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 Prepare for exams – A creative method approach to study

Author: Jonathan Grigg

The study method described in this article has been the one I used throughout high school through to post graduate studies and all in between. I find it works for me, though my recommendation for you is the following; Write down somewhere where you stand today. Try a new approach, whatever that is, Check the results, did you improve or not, Adjust accordingly. Take from this what is useful, discard the rest. What is the Creative Process? The creative process is one which has been studied and researched over the years.

The diagram describes the process steps as defined by various people over time. Effectively there is a period of work required, followed by a period of absolutely no work, followed by the final work. The interesting thing to note here is that the creative process does not respond to will power or brute force, you see the creative process, that moment of inspiration and illumination comes out a time where there is no thought on the actual subject. The pre-work and the post work, these are the work of the conscious mind but the processing and creating work takes place in the quite time. Studies estimate that only about 10% of our thinking is conscious, which leaves 90% for so much more to do. It is well known that the human mind is capable of some incredible things, and we often think of the great names of history as being some geniuses, and while that may be true in some instances, most were fairly ordinary people who looked at things a little differently. Often times using the creative “Incubation period” for their work. As an example Einstein was reported to operate on a very different sleeping pattern when he was hard at work, working for a few short hours and then sleeping for a few hours. In this way he allowed himself the opportunity to work hard, “incubate” and then work hard again. The method This method works on the concept of considering the subconscious pretty much as computer, where the conscious mind provides the input. Good data in, good data out, garbage in, garbage out. So lets get to it. Step 1 Take notes, throughout the lecture/class period and write these down in your own handwriting. Feel free to be as messy as you want on the page but make sure that you can understand the writing. I found that by hand writing the notes originally that this helped to imprint my mind. When I came to reread the notes I could se that it was my work, not someone else’s, or from a book. Subconsciously this is quite important because what it says to the subconscious mind is “That’s my handwriting, so I have done this work, therefore I must know this work already”. Don’t worry to much if in the past you haven’t been able to remember the information, this method works at a very different level to the “will power” study method. Step 2 About 4 weeks out from the exam create a set of study notes, again hand written. The study notes should include all of the high level topics and enough detail and information about the topic to get the gist but not so much as to write a book. As an idea my study notes ranged in length from 2 pages through to about 7 pages. An example might be the words “Pythagoras theorem” and then under it the formula with a labeled triangle next to it. Don’t put worked examples in this text, this is bare bones information here. I found that for these it worked better for me when I used plain paper (no rulings or lines). The writing needs to be clear and neat but don’t stress if it looks a little messy. Step 3 At about 3 weeks out from the exam, read through these notes. Step 4 About 2 weeks out go over the notes with a high lighter in hand. Highlight the points that are really standing out to you as important. Again if you are highlighting everything it’s to much. What you are doing here is giving your brain key focus points to attach information to. So from our example before you might highlight just the triangle. The reason is that on the exam paper you will probably be shown, or have to draw a triangle, and at that time your mind will make the connection to your highlighted triangle in the study notes. From there the information around it will flow. Step 5 One week out read over the notes once only each night. Turn to each page and do the following, look at each page without focusing on any particular word or topic, just stare for a moment. Now read each of the highlighted lines. Staring at the page allows the subconscious mind to imprint the information, then reading the highlighted text allows the conscious mind to go to work also. Step 6 The night before, do not pick up, look at or even think about the study notes. Just get an early night sleep. Some Closing thoughts It is critical that during the last week prior to the exam that you avoid stress as much as possible, and in particular stress near when you will be going to sleep. Stress before bed will result in poor sleep quality leading to poorer performance the following day, and so the spiral goes. If you want to practice the skills of the subject, worked questions etc, do this during the day, use the end of the day to reflect on your study notes. In this last week if there are other things that pop into your mind and you think that you should record it on the study notes, just write it then and there, horizontal or vertical on the page doesn’t matter, just do it. If you are preparing for two or more exams at the same time, give each of your study notes a title page. Write the topic, decorate it if you want but not to much. Keeping the title page clean and simple will help your mind to compartmentalize the subjects, the title Maths and a picture of a triangle and circle will be enough to distinguish it from English with a picture of a book and an Author that you like, for example. I hope that you try this method and find it useful, but most importantly, use what works, throw out what doesn’t.

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