Studying can be a real bitch. Especially with a reading-heavy course like psychology, and doubly so because you have a mix of facts, dates, names, theories, and more abstract things to remember. So developing a good study technique is key to survival. I am only now starting to get real study technique down, for the first year there really didn’t seem any need since we could wing it and revise hard near exam time.
The biggest change this year is the sheer quantity of reading we have to do. Some modules are worse than others of course, and a stark example of that is that our Developmental Psychology reading for the last lecture amounts to more than almost the entire reading for Individual Differences. When the term started I began by doing all the reading and taking notes on the reading before the lecture, then taking notes in the lecture, then if possible re-reading the relevant parts after the lecture. What I have realised is that although it is still important to work hard, you can also work smart and lighten the load significantly. So this is my current plan:
-Skim the reading. I don’t mean read fast, this is quite literally a skim over the text, just noticing the way it is structured, maybe a few words that jump out, any headings, and possibly vague topics.
-Speed-read the text. There are a lot of pages online that give the basics to speed-reading, but quickly they are: use a finger underneath the line to follow (or lead) where you are reading. This helps you stay focused, maintain speed, and prevent regression or jumping (going back and re-reading things and jumping around the page reading words at random); have a good environment free of distractions; do not worry if you miss something, keep going. There are more but these have been the most useful for me.
-At the end of each section summarise what you have read in your head.
-Take printed slides into the lecture and make notes on the slides.
-Re-read only the relevant parts of the text, this time taking notes and combining that with your notes from the lecture.
-Return later and test yourself then re-read your notes. I have read a study (which I do not have the details of to hand) that found that constant revision of something is less effective at committing it to memory than revising with increasing gaps. I believe it was optimal at something like a day after first learning, a week after that, three weeks after that (don’t quote me on this!). Various studies and theories also claim that it is more effective to study in a small group (obviously not the reading parts) because even explaining things to others helps you remember and understand it better and may highlight weaknesses in your understanding that you were not aware of.
I did look into memory techniques too, but although there are some fantastic techniques for remembering long number sequences, remembering theories, names, and dates remains quite tricky. Having said that some time ago I watched a fantastic video about brain anatomy memnomics (how the hell do you spell that?!) that I will have to post here.
If anyone has any other effective study tips please let me know!