One of the key skills required for studying is the ability to summarize content. Practicing how to do this well, will help you reach your study goals.
Whatever course you are studying, you will no doubt be presented with large amounts of information in various forms. From lecture handouts, presentation slides, books from your reading list, to your own notes and more; the content sources are numerous. When you have all of this information for each of your subjects, it can be overwhelming given the fact that you are expected to learn from it all.
Imagine sitting down to eat a meal and being presented with a huge plate of food that you are expected to eat. Just the thought or sight of it alone could be enough to put you off completely, even if the food looked good and you were very hungry. The size of the task before you would likely trigger worry or concern and it’s doubtful that you would finish it all. If however you were only given a small plate of food, you are likely to finish it in no time at all. Not only that, you would probably be eager to have some more. The same is true with studying. Taking on too much at once will make you feel sick and you won’t want to do anymore.
Breaking it down
Once you have the content you need to learn, start to break it down into manageable sized chunks. This can be a chapter at a time, page by page, or paragraph by paragraph. It all depends on where the content comes from and what you are comfortable with. Remember, if it’s too long you will lose interest and if it’s too short, you’ll be stopping too often and that’s neither necessary or productive.
Once you have gone through the content section you are studying, section A for example, stop to think about what you have just read or learned. Say what you understand about it out loud to make sure that you do truly understand it. Write a short summary then move onto the next section, section B let’s say.
After you have gone through section B, repeat the exercise you did for section A but for section B this time. Once you’re done, do section A again. Do not move onto section C until you fully understand sections A and B to the extent that you can summarize them both verbally and ideally in written form too. Complete this exercise for as many sections as you have for your study session, time permitting.
This exercise engages the creative side of your brain (the right hemisphere). When you put information into your own words, you are required to think about it more. You are therefore more likely to understand the content rather than just trying to memorize it. Often it’s the concepts that you need an understanding of, not the ability to remember the content word for word.
Making summaries of your content, not only helps you understand the information but it reduces the amount of paperwork that you will have for your revision.
Practice this throughout your study course rather than right at the end for maximum effect.
I hope you found this useful.
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