Studying 101, Elizabeth Bourn, St Michael’s Grammar School

Whether you are in Year 7, revising for your first end-of-unit test, or in Year 11, trying to scramble together some kind of organisation system for your GCSEs, studying is the focal point. As a student, there is an expectation that you know how to study. That you were born with the Pomodoro technique already in your brain, and that you did the Blurting technique before your ABCs. Studying, the act that will consolidate our knowledge and boost our grades is something we are never taught. Before I learned the following techniques, studying felt pointless and futile. Why study for hours and make myself miserable, if I’m still going to fall short? Now, implementing these techniques into my everyday schedule, studying isn’t such a chore, and learning feels more freeing and, dare I say it, fun?


This first technique is for the Procrastinators. The ones who swore they’d start revision at 4 pm, but now that it’s 4:01, decide it can wait till 4:30. I am not ashamed to say I used to procrastinate, too. Studying often makes us feel insecure about what we don’t know, so of course, we procrastinate. Who wants to, intentionally, make themselves feel worse? Insert the Pomodoro technique. The hardest part of studying is starting. Opening a textbook, uncapping your pen, turning off your phone. Especially when our to-do list is long, the act of actually starting seems impossible. The next time you feel like this, set a 25-minute timer and pick one job. For me, I pick my worst and most gruelling task (always chemistry), because I like to get it out of the way. Once this timer begins, do not stop working until the timer goes off. If you stop working, start the timer again. Keep re-starting it until you have completed the task. After 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break before beginning again. I often find that once I’ve started, I don’t want breaks so frequently. I want to keep going. Getting over the initial dread is the hardest part, so once you’ve done that, you’re flying. 


 My next technique is for actual studying. For this, we need to differentiate between “passive studying” and “active studying”. “Passive studying” is highlighting your textbook, re-reading class notes, and maybe watching a video or two. This knowledge, although it seems to go in during that study session, doesn’t cement itself into your long-term knowledge. “Active studying”, however, does. There are many examples of “Active studying”, but my favourite is Blurting. This may sound weird, but it’s effective in figuring out what you do and don’t know. To ‘blurt’, take a topic that you need to learn, and write down a few keywords that will jog your memory. Then put away all your textbooks, notes and flashcards, and try to write everything down from memory. The keywords should help remind you of different areas in that topic. After you’ve written down everything you can remember, compare this with your notes. Now you can see that you’ve perfected Photosynthesis, but the roles of Xylem and Phloem are still a little shaky. This is where you’ll focus your attention. Work smarter, not harder. 


 Finally, my favourite technique. This is the one that I swear by most and helps me remember definitions best, and it requires a flashback to Year 7 geography. Learning the definitions of Hydraulic Action, Abrasion, Attrition, and Corrosion overnight is hard for anybody, let alone an already stressed Year 7. I had no idea what any of it meant, and I was constantly confusing Hydraulic Action and Hydrochloric Acid (two completely different subjects) until I stumbled across this technique. I call it the Application Technique because it centres on taking something you already know and love and applying it to something you don’t. For me, this was the TV show ‘Riverdale’. I knew every character and rushed home to watch new episodes each week. Two characters in that show are Betty and Veronica, best friends who often fight and break apart. In my head, I paired this with Attrition, which is when rocks and pebbles collide and break apart, forming smaller pieces. Every time I thought of Attrition from then on, I remembered Betty and Veronica, and the definition came back to me easily because I knew those characters so well. Although I no longer watch ‘Riverdale’, or use it in my Application Techniques, I always remember Attrition because of something I made up in Year 7. Not only does this help memorisation, but I find it also makes revision more fun because you get to include what you love in it! Top tip: if it starts with the same letter, it’s easier to use the Application technique. E.g. I paired Abrasion with Archie Andrews because they both started with an ‘A’, which helped jog my memory. 


 These techniques are my top three for feeling prepared and confident walking into an exam. Knowing I’ve worked hard and covered topics I misunderstood means that, whatever happens in that room, I can be proud of myself. The most important study tip of all is to know when to put your books down and go to sleep, when to prioritise your mental health over an equation, when to ask for help when you need it. These techniques will help you in your exams, but as long as you do your best, whatever the outcome is, it is enough. Happy studying!


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