The Only Thing You Need to Know to Ace Tests

Hey there, do you have trouble with tests? Do you study by rereading your notes or textbook? Even if you don’t, it’s very likely that you use the same method every time you study right?

Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the way you’ve been studying is most likely being wasted. The good news, I have the solution right here, and I’m going to share it with you.

Hey there, while I HIGHLY recommend watching this particular video in full, here is a summary:

The Study Cycle is composed of 3 steps and is the most effective, efficient, and anti-boring method I know for studying. So before we begin going over the steps, I have a little image here, which we will be referencing.

 

The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Gretchen Wegner | Teacher | Teachers | Tutors | Academic Life Coach | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Academic Coaches | Tutors | Tutor | Study Skills | School Administrators | Parents | Parent | Student | StudentsWe start with the basket of knowledge and skills at the bottom of the image, this is what we need to learn, and we need to get this into your beautiful brain at the top. So step 1 is encoding the information from the basket into our brains. In this step, we are getting the information into our brains, whether we are teaching it to ourselves or it’s being taught to us.

Step 2 of The Study Cycle, which the majority of students skip, is practice retrieval. This is the process of getting the information out of our brains and assessing what we actually learned. By doing this, we get two very important pieces of information. The first is what we do know, what we actually did learn in step 1. The second is what we didn’t encode in step 1. What we didn’t learn, or encode, we put back into the basket of knowledge.

Then we have step 3. Step 3 is one of the least practiced steps, but just as important or more important than the other 2. Step 3 is to encode the information we assessed we didn’t learn in step 2 in a NEW way. The important thing is NOT just to try to re-encode it the same way you did in Step 1, but to encode the information in a new way.

My course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, for students, and The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically, for Educators, both are filled with a wide variety of tools to help students encode information in new ways. So check them out, and I look forward to hearing from you.

 

College Prep Podcast Episode 162 – Summer Programs, Study Guides, Improving Vocab, & More

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Q/A, Q&A, Q & A, Questions and Annswers, Summer Programs for college prep, Teachers, Incomplete Study Guides, Apps for Vocab Improvement, Singing to Music When Studying, What's Wrong with my college application?, University, Universities, You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers! Join us as we discuss the following questions:

Summer Programs for College Prep: We are looking at the Stanford University “High School Summer College” program for our son. The classes are interesting, and it looks like a good experience. My question is will this help him get into Stanford or other similar schools when he is a senior?

When Teachers Give Incomplete Study Guides: What do you do if your teacher doesn’t list some facts/ideas on the study guide but does put those questions on the test? How do you study?

Apps for Vocab Improvement: I’m wondering if you know of any apps or programs that would help a high school student develop a deeper understanding of words… I imagine through word study including roots, prefixes, and suffixes. I have some old=school tools but would like to give her something a little more user-friendly for working on at home. Ideas?

Singing to Music When Studying: I’ve heard you say that it’s ok to listen to music while studying, but what about if you are singing along with that music? Can you really concentrate and use your full brain if you are singing while doing your homework?

What’s Wrong With My College Application? My son is completing his 12th grade and has applied to several good universities. He did his 9th and 10th from a school in India and will graduate from high school in Texas. He scores A*s in all subjects. His current GPA is 4.1. He scored 800 in SAT Math and 760 in English. He plays guitar, is a black belt in Karate and knows multiple languages- English, French, German, Hindi. With all these qualifications he is still not getting selected by Universities. Why? What is missing for him? How can we supplement his existing applications in other universities? Can we appeal?

Click here to listen in as Gretchen Wegner and Megan Dorsey answer your questions!

Do You Get Bored When Studying? Try This!

Do you ever get bored using the same studying technique over and over again?

I have a client who, until recently, has used nothing but flashcards when preparing for all her tests. Because we’d developed a number of fun ways to use flashcards, she enjoyed this as a study technique. In her most recent session, however, she revealed that she’s finally getting bored with flashcards and wants some alternative methods for retrieving information. Watch this week’s video to see what solution we came up with for her.

Hey there, don’t have time to watch the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

I’ve been working hard this year with a client, who is a freshman in high school, to understand the Study Cycle, and to fill her toolbox of study techniques. And until recently she’s really only used flash cards, and this was fine for a while because we found a variety of different ways to use the flash cards. However, she came to me this week and said, I have a history exam I need to study for, and I don’t really feel like using flash cards.

