Easy Cramming: How I Made Self-Studying a Hobby
Hiya, virtual world! Before you call me rude, I would like to briefly introduce myself and tell you why you should read this for the next 15 minutes or so. Then, you’ll see me subtly transition to cramming and studying, so stay tuned!
Hello, my name’s Tedi, and I’m a law student, civil servant, and transformation coach from the Philippines. At 23 years old, I have probably experienced enough stress to seem older than my age, but I still have the childlike sense of a teenager to ease me out of life’s realities. Being a “bibo” kid (Filipino term for active and highly-engaged) all my life, I was always used to eating more than I can chew. You can see me in eight (8) college organizations, holding two (2) executive positions in these organization at the same time, and running for student government a year after while surviving college. Despite how difficult it may be to gobble all my activities up, I loved the flavor of service, passion, fun, and the taste of success when I get to promote my advocacies to the world!
But, how did I survive college? How am I surviving my first year in law school, while working 2 jobs? My secret is…
I enjoy studying.
No, I am not a nerd, nor am I the smartest person in the room, but I love learning and growing with knowledge. This “hobby” of studying was enough for me to survive my academic requirements while carrying all these extra-curriculars with me. It’s become part of my personality to be this all-around and highly-engaged, and let me tell you why.
As early as nine years old, my mom taught me to study on my own. Unlike other kids in my class, my mom left me alone to read, review, and understand lessons on my own. I didn’t realize it then, but I owe all of this love of studying to my mom. Until today, I carry the same techniques and have refined them to make cramming easier, and learning more enjoyable. But, let me introduce you to nine techniques you can try yourselves!
- Scanning— Scanning is quickly searching through reading materials to locate specific terms or ideas you meant to look for. There’s less intention in reading the whole text, and more purposive in going straight to the point you intend to seek.
- Skimming — Skimming is quickly reading the material to familiarize yourself with the material on-its-face. The trick is to read fast enough to know what the material is discussing, before diving deeper into comprehension.
- SQ3R — SQ3R comprises 5 parts in order: survey, question, read, recite, and review. From start to end, you conform to a system of reading, inquiring, understanding, discussing, and reviewing in order to logically test your comprehension.
- Summarizing Short Articles — Summarizing short articles is self explanatory, but requires more comprehension to shorten the material without losing its meaning. This makes reviewing faster, saving time reading long texts while keeping the material’s points.
- Underlining, Highlighting, Annotating — Underlining, highlighting, and annotating are techniques that put together will definitely color your text with words, lines, and neon ink to help you remember key terms and phrases. This engages not only your visual learning, but also your tactile learning.
- Outlining — Outlining is orderly arranging points from the general idea to its supporting details. You use bullet points or alphanumeric characters to arrange your points in a system that suits the learner.
- Mapping — Mapping is organizing your materials, lessons, and key concepts by creating connections and relationships among concepts to visualize the general lesson/subject as a whole. Imagine mapping a family tree… of concepts.
- Comparison-Contrast Chart — Charts such as these refer two or more concepts with one another using their similarities or differences. The more you associate concepts with one another, the easier it will be to connect the dots and remember the whole and its parts better.
- Timelines — Timelines specially organize concepts in chronological order. Using dates and times, the learner can visually understand the the development of the concept and how it relates to the experiences of those different times.
Let’s get to cramming. Just kidding, but let me share with you my top 5 tips on how to study effectively and at a faster pace, while enjoying what you are learning. This can apply to any person at any age, but allow me to use my law school classes as an example.
#1 Skim first, then using your background knowledge on the topic, scan for key terms after. No matter the length of your material, I recommend skimming through its contents first before actively reading them. Refer to your syllabus, know what the purpose of your material is to the subject, then prepare to read quickly.
When you skim, you not only introduce your brain to the material, but you are also setting an expectation for yourself in terms of the length, format, wording, and concepts laid out before you. Setting these expectations will help you save time strategizing your studying technique, and understanding your lesson more efficiently.
#2 Underline, highlight and annotate during your active reading session. After skimming and understanding the purpose of your text, start your active reading session by engaging more than one part of your brain in learning. Engaging both your visual and tactile learning skills will help you remember your lessons according to what you remember reading, writing, drawing, and the like.
Personally, I cannot study without writing what I know or read. As long as I wrote it down, I will remember it, because my brain processed the information in a visual and tactile manner.
#3 Using the annotated and highlighted parts, create an outline or timeline of the material. Like piecing a story together, I use whatever I highlighted or noted in the text to create an order of events, or an order according to facts, issues and ruling. I avoid copy-pasting and do mini summaries of whatever I highlighted to increase my reading comprehension as well.
On a more personal note, this is the strategy that propelled my self-studying at 9 years old. My mom taught me to outline by using stars as bullet points, then later on transitioning to alphanumeric characters. This is what propelled me to appreciate order and a higher level of comprehension!
#4 Summarize your materials according to its purpose in your syllabus. You are not a law student if you have never made a digest! Whether required by a professor or not, digests are made to absorb a 50-page case into a mere 2–3 pages. More importantly, summarizing texts into digests according to the class helps you zero-in on concepts your class is looking for, instead of including too many concepts unrelated to the class.
In my case, I make digests using this format: Facts, Issue, Ruling, Key Concepts.
#5 Survey, question, read, recite and review with classmates. Make friends not only to survive law school, but to learn from and with each other. My friends and I study together by asking each other questions, clarifying our comprehension of the topic, reciting the cases to each other, and reviewing before exams.
In another book I read, the highest order of learning is said to be demonstrating or teaching what you know to others. In that way, you not only show comprehension, but confidence in what you know.
If you made it this far, then you are well on your way to studying better! But, if there’s one thing you should take away from all these lessons, it is that there is no one best way to learn. It took me years of practicing, refining, and getting comfortable with my study techniques in order to enjoy them the way I do now. More importantly, what keeps me excited to learn is understanding its purpose in my passions and career goals.
As such, despite the challenges and trade-offs I had to lose to reach law school, everything I’m learning so far is worth so much more than what I imagined. I hope you too, good readers, see the light in your hardships and explore what more your mind and memory can do for your lifelong learning!