Fortnightly Timetable Cycle: Week commencing 19th November, Week A
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Study Skills

It is never too late to learn more about learning!

"Study skills" often have a bad reputation as "Boring" or "Unnecessary because I know it all already". However, Sixth Form study often stretches students' previous skills and they find they need new ones. For example:

  • Do you find that you don't remember as much of your lesson content as your friends do?
  • Do you find that your notes are not as clear or as organised as those of your friends?
  • Do you find that you panic when exams are approaching?

These are common problems for Sixth Formers. Teachers may well expect that you are much more organised than you were in Year 11. They will almost certainly expect that you do more work. So how should you respond? Hopefully this page will direct you towards some sites that will help you; they will also give you some useful advice that will help you to become a more organised, confident and effective learner.

Becoming a more effective Learner

We like the advice on the following page as it details the kind of advice we would give you face- to- face: please click here

Positively mad Suggestions for Active Learning

The aim of our Positively Mad session was to get you to develop your learning skills to ensure you are well prepared for your exams and that you maximise your potential in the summer.  Clearly this session will have been most effective if you revisit this learning and apply it in your daily learning.  I have outlined the key elements covered so that you can think about it and apply the principles covered in your lessons and study time.

1. Mind Maps: How much can you remember about Marco Polo and Mohammed Ali?  Often students remember a lot.  Why?

Key Principles of the Mind Map were:

Central Picture ---> the image (e.g. of Marco Polo) as a focus

Bloom ---> expanding the key focus into a series of sub-points (the main branches of the Mind Map)

Flow Association ---> moving ideas on, "flowing" the detail (i.e. the sub-branches of the map)

Emphasis was on:

(i) Use of imagination to develop the structure of the map (and the picture and word associations)

(ii) Activity to help develop interest and attention

(iii) Use of colour for different branches to help re-call

The aim was to reduce a page of text by a minimum of 90% so you learn only the essential details. You then use your imagination to fill in the gaps.

2. Learning will not happen if you are not interested in what you are learning. You were reminded that you will not find all elements of your subjects interesting so it was up to you to make these interesting by employing learning activities that would create interest and learning.

3. You were shown that recall improves if you take into account the following:

(a) ‘Firsts'        

(b) ‘Lasts'   

so regular breaks would ensure more ‘firsts' and ‘lasts'.  

(c) 'Outstandings': things that stand out and don't necessarily fit in with the rest.  If using mnemonics (like "Naughty Elephants Squirt Water") this idea works particularly well.

(d) 'Repetitions': As we are all aware the more times something is repeated, the more it is likely to be remembered

(e) 'Interesting': Make things personally interesting to you (perhaps by use of pictures, tangents, plays on words)

(f) 'Associations': i.e. linking ideas together

Effective Mind-mapping will take these factors into account, but other learning approaches could also do this.

4. The Power of Breaks: An approaching break leads to an increase in attention (‘LASTS'). A break can refresh the mind. Then a new session begins with heightened attention (‘FIRSTS').

You were reminded to ‘spilt' or ‘chunk' learning sessions; a maximum of 15-20 minute segments was advised before a break.

The break would not be half an hour in front of a play station or TV or MSN, but a small Brain Gym activity.  These would test the brain in a different way and help ensure that left and right sides of the brain were activated going through the next revision session.

You may have experienced some examples such as:

(i) Right index finger on the nose. Left hand through the ‘hole' made by the right arm and to touch the right ear. Then swap, swap again ...... faster and faster

(ii) Rubbing the tummy with one hand and patting the head with the other. Then swap, swap again etc.

(iii) Two clenched fists, but one with the thumb facing skywards. Then swap. Thumb now tucked in. Thumb on the other hand facing skywards, then swap.

(iv) Standing left arm makes a chopping action.  The right makes a sawing action.  Then swap, swap again.

You should aim to use such activities to refresh yourself mid-way through a study session.

5Recall after learning will be improved if you give it 10 minutes to sink in, but then go over it again.  80% will be forgotten in 24 hours unless you review it again .... Just a 10 second review would be enough.  You should complete another review a week later, a month later, six months later.


Mind-maps were seen as effective if they employed the above principles, but they are not the only way of learning.  Tony Buzan was the originator of mind-mapping and you can watch him outline the process: click here

You can draw your own mind maps or use free-downloadable software at