CULTIVATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

The object of studying is (or should be) knowledge, not just qualifications. Approach your course with the intention of learning the subject and improving your mind, rather than merely of passing the exam at the end of it. You will not only derive greater enjoyment  and benefit from the course, but will almost certainly score better results as well. Those who undertake a course of study purely in the spirit of passing the exam at the end are those most in danger of failing.

KEEP A BALANCE

The opposite danger is that of taking your studies too seriously. Remember the ‘Law of diminishing returns’ - after a certain point, you actually produce or absorb less if you put in more work. An overlong working day produces greater boredom, fatigue and resentment, and reduces the level of concentration and commitment.

You should in due course settle down into a relaxed and highly efficient rhythm, combining sessions of intense study with sessions of extracurricular activity: going to the theater, socialising in the club, helping with charity work, doing the laundry, playing tennis, sightseeing, debating...all the cultural pleasures that enrich your education, together with the routine chores of life, should fit comfortably into your timetable without seriously reducing the overall quality of your studies.

TAKE A BUSINESS LIKE APPROACH

To live your student life full in this way, you will have to live it efficiently. Try to develop a routine. If your mind is sharpest in the morning, for instance, try to organise your day so as to do an hour’s reading, writing, or ordering of your notes before breakfast.

As with time, so with place: find out which working environment suits you best, and try to maintain it. The library, or your own room? (not the canteen or park.) In solitude, or with a study partner? Background music? (it can be distracting, but it can equally well help to block out distractions.) A well-lightened room, or just a pool of lamplight at your desk? And so on.

Whatever you decide in such matters, make sure you stick to it: the mind will come to associate certain regular places and patterns with intense study, and you will find yourself concentrating better when sticking to these.

MEMORISING

If you study consistently throughout the course, you will enter the exam hall with a confident spring in your step, and with your knowledge of the subject stored away in long-term memory.

SHORT TERM MEMORY

If you ‘cram’ for your exams, your knowledge of the subject resides (if you are lucky) in your short term memory - a notoriously shallow and unreliable reservoir. True enough, if you time things right, you might just get away with it - you can reproduce your superficial knowledge during the exam, and pass quite adequately. But you will forget almost everything you have learnt very soon after the exam is over.

LONG TERM MEMORY

Why throw away something you have taken pains to acquire, when with a slight redirection of effort you can keep it forever?

Understanding of material

This is crucial. Think how much easier it is to memorise a line of accounts than a line of tax (when reading for the first time). It is not enough, therefore, to be able to reproduce by a rote a provisions in tax. Unless you really understand the underlying forces, you will be sooner or later lose the ability to recall the complex law.

Familiarisation with the material

This comes from repeated exposure to it. Rereading the novel, mentally repeating the main points of a history topic, working several times through the theorem step by step, glancing very so often at your study notes-these are the ways of etching memory traces more deeply into your brain.

Anchoring the material

To attach the material to your existing knowledge, you can forge strong and lasting anchor-cables by deliberately devising a few mental associations. When studying tax for example, try to relate the material to your own life and surroundings rather than thinking of it as an abstract self-contained body of knowledge. For illogical lists, you will need more fanciful associations. The art of mnemonics (memory tricks) is based on such whimsical associations-the allowances (THAR DUCT). The other most powerful memory technique is visualisation.

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