Revision Tips

This Study Trick Will Help You Succeed in IB

One of the most essential assets you have as a student is your studying process. While you cannot increase your innate intelligence, you can learn to be a more efficient learner. Here’s how:

The exercise is simple: the next time you are stuck, talk to yourself. Describe your problem to yourself as you would describe it to a friend. Then take on the role of that friend and give yourself advice. You will likely have a solution. If you do not, then take out pen and paper (or mouse and keyboard) and write it all out. Usually this will be enough of a pattern interrupt for your brain and to make you think critically about your problem. Most of the time, you will realize it is only a small adaptation. If you are being distracted by the internet, your friend would probably tell you to install a website blocker. If you are struggling to understand a chapter of your physics textbook, your friend would tell you to find a YouTube video. 

What you are really doing with this exercise is that you are trapping your thoughts on paper. When you force yourself to articulate your problems, you force yourself to precisely define them. They no longer seem so scary. It becomes a critical thinking problem rather than some nebulous, emotional one. This works equally well for personal issues as well. When you start distancing yourself from the problem, it suddenly becomes much easier to solve.

The next step is something that sounds absurdly simple but is devastatingly effective. Journal once, before you start studying, and once, after you finish. Ask yourself what went well, what went poorly, and what you should do next time. You’ll be surprised at the results. This is because it forces you to shift away from mindless, rote practice and closer to what is called deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is practice that is purposeful and systematic. It involves reflectively setting an intention before you begin practicing, and executing on that intention as you practice. That element of intention is crucial, it’s the active ingredient that catalyzes improvement.

The final extension of this is an application of mindfulness. Be conscious of what is happening in your mind as you are studying–imagine that you have a third eye observing your own mind. Notice whether you are tired or alert, agitated or calm, thinking clearly or blankly bumbling around. As you get better at observing your mind, you will naturally realize when you are working effectively and when you are not. When you are struggling, adapt as you study. When you are succeeding, celebrate that accomplishment. As you get better at it, you will discard what is useless and do only what works. If you struggle with this, I recommend meditation.

You may also like…

• Zina’s take on how to revise effectively for exams
• Check out our science-based tricks to help improve your studying

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