Study Techniques You Need to Know Now (Stop Highlighting!).

click here for 3 study techniques to use active recall

If you are still highlighting your notes, you need to put that bright yellow texta away. I’m about to hit you with some way better study techniques.

And if don’t know what active recall is yet, you are digging yourself an even bigger hole!

Active recall is a method of studying that allows you to get the most out of your study sessions and teaches your brain to be better at recalling information – exactly what you need to do when your exam comes around.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, check out my blog post here that looks at exactly what active recall is, the neuroscience behind it and some tips on how to implement it correctly.

Today, we’re going to look at three physical study techniques you can use to study with active recall methods. Let’s raise that GPA!

3 Study Techniques to Add to Your Routine

1. Flashcards

No surprises here! This is the most common way that people implement active recall methods in their study techniques.

It captures the essence of active recall – put something on one side of the card and ask your brain to conjure up the answer (that’s hidden on the other side!)

You can do this in a magnitude of ways – buy a set of empty flashcards from the local store and handwrite out the things you need to study.

Alternatively, you can use apps like Anki or what I use, Quizlet to create digital flashcards that you can study at anytime (like on the bus, or during your work break!)

It’s really easy and simple to get set up. Typically, my flashcards involve a word or phrase to define, or a phrase that encourages the recall of a list of information, like: “Checklist of Data Cleaning.”

With Quizlet especially, you have a few different ways you can interact and use your flashcards.

You can simply study them (see one side, and recall what’s on the other before flipping it over) but you can also use other functions like ‘match’, ‘test’ or ‘write’.

Match is exactly how it sounds – match the definition/phrase to its’ content. For Write, you write out the complementary side, and for test, you get to engage in a multiple choice quiz.

quizlet app flashcards for study with active recall

Have a look at other apps I use as a student here.

2. Create Your Own Questions

Flashcards aren’t anything new or revolutionary but a study technique that may be new news to you is writing out your own short answer or multiple choice questions!

For me, I like to do the first reading of a chapter or lecture, and make my own summary notes.

Using summary notes (or on your initial reading of the topic), you can create a list of questions relating to the content.

This is a really simply way to practice active recall, but requires slightly different preparation to get set up.

Then, whenever you need to do a study session, you can open up your document of questions and practice recalling that information.

Remember that even getting the answer wrong and then checking your answer allows for improvement in your later ability to recall the necessary information.

And, when exam time comes around, you won’t need to pester your lecturer for a bunch of sample questions. You’ve got a whole lot prepared.

You can even share them around with your friends to get a taste of different types of questions – as you all may have prepared slightly different versions.

Here’s an example of how I have prepared questions for a particular topic (on Notion, of course!).

a list of student prepared questions to study with active recall

3. Cheat Sheet & Look, Cover, “Write”, Check

Something that I particularly enjoy doing for exams, is making sure that have instant access to a magnitude of content from the topic at once.

In this case, I like to write out ‘cheat sheets’ containing all information covered across the semester for each of my courses.

It’s nice and tiny to easily fit across two double-sided pages (usually, depending on how much content you are forced to memorise during your semester!)

For this course, I highlighted key words to know the definition of (pink), used green to highlight therapeutic techniques used, separated by weekly topics (purple). Anything that is news to me when I write it on the sheet (something I hadn’t remembered from previous classes) I highlight in yellow, to signify to myself that it is something I need to remember.

Then, I use these cheat sheets to practice active recall of a whole heap of information!

I use these two pieces of A4 paper for a ‘Look, Cover, “Write”, Check’ procedure. Just like in primary school spelling, where you look at a word, cover it up, write it again, and then check it.

I locate a random highlighted section, cover it with my hand, then repeat aloud anything I can remember about that definition/phrase/topic.

This works for content heavy courses, where you need to rote learn a whole heap of things. However, I have also used it for courses where students need to write essays, creating a mind map of the topics/things I need to know, before using the Look, Cover, “Write”, Check procedure.

a cheat sheet to use for look, cover, write, check to study with active recall

And that’s it!

Hopefully this gives you a few new study techniques that aren’t just re-reading your notes.

If you need a reminder again: here are the reasons why you should study with active recall. You are wasting your time if you think highlighting will get you the grades you want.

Happy Studying!

Check out my latest blog posts here.

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  1. Hi! I’m courious about how you use this techniques, specially the ‘cheat sheets’ with the reMarkable, as it is all grayscale. There is only 1 color for the highliter. Do you use different markers/thikness and black/gray shades? If so, which ones and how?
    As an rM owner and undergraduate, I’d be very interested how you do this before next semester starts.
    Your blog is very helpful, thank you for the hard work!

    1. Hi Maria!
      I have typically not been too fussed about the highlighter personally (one colour is enough for me!)
      You could, however, most definitely use the black/grey/thicker markers to differentiate some of the important information from the other less crucial information. It’s completely up to you!