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When you study and take a test or exam, you want to get an A. But if you are a professional that the rest of the world will rely on, we all need you to learn long-time skills. Are those the same things?

The great mental showdown of. . . EXAMS !

Maybe you have to pass a professional certification test. Or you want to take up scuba diving, or need to upgrade skills to advance your career.  There are so many reasons why you might find yourself facing the great mental showdown of . . . EXAMS ! If you haven’t taken a test or an exam since your school days, and are one of those people who still get those high school nightmares (you know, those ones where you suddenly realize you’re registered to a course you forgot you were supposed to be taking . . .and the exam is today?). This post is for you. And if you’re one of those people who glide through tests and exams with a smile and an A+ . . .? Definitely do not skip over this post. Does an A+ on an exam guarantee that you will correctly apply all that information you hoovered up when you need it most, years in the future, in possibly stressful circumstances ?

Traditional study methods do not achieve successful results

Nobody cares about GPAs and test scores when they’re sitting in a plane that is making strange sounds or when they’re stretched out on an operating table. And if you’re the pilot of that plane or the surgeon in that operating room, you probably care even less about those things. In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, authors Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel explain that traditional study methods do not achieve particularly successful results when it comes to useful long term skills. They back their points up with compelling descriptions of professionals pulling themselves out of deeply stressful problems. Such as singlehandedly landing a Cessna with a failing right engine. Their findings are also echoed by the American Psychological Association.  

Study tips

If you’re still limiting your study sessions to reading and rereading textbooks and notes, here are a few of the study tips to try out:

-Spread your study sessions out as much as possible. Research suggests that mentally digging up what you’ve learned. Waiting and then digging it up again when you’ve had time to forget. It will improve your ability to draw on it in the long term.

-Flash cards are your friend. Taking regular quizzes produces better results than reading notes and textbooks. No matter how much you underline or highlight significant passages. Since this is a step you can take on your own or in a group, if you are at all extroverted this will be a happy and potentially motivating break from your solitary study sessions.

-Use your own words. Again, highlighting passages in textbooks isn’t good enough. Try explaining what you’ve learned to a friend.

-If you can, mix things up. Even if you are working on one skill or area of knowledge, switch from one topic to another.

Therefore, one thing is for sure. The study methods proposed by Brown, Roediger and Daniel are anything but boring. The days when students might be expected to isolated themselves in a library, poring over texts in mind-numbing repetition are so over.

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