the seven colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet
  • Acrostics – sentences where the first letter of each word in the sentence is the same as the words you are trying to remember, e.g. “My Very Educated Mother Just Sent Us Nachos” have the same first letters as the planets of the Solar System: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
  • Peg Words – this technique combines a word that rhymes with a number and a word or picture related to the term to be remembered.  It’s useful if you have to remember terms in order or precise numbers, e.g. words related to numbers could be 1-gun, 2-shoe, 3-tree, 4-door, 5-hive, 6-bricks, 7-heaven, 8-plate, 9-wine, 10-hen

For more exam revision tips, check out Studywell