3 Tips to Get More From Your Self-Study Time

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April 29, 2024
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Patrick J. Karol,

You have attended our three-day exam prep workshop, identified your knowledge gaps and strengths, and crafted a study plan. Your study plan likely evolves around filling knowledge gaps, but does it include using the most effective study techniques? We learned how to study in school but didn’t always learn the techniques that get the most return on our study time.

The study techniques you use are as important as the material you study. Plenty of research suggests that some techniques we likely use today are ineffective. In addition to location, time of day, and length of time, several tactics must be considered. Here are three tactics to help you improve retention and get the most out of your study time.

  1. Read aloud. Reading aloud boosts memory retention. Our study time often involves passively reading, in which we skim through the domains without real engagement. With so much material to study, that technique makes sense. However, the result is a shallow understanding and low retention. When you read out loud, you naturally pay closer attention.  When you read silently, you only engage in visual and linguistic memory. However, vocalizing text adds auditory memory engagement – your ability to remember sounds, like your voice reading the text. This creates two distinct memory traces: one related to visual processing and the other to auditory processing. Reading aloud changes this by making reading more dynamic and participatory. Identify keywords, phrases, definitions, and steps in a process or elements and read them aloud. For example, read aloud the ISO 45001 elements or positions in an Incident Command Structure. the ISO 45001 elements or positions in an Incident Command Structure aloud If you use flashcards, read each aloud. Just remember not to turn that flashcard over too quickly. See our March 30, 2024, blog titled Don’t Flip that Flashcard Too Quick. Of course, this technique is not advisable if your study location is the library. Reading aloud has the added benefit of improving your public speaking skills by forcing you to improve your pronunciation.   
  1. Pick up pen and paper. Go old school and take notes, longhand. Several studies suggest that taking notes longhand increases retention versus typing them out, yet many workshop attendees and students generally find it easy and quicker to type notes. That makes sense because we can type much faster and take more notes by banging away on a keyboard. Pen and paper demand physical concentration, which takes more effort. But that physical effort fires up your brain in beneficial ways. Research has shown that students who take notes learn more and generate more ideas than those who pop open their laptops during class. The slowness of that effort nudges you to process information in a way that enhances learning and retention. 
  1. Put your highlighter away. Highlighting important passages is ineffective, but we like highlighting because it’s easy and aesthetically pleasing. It reduces several pages of information to a few terms or statements, seemingly expediting our study sessions. Trying to recall something from memory requires mental straining, which takes more effort and feels unpleasant while rereading a highlighted passage is easy and feels good. For example, it is better to write the outline (longhand, of course) of the material or domain from memory without looking at the guidebook. One is passive; the other is active. You will learn and retain information at a higher level by actively approaching your study time.

You likely have a full-time job and family commitments, which limit your time. Get the most from your study time by reading aloud, taking notes with pen and paper, and putting your highlighter away. These techniques promote deeper learning and memory enhancement and improve your chances of passing the exam.  

Do you need the latest exam prep material? Under the Exam Materials tab, you can find our exam prep guidebooks and practice tests for the ASP, CSP, and CHST.

For more questions about our exam materials or workshops, contact us.