As Year 12 students approach their end-of-year exams, they will prepare in many different ways.
Some will sit quietly in libraries, methodically studying. Others will simply do nothing, instead waiting for the last moment to “cram” their study in before they sit the exam.
But according to one expert, this practice should be avoided altogether.
Associate Professor Penny Van Bergen from Macquarie University emphasises the importance of active study techniques, spacing out study, and remembering to sleep and eat well.
"Put simply, cramming doesn't work!" associate professor Van Bergen said.
"As exams approach, it is important that students have brain-based strategies for retaining information.”
This isn’t as simple as reading information over and over. In fact, associate professor Van Bergen said research in educational psychology shows that reading and re-reading is a poor strategy for retention.
"To maximise memory, and success, it is important to use information actively. Consider creating your own exam questions, making organisational maps, or testing your friends. This strengthens the ‘encoding pathways’ in your brain," she said.
"Research also highlights the importance of spreading study out over multiple sessions and interleaving it with other subjects.”
Finally, associate professor Vam Bergen recommends, students should look after themselves.
“Your brain is an organ, and it needs both sleep and fuel for memory to work effectively,” she said.
“If it helps, think of the brain during study as a muscle during exercise. Keep it active, feed it well, and train a sensible amount per day."
Another expert, associate professor Helen Askell-Williams from Flinders University’s college of education, said students need good quality strategies for how to learn.
She emphasised the importance of using effective approaches to study.
“But many students use relatively inefficient strategies such as repetition, re-reading and highlighting. Weak strategies don’t create the elaborated mental-models students need to reliably retrieve information,” associate professor Askell-Williams said.
"All students should be given opportunities to learn and practise powerful learning strategies. Our research team recommends the S.ROC approach.”
- The S stands for selecting the information you need to learn, or identifying the most important parts of what you're studying;
- R stands for relating new information to what you already know, building on prior knowledge;
- stands for organising new information in meaningful ways, for example through devising mnemonics, visualisations, diagrams, and concept maps, paraphrasing, and discussion with peers and adults.
- C stands for checking: self-testing to see if you've successfully learned what you need to.