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This learning strategy saved me in first year: Weekly review

By Kelli Cole, 2nd-year Life Sciences student

Something that I found astounding in first year was the amount of information into each class during a semester. In high school, teachers would give you days and even weeks to grasp a concept. Contrarily, in university, you are given 50 minutes. How in the world are you suppose to fully understand, apply, and remember all of this information throughout the entire semester?! Well, it took me until second semester to figure this out… and I haven’t looked back since.

The first step to managing what you learn in lectures is making sure to ask questions. If you are confused about what your professor said, ASK!  It is very important to get your questions answered right away, instead of allowing them to build up. By clarifying confusing concepts immediately, not will future lectures make a bit more sense, but it will also help you immensely when it comes to studying for exams. No question is a stupid question, so take advantage of your professor’s and T.A.’s office hours, you won’t regret it.

For the second step, here’s a scenario: It’s now Sunday night, and you’ve made sure to clarify all of the past week’s questions. You’re off to a great start! You understand and can apply what you have been taught this week… but it’s only week three, how are you possibly going to remember this until final exams?! This was precisely my problem in first year! Unfortunately, information seemed to be flowing out of my head just as quickly as it was flowing into my head.

To overcome this, I gave myself about an hour and a half every Sunday afternoon to review all concepts I had learned from the previous week. For example, by week five, I was reviewing week one, two, three, four, and five.  You are probably thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!  That must take forever!” But, since I had previously reviewed week one four times already, it only took minimal time since I knew it so well! As you can imagine, by exams, what I had learned throughout the semester was relatively fresh in my mind. During the exam study period, I could focus on studying instead of learning material for what could potentially be the first time.

Creating a weekly review routine ensures that you are keeping up with what you’ve learned throughout the semester and helps to relieve exam stress. While studying, important information is gradually transferred from short-term memory into long-term memory. The more the information is repeated or used, the more likely it is to eventually end up in long-term memory, or to be retained!  So when exams roll around, you will be so much more prepared, as it will be possible for you to recall information, instead of having to encode it for the first time!

The bottom line is, not being afraid to ask questions when you are struggling with a concept and making sure you review what you’ve learned weekly will most definitely decrease exam stress levels and improve your overall academic success!  For more information and helpful tips check out memory strategies brought to you by the Learning Strategies!

It’s never too late to start a review routine — try it out for the next few weekends, and see how much time it saves you during finals!

Photo courtesy of John Morgan under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.