Processing a lot of data may be challenging. Sometimes students are so overwhelmed with information, that they feel like their heads are going to explode. Happened to you too the day before exam, hah? Well, here are several very simple, yet effective, ways to improve your information processing.
1.Monitor your thinking processes
Learn to monitor your thoughts and pay attention to what is going on in your head when you are trying to focus on something. For example, you are doing your homework, say, reading an article. Are you really into it? Or are you thinking about what you will cook for dinner while staring blindly at the page? “Police” your thoughts, don’t just let them flow in random direction when you process new information.
2. Avoid confusion
Do not try to study things that you may confuse with each other at the same time. For example, you need to read two biographies for your history class and write an essay for your foreign language class. . Start with a biography, then write an essay and only afterwards read another biography. This will make it easier for you to avoid confusion in facts/ dates of two biographies.
3. Study with a friend
Discuss with your friend (ideally classmate) what you have learnt. Explain your understanding of the topic and discuss the challenges you have faced. Listen to his/her ideas. Do not be afraid to look silly in the eyes of your friend and ask questions if anything is unclear. Sometimes your classmate may explain you the topic in more understandable manner than your professor does. Study groups are also a good idea.
4. Keep it simple
If all those articles from peer-reviewed journals you have to read make very little sense to you, just put them aside for a moment. Go to some basic sources. There is no shame in reading Wikipedia article in simple English, some blog or “Economics for Dummies”. You really should not start reading “A positive theory of monetary policy in a natural-rate model” if you are not quite sure what “monetary policy” means.
5. Use an effective note-taking system
There are several note-taking systems, which may help you to structure your notes effectively. One of most effective systems is the Cornell Note-taking System. For that, you need to divide your notes into three parts: note taking area, cue column and summaries.
Another good idea for note-taking is mapping. Here ideas are connected with lines forming a tree structure. Start your mind map from a central point. Use some key word to define your topic/goal. Then draw branches to identify other ideas related to the focal point. Use different colors for visual stimulation. Your map may help your to gain a holistic picture of your topic.
6. Make the list of key words
Each course has some basic lexicon, key words or words combination that you see in each topic. For example, for financial law course that may be “transfer of financial risk“, “regulation”, “collateral”, “raising capital”, “risk mitigation techniques”, “cross-jurisdictional problems” etc.
Try to limit your list to 10-15 words: do not include every new term you learnt. Having such a list at hand, you will find it easier to distinguish between most important concepts in your course and secondary ones. It may also help you establish links between different topics.
7. Compare and distinguish
When you come across a new concept that resembles you something you learnt before, take a moment to compare them. What similar characteristics do they have? What may help you to distinguish them? You may make a table to summarize common/different features.