Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The inner game of studying for exams explained with lots of tips

After this session you will know how actually you study and this is important because when you where younger most people said to you well you have to study but nobody told you how to study.

And if you had a teacher that was very good, he went like: "you should study like this."

Well, this works for like 20% of the population. Most people, like 80% study in a different way.

After this session you'll be able to learn how you study, you'll be able to know how you do it.

So, then you can tweak it so you can put more flexibility into it and you can build upon your own strengths, on the way you actually learn.

Learning is very difficult, for some people, and learning is very easy for other people. Why? Because the people that have it easy, don't think about how they study.

When they call me in to do some study- coaching, I can tell you one thing, the first question I have for a student is: "well, how do you study?"

They go: "what do you mean, how do I study?" Yeah, how do you study, because I can show you how I study but that will be different from you. And when I tell you, you have to do it my way, you'll freak out. So, I want to know how YOU study and ones we know how you study, we can change little things and you will feel comfortable, you'll become better at learning.

Now, learning is very important and to explain it I actually have a white board behind me, I got like an example of a student. I don't want to give you his name but let's call him Marc, is that ok?

To show you very clearly, his has a problem, dyslexia. He went on studying for engineering. Most of his grades are 9 or 8 out of 20. So, he just flunked. And even sometimes he had grades that were 2 or 3 out of 20. It wasn't that good.

His parents said: "you're not studying!" He was studying, a lot!!!

That's why the parents came to me: "he says he's studying and we're not sure, so can you help?"

Most people that come to me have one of these two problems: their kid is not studying or they themselves need to get back to school and want to know if there are different techniques they can use because they know it took them too long to study in the beginning to begin with. They just want to do it differently, at ease!

So, I will explain the concept on the board behind me. We always begin with I KNOW I HAVE STUDIED

How do you know? Well, to begin with. You've got like five senses and they will help you to tell you if you're studying; how you study and if you can do better or not and where it went wrong.

These sense are (and you know them very well, actually):

Visual (you see it)
Auditory (you hear it)
Kinesthetic (you feel it)

You also have the smell and the taste. People that cook need those. Most of us don't go: "I smelled that i know it, do we now?"

You know you studied when you got the picture in your head or you told yourself with your inner voice that you mastered the material or you just do a gesture that indicates you now know it.

Most people favor one of these way, and not all of them. In fact, from early childhood you've stumbled upon one of the way to confirm you know it and you've been using it ever since. The major question remains, is this the best easiest and most practical way to do it?

I'll use different abbreviations in the model I'm presenting to you:

i: internal
e: external
V: visual
A: auditory
K: kinesthetic

So explanation about internal and external. Example, I've been studying 50 pages and I want to know if I've mastered the material. I can ask someone to interrogate me....
Can you give me the definition for..., Manon? If I answer them, you can hear it external
If I just answer the question so only I can hear it, that's internal -->In this case internal auditory: abbreviation A i

I explained this all to Marc. Then I asked him to study for a while and master 50 pages of a course he could pick. The next week I came back. He did finished the job.

Ergo, Marc has no problems with time management because he finished the task at hand. Some other students do, they give me excuses why they didn't do the task at hand... I'll talk about that in a later session.

I examined Marc about the 50 pages. I don't know if marc's answers to my questions were correct, I was more interested in knowing how he did study...

Then he went, "well, when I begun, I had to learn some theories and the first question that popped up in my brain was: why? Why is that?"

Ok, this is an important question because normally you only learn when the answer is nowhere to be fount in my comfort zone.

I brush my teeth every day. This lies in my comfort zone.
I want to fly an airplane. I don't know how to do that. This lies outside my comfort zone. Thus, I ask myself the question: how am I going to do that?

Basically, I know I'm learning when and only when I seek out the answer to one of these four questions:
What if

Oh, and this is a little side-effect of learning. The first step of learning is frustration. Because in asking myself the question I also realize that I don't know, hence frustration....

