When it comes to strange and fascinating facts, it’s no surprise that some are kooky enough to take hold of your brain and stay with you for quite some time. But read too many silly facts and you won’t remember them all.
If it’s hard enough to remember something outrageous, how difficult must it be to remember everything you need for an exam?
The answer is in the way in which we learn things.
After reading some useless trivia, you’re not given the encompassing reasons behind the facts. There’s nothing to take with you other than the figures themselves. Because of this, you’re only able to learn that information. You haven’t been given the tools to fully understand why the answer is structured the way it is.
Your revision can go two ways too. On one hand, you can try digesting the hard facts, arguments, opinions, quotes, and statistics in isolation of the bigger picture. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a vague grasp on the wider implications and remember most of the facts so you can cobble something together under exam conditions.
On the other hand, you can take in the bigger picture first, truly getting to grips with the how and why of what you’re studying. If you’re faced with some facts that you need to learn, you’ll have a greater chance of remembering them if you ask yourself where this information fits in and how it works.
Your aim is to understand what you’re revising, rather than learning it by rote.
It’s not that good students pick this stuff up with ease. The secret is more that they ask questions and get background on what they don’t understand. When you’re given certain information to learn in preparation for an exam, things can go two ways:
A good student says, “I don’t understand this. I can see it’s important and clearly needs to be remembered, but how does it fit in with the bigger picture? How did this fact come to be?”
A half-hearted student says, “This is so difficult to learn. It just won’t go in. Why can’t I remember this kind of stuff? I don’t understand it anyway.”
Both types of student are in the same position, but one is willing to go beyond the surface in order to get a fuller understanding of the subject. Yes, it may require a little more time and research, but it’s not going to take much longer, so the payoff is good.
In fact, any research that takes a good student too long becomes a false economy…so they don’t do it, natch! The main thing to remember is to always keep one step ahead. It’s one thing to be clueless about an entire subject, but it’s another to waste too much time on a small area that’s difficult to perfect. Even the best students have blocks and difficulties. You need to know when to stop obsessing and start relaxing.
If you can develop the mindset to ‘understand’ and enhance your working, you’ll be well on the way to some quality revision and a confident state of learning.
In my next post, I’ll set out five tips for revision that will help focus your revision even more clearly.