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Exam Preparation Part 2 – Repetitious Learning

Exam Preparation

Research indicates there are two main factors in memory storage – that is, we learn best through emotional and/or repetitious learning. In this second part of our exam preparation guide, we cover Repetitious Learning. If you haven’t read part one (Emotional Learning) you can read it here.

Learn by teaching – The Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique was named after Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman was not only a pioneer in quantum mechanics, but also a great teacher; so praised for his ability to clearly communicate difficult concepts (such as quantum physics) to others using simple terms, he became known as ‘The Great Explainer‘.

To use the Feynman Technique:

  1. Study your topic until you know it well
  2. Write or speak about your topic, as if you are teaching it to someone else
  3. Further simplify your explanation

By using the Feynman Technique, you will revise your knowledge, simplify it to its core elements and, through teaching it to another, learn it more thoroughly yourself – thereby becoming, like Feynman, a Great Explainer!

As goes the old saying, ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Shadowing & Scriptorium

Shadowing involves listening to and mimicking a speaker’s words as they talk, like a shadow.

To use Shadowing:

  1. Listen to someone speaking a word (in real life or using headphones)
  2. Shadow them – simultaneously repeat their words back to them as quickly as you can

Scriptorium is a similar method of studying which – through repetitive learning – slows you right down, allowing you focus on and remember key details more easily.

To use Scriptorium:

  1. Read your study content aloud
  2. Copy the study content into a notebook, speaking it aloud as you write it
  3. After writing it, read the sentence once more aloud

Relax/Focus – The Ping-Pong & Pomodoro Techniques

Stop procrastinating – take scheduled breaks!

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique where you break your study time into intervals, taking small breaks in-between. To use the Pomodoro Technique:

  1. Pick a task you need to work on
  2. Prepare a blank sheet of paper marked ‘distractions’ and place it beside you
  3. Set timer for 25 minutes
  4. Focus – study intensely until timer goes off
    (If you experience any distractions – a text from a friend, an urge to watch Youtube, etc – don’t stop working. Instead, note the distraction down on your ‘distractions’ paper to worry about later).
  5. Break for five minutes
  6. Repeat above process 4 more times
  7. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break (15-30 minutes) then, if you’re still studying, start again.

The Ping Pong Technique is a similar technique wherein study time is broken up into intervals of focused learning and relaxed (‘diffused’) learning.

To use the Pingpong Technique:

  1. Pick a task you need to work on
  2. Set timer
  3. Focus – study intensely until timer goes off
  4. Relax – let your mind wander, go for a walk or loosely think about your studies
  5. ‘Ping-pong’ – switch between steps 3 and 4

By studying effectively with scheduled breaks, your focus and memory retention will be sharper. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to stay mindful and effectively deal with study stress.

Mindfulness – Dealing with Study/Exam Anxiety

Exam stress is an unfortunate reality of studying. In a panic, it’s difficult to remember information – high-pressure environments like examination rooms can be stressful, and stressful situations make us produce the steroid hormone cortisol.

“Cortisol puts a blanket between your working memory and your mid and long-term memory and stops you getting at it,” says Dr Fiona Kerr (ABC News)

While studying or taking an exam, you might find yourself unable to study, thinking, ‘I’m going to fail! I can’t focus! I don’t know anything!’

The trick is to relax yourself, carry out ‘self care’ and practice ‘mindfulness’ – that is, acknowledge that your thoughts are just the result of exam anxiety – not hard truths. In this way, you can stop, bring yourself back to the present and gradually bring your focus back to the task at hand.

  1. Stop everything
  2. Recognise your anxiety
  3. Take a pause, a deep breath or look out a window
  4. Relax
  5. Once calm, return to work

There are a ton of effective ways to study, but remember –  sometimes that might just mean taking a break.

Go for a tea break or a walk, do some exercise, relax with a book – or check out our Top TED Talks to get you motivated to study.

Good luck!