A lot of students hate this feeling and they stop studying as fast as possible. Just to uncomfortable.

A-level students love this feeling because they know that this is the beginning-point of a new learning-adventure. They actually are going to master another skill. Yes!

So, Marc wants to know WHY. Now he is going to read to know the answer. This is step two:

Why --> Read

Marc starts reading the book in silence about 3 pages an hour:

Why --> Read--> Ai

He also starts taking notes down and he starts walking around, yes while reading and taking notes. I told you, everybody has a different strategy to learn. This is kinesthetic:

Why --> Read --> Ai/K

While he's doing that, he starts to understand what it is about. A picture comes up in his brain. For Marc the answer comes like a picture in his brain:

Why --> Read --> Ai/K --> Vi

As long as Marc doesn't get the picture in his head, he will continue to read. Some people keep reading until they hear a voice in their head saying that they know it, some people get a sensation in their body, affirming that they mastered the material.

Marc wants to know if the picture he got in his head is the correct one. So, he's looking for a refference. There are two references we usually use: the teacher and a past experience. Asking someone else is of course external and revisiting a past experience is internal, isn't it? Well, actually it is an external experience because the secondary school teacher gave him the answer. And I know that we can go into deep length on these things and have a different outcome, but that is for a different time and a different place.

Why --> Read --> Ai/K --> Vi --> Correct? --> Teacher: e or past experience: e

Now, Marc is making his first big mistake here: the wrong reference point! He should be more interested in the correct answer to the exam-question. He needs to get that one from a different source because the professor at university will tell you stuff about the exam one week before if he does that at all.

Best practices here is just asking a student that past this exam and has great grades, even if you have to pay for the time you're taking away time from this student. Oh, take your books with you and let the student highlight the exact and complete answer to the exam-question.

Marc then wants to understand the answers. He actually pinpoints exactly the internally feeling in his body ( belly and stomach)of a correct answer. He has to feel comfy about it and not exited. He knows when he relaxes. Still Marc want to repeat it one more time. Just a last repetition (auditory and internal). And that's that. End of story:

1. Why --> Read --> Ai/K --> Vi --> Correct? --> Teacher: e or past experience: e  --> Understand: Ki --> Ai (x1)

If Marc doesn't understand it he'll be pacing around in his room and moving things around. So, he can notice the mess in the room as proof of not knowing it (kinesthetic externally)  and he'll try to relax this feeling (kinesthetic internal).

Then Marc starts to focus a lot more and hears himself repeating the text to himself over and over again. Like rote learning or learning by heart the words written in the book. He will do that like ten times (auditory internal). That's a lot.
Then he writes down his answer on paper to check it to the book. He needs to copy exactly what's in the book to feel ok with it. (external and Kinesthetic).

2. Why --> Read --> Ai/K --> Vi --> Correct? --> Teacher: e or past experience: e  --> Not Understand: Ke --> Ki --> Ai (x10) -->Ke

So, Marc has two ways of studying. One that fails completely and one that fails partially!

2. Not understanding: professors marks: 2, 3 and 4 out of 20
1. Understanding: professors marks: 8,9 sometimes even 10  out of 20

Now, the solution.

2. For the not understanding we came up with the reason why he did what he did. You'll remember that Marc has dyslexia. In Belgium, when you have dyslexia you go to a specialist who lets you read out words and corrects you if you get it wrong. Marc went to therapy for more than 3 years doing this process. Now he has copied that procedure into his way of studying if he doesn't understand the answer.

Basically Marc is developing a neurosis. Going over the same thing over and over again. And it doesn't work, I'll bet you, you're in trouble. If even told Marc that he was getting a headache by doing this. He wondered for a minute and asked me how I knew he was getting headaches while studying this way. Well, I would get a headache if I would do it that way, so I imagined you would get one too.

So, Marc knows now that when he notices he starts with this learning strategy he's in for a treat. He just has to stop doing it, period! Find another way.

