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Study Advice : Important Rules & Concepts for Successful Study

After many years of helping students get off to the best start with their training programs, we've distilled this list of helpful advice and rules...

  1. Try and plan regular study periods in advance - and stick to them as rigidly as possible for the first few weeks. It can be helpful to put them up on a calendar so everyone else knows when you’ll be studying. It’s important to keep to this schedule as strictly as possible when you begin, as you have to re-build your study-habit. Most students haven’t studied in years, so go easy on yourself and don’t expect too much at the start. But DO be disciplined about getting on with it, or else you’ll never get into the habit of regular study.

  2. Do NOT rush any foundation elements – even if you find it easy, or it's tempting to do so! Use them to re-build your study habit while the training is simple for you. You may be surprised at the basic/background knowledge you pick up at this point.

  3. Aim to build your study hours gradually over the first couple of weeks/months (depending on the size of your program). i.e. Week 1-2 = 2-4hrs per week, Week 3-4 = 4-6hrs p.w., Week 5-6 = 6-8hrs p.w. etc. Allow yourself time to adjust to your new routine!

  4. A great secret is to try and finish each study session while you’re enjoying it and wanting to know more. Psychologically, this makes it easier to come back to the next session and ‘trains’ your mind to look forward to your study sessions.

  5. Study consistently… A little and often is much better than a big load once a week! Your brain is like a muscle – it needs regular exercise like the rest of your body - and doesn’t appreciate doing a marathon run once a fortnight with nothing in between!

  6. Set yourself short and longer term goals to work through your modules within a certain time-frame. Don’t be over-ambitious, but try and push yourself a little. You’ll find that simply by focusing on a timescale or date, you’ll be far more likely to achieve your goals in a shorter time. Set goals - even if you don’t know how long it will take at the start - you can always adjust them; but you MUST have them. Targets that are up on the wall in black-and-white in your study area are much harder to ignore than those in your head!

  7. Consider the REAL reasons for doing your study. Wanting to learn a new product or pass an exam to get a better job is often not enough motivation to buckle-down. You need to ask yourself some deep and searching questions and really dig deep to find out why you’re doing this. Keeping these reasons in plain view every time you study will massively increase your stamina for study.

  8. When you get stuck (It’ll happen!) - take a 10 minute break, have a cup of tea or a slice of toast to wake your stomach & mind up if necessary, and then try again. Re-cover the section you’ve been working on to make sure you didn’t miss something or ‘phase-out’ in the middle (This happens to us all!) If you still experience problems, leave it for 24 hrs to allow your brain to do its overnight housekeeping - you may have taken in as much as you can handle for the day. Then try again. If you still can’t get it then get online and Google for relevant forums and communities… Don’t go round in circles for days/weeks!

  9. Another great idea for when you get stuck is to type/write/just say out loud what you DO understand about the topic you’re covering. Then cover the assumptions you’re making and try to explain in as much detail as possible what you’re trying to grasp. You’ll often find that doing this reveals a glaring mistake that you hadn’t realised before and a little light will suddenly switch on… (Aaah… Got it!)

  10. Understand the power of teaching others to assist your own learning. The act of trying to teach a topic to someone else forces your mind to organise itself and can be incredibly revealing about your understanding of that area. Even if you just do it in your mind or out-loud to your bedroom/partner/cat! Study buddies are a great idea and massively enhance your study. They make it more social, more fun, more interesting, and give you a little competition. Get one!

  11. Keep a study diary. We use a PC based diary/journal called ‘iDailyDiary’ – it can be downloaded free from www.splinterware.com/products/idailydiary.htm. (It can also be installed on a USB stick, which is very handy; see their FAQ’s for info.) Maintain a log of when and what days you study so you can keep a tally of your effort. It’s very easy to fool yourself that you’re doing more study than you actually are!

  12. Keep a digital notepad (.txt) file on your desktop for 'scratch' notes, thoughts and questions. It's useful to have a single point of reference for everything that comes up while studying. Then you can 'brain-dump' and move on without worrying about forgetting something that you need to check on or research later. It's also a useful area for copying web-addresses etc of useful pages, forums and information. We use the free and excellent 'Programmers Notepad', which can be downloaded from www.pnotepad.org.

Research : Practice : Play


Remember and repeat this mantra: “Research, Practice & Play”...

To truly understand and take-in any area of study, you have to realise that being spoon-fed information and learning will always introduce limits on what you remember. You HAVE to get INVOLVED with the learning...

As you’re learning a new piece of information, make sure you research it externally as well. Get on to Google and look for posts, forums, articles and background on that area. This is a habit you need to instil so you build the depth of your knowledge as well as the breadth. It’s likely that thousands of people before you have covered the topic you’re learning about. Why not use their experience and observation to increase your understanding. This is an essential skill and something you have to get to grips with.

Once you’ve researched it, practice using the skill in any way you can. Practice is what locks something into your long-term memory.

Finally, ‘Play’ with the skill... Try things out... Mess around...

Learning doesn’t have to be boring – not by a long shot. It can be very creative, involving, fun and interesting. Only a lack of imagination will detract from it.

All these ideas work… but only if you actually USE them! GOOD LUCK!