Study Skills

To be an effective test taker, you should have a complete understanding of the format and content of the exam.  You should know how and on what you will be tested. Ask your teacher the following questions if they haven’t been answered already, and these questions should guide you in your test preparation.
   · What is the format of the exam?
   · How much is each item worth?
   · How do you define short answer and/or essay?
   · What material will be covered?
   · How do you recommend preparing for the exam?

Self Testing

Self testing is necessary to check understanding, combine knowledge, synthesize information, and identify whether additional studying is needed.
As you are reading your textbook and/or notes, imagine that you are teaching the course.  What questions or terms would you ask on the exam? Write each of these questions or terms on the front of an index card. On the back of the index card, answer the question asked or define the term in your own words.  Use a separate index card for each question or term. Shuffle the index cards and go through them one at a time attempting to answer the questions. If you can answer the question, put the card to the side. If you cannot answer the question, put the card back in the deck to review again. Continue this process until you know all of the cards.
Take your cards with you wherever you go, and take advantage of small amounts of time. Review them while you are waiting in line, riding the bus, etc. If you think you know an answer but cannot put it into your own words, you probably do not know it well enough. Recite your answers out loud. That is the best way to be sure you know the material and will be able to recall it at test time.  Study index cards with a friend. You can share ideas and help each other understand concepts.

Space Your Studying

What does that mean? If you are going to study something two times (or more), try to let as much time pass as possible between the first and second time you study.
For example, don't read your textbook chapter and then review it on the same day. Study it and then review it on a different day, and allow as much time to pass between the two study sessions as possible. Better yet, spread your studying across numerous days. You don't necessarily have to study more, you just have to distribute your study time differently. When you sit down to study, mix up your topics--instead of studying one topic per day, study every topic a little bit every day.

* Embrace Difficulties

Short term impediments that make for stronger learning have come to be called desirable difficulties, a term coined by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork. The process of strengthening the long term memory is called consolidation. Consolidation and transition of learning to long-term storage occurs over a period of time. An apt analogy for how the brain consolidates new learning is the experience of composing an essay. Let’s say you are studying point processes, a class of stochastic processes. First time around you might not be able to appreciate all the salient points of the text. You start out feeling disorganized and the most important aspects are not salient. Consolidation and retrieval helps solidify these learning’s. If you are practicing over and over again in some rapid-fire fashion, you are leaning on short term memory and very little mental effort is needed. There is an instant improvement, but the improvement is not robust enough to sustain. But if you practice by spacing and interleaving, the learning is much deeper and you will retrieve far easily in the future.

Durable robust learning means we do two things – First, as we recode and consolidate new material from short term memory into long term memory, we must anchor there securely. Second, we must associate it with a diverse set of cues that will make us adept at recalling the material later. Having effective retrieval clues is essential to learning and that is where tools like mindmaps help a lot. The reason we don’t remember stuff is that we don’t practice and apply it. If you are in to building say math/stat models, it is essential to at least simulate some data set, build a toy model so that practice gets some kind of anchorage for retrieval. Without this, any reading of a model will stay in your working memory for some time and then vanish. Knowledge, learning and skills that are vivid, hold significance, and those that are practiced periodically stay with us. Our retrieval capacity is limited and is determined by the context, by recent use, and the number and vividness of the cues that you have linked to the knowledge and can call on to help it bring it forth.

Generation: Answer before you have an answer.

When you try to give an answer before it's given to you, you're generating. "By wading into the unknown first and puzzling through it, you are far more likely to learn and remember the solution than if somebody first sat down to teach it to you," the authors write. In an academic setting, you could work finding your own answers before class starts.
Read more:

Deliberate practice

Deliberate practice is different from work, play and simple repetition of a task. When you choose to practice deliberately, improving your performance over time is your goal and motivation. If you want to gain skills rapidly or approach expert-level status at something, you must understand the importance of deliberate practice.
From K. Anders Ericsson, here are the four essential components of deliberate practice.

1. You must be motivated to attend to the task and exert effort to improve your performance.

2.  What you are doing should take into account your pre-existing knowledge so that the assignment can be correctly understood after a brief period of instruction.

3.  You should receive immediate informative feedback and knowledge of results of your performance.

4.  You should repeatedly perform the same or similar tasks.

It’s important to note that without adequate feedback about your performance during practice, efficient learning is impossible and improvement is minimal.
Simple practice isn’t enough to rapidly gain skills.

Mere repetition of an activity won’t lead to improved performance.

Your practice must be: intentional, aimed at improving performance, designed for your current skill level, combined with immediate feedback and repetitious.

What Deliberate Practice Means for You

1.    Natural ability is no excuse.
What’s cool is that even limits of brainpower can be overcome with deliberate practice.  

2.    How you practice matters most.
To benefit from practice and reach your potential, you have to constantly challenge yourself. This means understanding your weaknesses and inventing specific tasks in your practice to address those deficiencies.

3.    How long you persevere determines your limits.
Becoming an expert is a marathon, not a sprint.

4.    Motivation becomes the real constraint on expertise.
In order to practice with intention for long enough to become an expert or gain useful skills, you have to find your motivation.