Myth or Truth: Keep Calm and Play on
I have never been a fan of exams, especially the study period, as I spent most of those days worrying about exam preparation. "Did I read enough?", "Did I read the correct topic?", "Will I remember it?" "I am not a good student, after all" were some of the questions that plagued by thinking. I felt more comfortable spending days helping mum, cleaning the room, make a plan on planning to study - doing anything to distract myself other than studying. Though I am glad those days are almost behind me, upon retrospection, I still label those days as the most anxiety-provoking ones.
Years have passed, and here I am, a point in life where I get to be a support person for my young one, who is giving her HSC. And suddenly, it all feels so surreal. Luckily this time, both as a mother and mental health professional I have access to a wealth of information, evidence-based strategies that can help ease some of the anxieties associated with exam preparation.
There was just one more hurdle to jump, getting this information across to my young person, in a palatable way. As in my household, we are going through the "Oh Please! What do parents know phase". Hence, myth or truth was born - turning some research-based evidence into a game.
I am sharing some of the findings I thought were interesting.
What doesn't work:
Studying less frequently but for prolonged periods (Cramming): As social beings, were have limited concentration spans, studying for long periods, crammed in the same position is the perfect recipe to add fatigue, tiredness to our routine. Research suggests that information memorized this way can only be recalled within the short time frame, mostly for a day or two.
Studying in short bursts, mixing subjects and taking proper breaks: Contrary to the previous style of learning, learning for short dedicated periods - focusing on various topics within a specified time slot seems to be the key to improve retention and recall. One of the ways to effectively put into practice is by using the Pomodoro technique. Pomodoro is a time management technique where a specified interval is spent working, followed by a period of rest. While the method seems simple enough, the trick is to stay disciplined to follow the planned schedule. My favourite time interval pattern is 45 mins of work /study and 15 mins of active rest. The active rest can be allocated to do a variety of activities - having a cuppa, doing some stretches, listening to music, tending to some house chores or just stepping away from the study desk.
What doesn't work:
Reading and reading a text, highlighting or underlining essential concepts: As an avid rereader & highlighter myself, this one was the most I was surprised with. A research study published in the psychological science journal (links attached below), reports that re-reading a text or highlighting a text does not significantly help with retaining the information and was found to be of low utility.
What does work:
Summarising, paraphrasing and reflecting: There is nothing worse than reading for hours on end and unable to recollect or relate to a single word we read. A simple way to overcome this inability is to summarise or paraphrase the studied material in our own words, either by teaching it to someone or writing down a summation.
Chunking: is the method of breaking large chunks of information into manageable bite-size pieces and finding a connection - relation between each concept. By grouping larger amounts of data into smaller chunks, it helps the brain to hold more information.
Doodling and associating key concepts with music: This recent research study was particularly impressive as the findings showed that student engagement in studies significantly improves after only a limited time of doodling. Associating key concepts with music is a technique I can surely vouch for, humming times table to popular Bollywood tunes, is how I managed to get through some of my maths papers.
While I understand, not all strategies mentioned can be relegated purely as myth or truth, and there may never be a one size fits all solution. We still urge you to play this game with your young person, just for fun and as a conversation starter to check in where there are at.
As our intention at Mindkshetra is to faciliate conversations with every young person and promote a stress-free study period. We believe taking proactive measures helps in creating a calm and relaxed mind, allowing us to be our best self.
We understand preparing for the HSC exams can lead to additional stress and anxiety amongst students and parents. To encourage students to navigate through this period, we have designed an exclusive program. And are offering 50% off on our An hour of self-care Session. To get a coupon code or for more information, contact us on www.mindkshetra.com.au or connect with us on our socials @mindkshetra.