If you doing something that's not working, start doing it differently, period!

So, one problem in Marc's learning strategy solved. And a lot of headaches solved even before they arrive.

1. For understanding I told him upfront. What you're doing is actually a very excellent learning strategy, even if you have not great marks from the professor.

So, we're going to tweak the this learning strategy a little bit to get higher marks.

We've done that by getting a first little point in: use answers to the exam as a reference for picking your study material.

The next little tweak came from an example I gave.

In secondary school you have 5 exam questions and you get 4 right, your marks will be B or sometimes even A-, like 8/10.

If your a doctor in operating theater at the operating table and you have to cut a patient open (question 1), pinpoint the organ (question 2 ), take the organ away (question 3), sew the wound (question 4) and sew up the patient (question 5). If you even miss one of the steps, worst case, the patient died. Is that an A- or a B?

No, you just stumped, it's that simple. And that's the difference between university and high school. You need to study more profoundly.

If you miss out on one question in a book of 700 pages you just missed probably out on more than 200 pages. Do you really expect a professor is going to give you good marks? And I know, I god a master of Law, most of the time studying more than 1600 pages and even more for some courses!

If a professor asks you to give a few examples, he expects you to give him all the examples written in the book. And if you want to have superior grades, you'll have to come up with some extra examples of yourself. So, just 4 examples won't cut it when the book mentions 14 examples... even if the book is more than 700 pages long.

And that, Marc understood very clearly. Now he's studying every single word more profoundly than before and his marks just went through the roof.

Ok, ok, in the next sessions we had together I showed him little tweaks to actually getting faster and more profound with more ease in his learning strategies.

And all that came from the fact that he realized where he was missing out on... instead of me just telling him how he should do it. I've been giving tutoring for more than 25 years and today I just focus on study strategies instead of helping students learn a particular course.

Let's get back to the learning strategy that was a total disaster. Marc studied philosophy that way. He gave me an example: oracle --> he didn't know what it was, he knew the definition of it by heart but was unable to explain to the professor what it was because he had no deeper sense of the word.

If you watch the movie 300 than at a given point the king goes up the mountain to this temple. O yes, Marc remembered that one. Well, Marc, that's an oracle, the building. Now he got it.

And Marc, these virgins get drugs and start hallucinating. You can actually ask them a question. They will give you an answer. The answer will be a riddle, that you need to figure out, but it is still an answer. Yes, he got that one too.

Basically, now he got a visual picture in of what he was studying. And he understood. Going back to his learning strategy, he has to get a much pictures in as necessary. So we tweaked his learning strategy a bit by getting images that he can use. Going to google images helps. Finding the right image (visual external) so he'll remember the images (visual internal) when asked a question on the exam.

1. Why --> Read --> Ai/K --> Vi --> Correct? --> Teacher: e or past experience: e  --> Understand: Ki + Ve--> Ai + Vi (x1)

Every way Marc can come up with finding images or getting a better understanding the material in front of him, helps even if he has to watch movies like 300 or surf the internet on youtube. It is still learning.

The reason we put in these last little tweaks was very simple. Marc has dyslexia and going to the library for extra reading material won't help him that much because reading gave him at this stage too many problems. So, he had to come up with alternatives to go around that dyslexia area, instead of going through it.

Now, Marc already learned how to speed read. And this is the amazing thing. When you have dyslexia and speed read, you don't actually have the dyslexia problems. So, going to the university library and taking 5 extra books on the subject to get different perspectives in, also helps in-normally.

Basically, Marc as an engineer needs only little knowledge on philosophy. If he types in course philosophy in youtube, a years course of Berkeley  and Harvard comes up. He can follow these courses and now he knows 10 times more about the subject than he'll ever need. Studying becomes so easy. So much more fun, isn't it?

Even if you need to figure it out for yourself, asking some else is figuring it out for yourself, keep that in mind!

Exam Strategies, the movie:

No comments:

Post a Comment