I’ve been working with high school students for quite some time, and I always get asked about basic study skills. For most of these life-skills-type issues, it’s best to start with how most people fail in studying.

1. You only read & re-read your notes
2. Wait until the last minute to prepare
3. Do not quiz yourself
4. Try to do too much at once

The key to studying is understanding whether the task at hand requires understanding or requires memorization.

Memorization is the easier place to start. I have found no better tool than flash cards. I have taught hundreds of students and converted almost all of them to flash card users. Most students who are against flash cards don’t want to take the time to create them or have failed with them in the past because they did not have a proper methodology for going through the stacks.


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Raymond Advantage Flash Card Studying

I. Creating flash cards

Flash cards should be (1) written and (2) include only one topic per card. The best flash cards are reversible, but it’s not always possible to do that, so do your best. Make sure to go through your notes a write a flash card for EVERY piece of information that will be tested. Here are some examples:

II. Small Stacks:

a. Separate your cards in groups of 7-10, do following for each stack.
b. On the first pass, look at the front and back of each card. Say them aloud to yourself.
b. On the second pass, quiz and place cards into yes/no piles.
c. On the third pass, pick up No pile and look at front and back of each card. Say them to yourself.
d. On the fourth pass, go through No pile and add to Yes pile until you have gotten each correct. (Reserve cards you just cannot remember)

III. Reserved Cards

a. Pick up any reserved cards that you just could not remember and look over them. Say them to yourself.
b. Rewrite the cards on a separate piece of paper.
c. Keep this set reserved.

IV. Large Stack

a. Shuffle your cards very well.
b. Go through large stack and place into Yes/No piles
c. Do Small Stacks steps for cards in the No pile.
d. Shuffle in No pile Small Stacks and go through placing into Yes/No piles
e. Add No pile cards to the ones you reserved in Small Stacks

V. Reserved Cards II

a. Shuffle your reserved cards and quiz and put into Yes/No piles.
b. Take No pile cards and rewrite them on a piece of paper.
c. Create a mnemonic for each one.

VI. Master Review

a. Large Stack Review
b. Reserve Cards Review *mark them with a highlighter
c. Shuffle all cards and Large Stack review
d. Pull out and Reserve Cards for quick study before exam

VII. Organization

Bind and put a title card on set to reserve for future study

There has been a fundamental change in education over the past few generations. There is a decreasing focus on actually knowing the material and knowing it for extended periods of time. I know that it is not a result of it not being taught anymore. Kids today are probably taught more than I was, but they do not study for the long-term acquisition of skills. It’s learn and dump.

So many students come to me with a fundamental lack of reading skills that Active Reading as a strategy becomes a life changer. Don’t think that these aren’t Honors/AP students as well! Many parents do not know their children have a deficiency in reading skills, but a great way to test is to have them read a newspaper article aloud and see if they can summarize its parts to you. So much is covered verbally in class that poor readers can get by fairly easily. Just understanding that reading is an active process where your brain should always be thinking and reviewing is remarkably absent from so many students.

That’s why these standardized tests are so difficult for students and why having a personal tutor works so well for them. They re-learn the topics they’ve forgotten that are targeted to the test, and our instructors train on identifying and fixing critical skill deficiencies.

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Studying for Understanding

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
-Albert Einstein

Depending on your personality, you may benefit from a rigid methodology of studying for understanding. A standard method is SQ3R, which is an abbreviation for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

Survey is getting an understanding of the overall topic. Most of this is already done for you in textbooks. You maybe want to create a few sentences to remember so that you have a good starting point for your study.

Question is when you go through the question words on major subtopics of what you’re studying. Who is this about? Why does it matter? When did it happen? Etc.

Reading is a common deficiency among students. It’s not the actual ability to read the words on the page (unless there is a learning disability); it’s capacity to force the brain to focus and process the words. I teach this as this skill as Active Reading and include another key point: review what you just read at the end of each paragraph. Active Reading is crucial for doing well on standardized tests. Behavioral psychologists often explain the discipline required to focus as a muscle that must be exercised. You can’t use it on test day for the first time and expect great results.

Recite is determining whether you can explain it without notes. In my ACT curriculum, I require that students be able to recite the overview of English grammar and sentence structure. I call these “stories.” Creating “stories” in your own words that encompass the topic first proves that you understood it at some point and secondly gives you a great place to start when questioned about a particular subject. This is also an important time where you can make Flash Cards for the details that do not fit into your story or ones that do that you must have memorized.

Review is a very encompassing term. I think it’s a good idea to move in reverse order of the steps just presented. Recite: memorize your story and learn your Flash Cards. Read the topic again to make sure that your story and Flash Cards are sufficient. Question the major themes and subtopics to ensure you have recall of the relevant information. Survey to check to make sure you have asked all the important Questions.

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Let us help you prepare for the SAT or ACT!

Raymond Advantage is a leading test prep company that utilizes technology to allow for private, in-home tutoring done over the internet. It’s better in some aspects because we record the sessions for later viewing. We have hundreds of pages of proprietary materials that have proven successful over a decade of working with students. Our instructors focus on tailoring the curriculum and the approach to maximize test scores. Contact us for more information.

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