Studying at home is not easy. In this article, the Center for Teaching an Learning (CTL) of the University of Vienna provides information about learning techniques that support you in studying independently, as well as about speed reading techniques. Try out the different methods and use those that suit you best. Do not forget: There is usually more than one way to reach a goal.
Use posters for studying
This easy but efficient technique is useful for subject areas that require you to memorise a lot of content (formulae, complex structures, vocabulary, etc.):
- Take a poster in an appropriate size.
- Write the content you have to learn on the poster as simplified, clearly and well structured as possible. Using mind maps, charts or illustrations can be helpful.
- Put up the poster in a place in your home that you frequent often (fridge, mirror, toilet). Pause for a moment every time you pass the poster, read it and repeat what you have read in your mind our out lout.
This method is used to reflect on the application of a theoretical principle in practice (formula, model, concept). It is often used in in everyday studying, but is rarely applied consciously as a learning technique:
- Explore application areas in which the theoretical principle is used. Do research, set up a forum for discussion on Moodle or ask your colleagues and teachers.
- Try to imagine the application in practical and concrete terms in your mind’s eye.
- Make drawings, sketches and diagrams of processes to support you.
- Try to explain the scenario to others and deduce the related principle from it. This last step serves to monitor your progress. It clearly shows whether the scenario is still unclear to you or whether you were able to apply the theoretical principle in practice.
The term “memory aid” refers to different techniques such as mnemonics, mnemonic rhymes, the method of loci, memory aids using acronyms or acrostics. The common characteristic of all these strategies is that they reduce a lot of content to less content using simple tricks that make it easier to memorise the content.
- First, make a list of information that you have to memorise: Write down the formula or the model, or list series of numbers.
- Consider how you can best “wrap up” the information you want to memorise and what strategy suits you best. The following links provide detailed and clear explanations about the different methods:
- Method of loci as well as some other techniques here (in German)
- Here you find an overview of different memory aids (in German)
Speed reading techniques
At an average reading speed, we read about 200 words per minute. This number is significantly higher in speed reading. Speed reading prevents your thoughts from wandering, as you have to stay concentrated. Due to the increased speed, the short-term memory is able to absorb more information in less time. But: Not all texts are alike (specialist language, complex syntax, foreign words, foreign languages): Therefore, you have to adapt the reading speed to each text.
- Select a text and try to get an overview of the contents. Read the table of contents as well as the headlines and try to get an overview of the structure of the text.
- Try to quickly detect relevant information such as highlighted text and visual information and distinguish it from less relevant information.
- Increase your visual span: At a distance of 30 cm from the reading material, untrained persons are able to perceive about 3-4 letters at a glance (visual span of about 1 cm). Do not read the individual words but rather try to concentrate on the centre of the current line and try to perceive it. With practice, you can widen your visual span to up to 12 cm.
- PhotoReading: Pose questions about the text and read the text quickly from the top right to the bottom left (2-3 seconds/page). This technique is only suitable to get an overview of the structure of the text or if you want to answer very detailed questions to be answered by the text.
Considering the following points might be helpful for this technique:
- Try not to let your mind wander: Keep in mind what you are doing and what your next step will be. If you would like to think about something, note it down but think about it later.
- Avoid typical reading technique mistakes: Do not use your finger to follow the text and do not move your head along the lines.