The unsung hero of effective study
Stuck on how to study? Know that highlighting your notes isn’t really working out, but don’t know what else to do? Need to learn a lot of content quickly, but no idea where to start? Look no further.
StudyTime is about to let you in on one of the most effective studying hacks of all time – the summary sheet.
An unsung hero, the summary sheet is one of the simplest ways to truly engage your brain with the material you’re learning.
You’ve heard us ramble on about studying efficiently for too long. You know that in order to study smart you have to use retrieval techniques, active recall, mind-maps and meaning-making, self-testing and self-explanation. You get it.
The problem is, you have no idea how to put all these great ideals into action. You need to study, and you want to do it right, but sometimes all this energy that goes into thinking about how to study can get exhausting.
In any case, it’s far easier to just fall back on the age-old method of writing your notes out. Anything is better than nothing – right?
Wrong. Summary sheets are the perfect way to organise information, and retain big quantities in an efficient and highly effective way.
Next time you reach for your guilty Not-So-Effective-But-Feels-Like-Study “study” method, refer back to this guide on how to make a summary sheet and smash your revision.
1. Download the Achievement Standard for your external from the NCEA website.
- Find your subject in the resources or EVEN BETTER, find our exclusive StudyTime subject checklists on our walkthrough guides page.
- Click on the Level, and find your standard. Download it, and print it out.
- Highlight key words from the Achievement Criteria.
- Turn the highlighted words into a checklist for things you need to know.
- Break this checklist into key themes or groups by category.
Exercise flexibility with these checklists – the different points of the checklist will vary according to subject, or even just to suit your studying style.
For Science or Maths, the checklist might be divided into groups by concepts.
For English, the checklists might be key ideas from the text, or language techniques. Find what works for you and stick to it.
2. For each theme, make a small mind-map.
- Identify the main concept or topic in the center of the page. For example, for English, the main concept might be one of the ideas or themes from your text.
- In the next layer out, structure sub topics according to your checklist. One of the sub-headings might be dedicated to symbolism. From this branch, you could include quotes or evidence from the text that incorporate symbolism. On another branch, you might have purposes and audiences, and the sub-branches from this one could be connected to the ones from symbolism. On a third branch, you could have examples of possible theses. And so on. Colour co-ordinate these to visually emphasise connections between branches (it’ll help with recall).
3. Develop your mind-maps into summary sheets.
- Once you have all of your information organised visually, you should be able to select the most important things to include on your summary sheets.
- Summary sheets should be condensed summaries of your information in ways that are easy to see visually, streamlined (as in no unnecessary information) and tailored to be readily understood and readable by you.
- Make it creative! Study sheets are meant to activate your visual logic to enhance recall, so use some fancy pens, draw some diagrams, highlight some titles.
The point of summary sheets is to offer you detailed summaries of key information.
Don’t try to squeeze everything you know or have learned onto them. Don’t put a whole essay on the sheet. You should have at MOST 3 summary sheets for each standard. Any more and you’re slipping into the trap of just re-writing all of your notes out – and this means you’re not thinking properly about selecting the most important information and consolidating it into chunks.
Remember these sheets are for you and you alone. If you need to, use jargon/analogies/triggers/slang/acronyms that you’ll understand to make the concepts more accessible and easy to remember.
Explain the concept aloud to yourself if you have trouble working out how to phrase it, and transcribe the most important bits from your explanation onto the sheet. Use pictures or diagrams to help you remember key words.
It might take you a few tries to get the perfect summary sheet, but once you have it, hold onto it. Colour coding and visual decorations are encouraged.
4. Test yourself.
Now that you’ve completed your study sheet, your only job is to learn the hell out of it.
Try to rewrite the sheet from memory. Once finished, compare this to the original summary sheet, and highlight/note down everything that you got wrong or missed. (This step is crucial – acknowledging what you did wrong helps you to avoid the mistake in future, and understand why you got it wrong helps to facilitate this process).
Repeat this back-and-forth until you make no mistakes from memory.
- Complete a past exam without using the summary sheet, and then look at what you did wrong. Do it again applying the information from the summary sheet. Repeat this process until the two aren’t that different.
- Write a list of questions that center on different aspects of the summary sheet. Cover your sheet and try to answer them until you can answer confidently without looking.
- Give the questions to someone else (mum, bro, becky) to test you on them, and answer using the summary sheet.
- Use your summary sheet as a cheat-sheet. By this I don’t actually mean real cheating, but for taking to your exam and looking over to increase your chances of immediate recall.
- Bring your summary sheet to the exam, and revise in the hours leading up to it by simply covering the sheet and testing yourself.
- In the first 5-10mins of the exam, on the planning page/resource sheet/the extra pages at the back of the booklet try to replicate the sheet from memory. This helps relieve anxiety, start your exam off with a win and decreases your mental “RAM” so you can devote more brain resources to writing and problem solving rather than memorising. Remember to cross out your notes at the end of the exam!
The reason we love summary sheets so much at StudyTime is because they pretty much serve as a metaphor for our entire approach towards learning. It is not the content of the summary sheet itself that will prepare you, it’s the process of making one where the real learning happens.
Making a summary sheet will deepen your understanding of the material, help determine key ideas, organise material into themes and hierarchies, activate visual parts of your brain, reduce the volume of content for faster and more efficient revision, encourage finding connections between ideas, concepts and problems, and finally, serve as a neat summary of everything you’ve learned which you can use for any other type of revision you please.
The point is: if you’re not making summary sheets, you’re missin out on a bangin study method. Still don’t buy it? Try it today and prove us wrong. Happy summarising!