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Tips for effective study with cognitive psychology

10 January 2017

There’s no point wasting your valuable, often limited, time with ineffective study methods. Individuals absorb, process and retain knowledge in a number of ways, so being aware of how you study is important. Using a cognitive approach towards studying can really help maximise how efficient you are.

Once you’ve cleared space in your packed schedule to study, you need to make the most of it. The following tips relate to storing information effectively in your semantic memory—that is, the portion of long-term memory containing factual knowledge.

Break your study into segments

Studying a small amount of material at a time is a smart move. To do this, try grouping similar concepts or ideas together and then review the material more than once. This minimises the interference created from other information that you want to encode into memory. It also makes the information more distinctive. When you need to study multiple topics in the same study session, it’s best to study topics that are as different as possible, as this helps to avoid interference from related information.

Create a framework for related concepts

Outline the main topics you want to study and arrange them as a hierarchy, showing how specific ideas are related to broader ones. Keep it limited to as few words as possible—this will make it all easier to remember. Once your framework is complete, review to then help encode it into memory. Semantic memory doesn’t just store entries like a dictionary, they’re stored like an interconnected network. By having these ideas connected, thinking about one concept can help you remember related concepts.

Expand on the material you’re studying

Simply repeating what you’re studying isn’t that helpful. By putting it into your own words, it forces you to extract the meaning of the material, enabling you to apply the concept in practise while also understanding it more completely. The information you generate yourself is more likely to stick.

Create connections among concepts

The connections among related concepts that exist in your semantic memory are not created automatically—you need to work at it. Think about how concepts are related to create connections. Try to study the individual concepts and then pair or group them with related concepts.

Test your memory

Testing your memory can be just as important as the learning itself. The act of retrieving information from memory can affect how we remember the information later on. Doing it over and over quite often strengthens the memory.  Here are a number of steps to test your memory:

  • Study a small amount of information, focusing first on each concept
  • Understand how the concepts are connected to each other or your framework
  • Test yourself by writing down as much of the information as you can remember
  • Correct any mistakes you make on the memory test to avoid remembering the wrong information
  • Repeat these steps for superior study.

If you’ve been thinking about online postgraduate study, these cognitive psychology tips could help you absorb course content more efficiently and lead to effective study patterns.

Learn more about our online postgraduate courses including the information and knowledge management specialisation MBA and enquire today to start putting these tips to the test!