The awesome thing is, that since she’s been working through the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, she had already chosen and started using a new study technique. In this case, she was using what I call a T-Chart. And she reported that studying felt fresh and new, and she was enjoying using this new technique more than the flash cards.

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach To Powerful Studying, Do You Get Bored When Studying? Try This!, Toolbox, Study Techniques, Study,

In this instance, the flash cards were like a screwdriver in her toolbox. Up until now, it’s worked fine to help her unscrew (dissect and learn) the materials she needed to study; however, now she needed to hammer something in (study for her history exam) and the T-Chart was just the hammer she needed.

So, I recommend that you spend some time thinking of different study techniques and start building your toolbox. And if you don’t feel like you have enough tools, then you can always check out The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Every Student, Teacher, And Parent Should Memorize This ASAP

Hey Y’all, I’ve got a very special video for you today. I strongly believe that every student, teacher, and parent out there should memorize what I call The Study Cycle. It needs to be a part of the daily language in classrooms and households. Normally I keep this video locked up in my paid online courses, but today I’m releasing it for you to watch for FREE!

Check out the video here. And then — if you’re a teacher, tutor, school administrator or academic coach, please considering joining me for my upcoming course The Art of Inspiring students to Study Strategically. We start on February 27th. You will learn everything you need to know to ensure that students have the tools they need to rock their learning with or without you!

Hey there, while I HIGHLY recommend watching this particular video in full, here is a summary:

The Study Cycle is composed of 3 steps and is the most effective, efficient, and anti-boring method I know for studying. So before we begin going over the steps, I have a little image here, which we will be referencing.

 

The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically | Gretchen Wegner | Teacher | Teachers | Tutors | Academic Life Coach | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Academic Coaches | Tutors | Tutor | Study Skills | School Administrators | Parents | Parent | Student | StudentsWe start with the basket of knowledge and skills at the bottom of the image, this is what we need to learn, and we need to get this into your beautiful brain at the top. So step 1 is encoding the information from the basket into our brains. In this step, we are getting the information into our brains, whether we are teaching it to ourselves or it’s being taught to us.

Step 2 of The Study Cycle, which the majority of students skip, is practice retrieval. This is the process of getting the information out of our brains and assessing what we actually learned. By doing this, we get two very important pieces of information. The first is what we do know, what we actually did learn in step 1. The second is what we didn’t encode in step 1. What we didn’t learn, or encode, we put back into the basket of knowledge.

Then we have step 3. Step 3 is one of the least practiced steps, but just as important or more important than the other 2. Step 3 is to encode the information we assessed we didn’t learn in step 2 in a NEW way. The important thing is NOT just to try to re-encode it the same way you did in Step 1, but to encode the information in a new way.

My course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, for students, and The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically, for Educators, both are filled with a wide variety of tools to help students encode information in new ways. So check them out, and I look forward to hearing from you.

A Trick for Using Lecture Notes to Study for Tests

Are you good at taking detailed notes during lectures, but then struggle to know what to DO with those notes later on? In a different but related question, are your test grades disappointingly low, given the amount of time you study?

Often the way we use our notes (both inside and outside of class) directly affects how well we are able to perform on tests. In this video I give a few ideas about how to study for upcoming tests by “honing” your lecture notes. Tune in to get the details.

If you’re in too much of a hurry to watch this 3 min video, I get it! Here’s a quick summary: 

My Client’s Problem: I just got a text message from a college freshman who is really struggling. It’s mid-semester and he’s realized none of his old high school strategies are going to work for college. He’s getting really low grades on tests, and needs to change that.

Our Solution: It was clear that he needed to learn how to hone his notes. I had him work through the note taking part of my online course The Anti-Boring Approach, and then taught him a couple of specific skills related to his Psychology classes: (1) Summarize all the terms, definitions, and examples from his notes into a chart, and (2) create a fake textbook by looking through all the notes, think about what the major headings might be if he were a textbook writer, as well as what diagrams or bullet points might help bring all his notes together. The main idea is to rewrite your notes, to hone them, so they take much less space and require you to think actively about the information, so that you’re turning it into something that makes sense to YOUR brain, not just your teacher’s brain.

This tip is just one little piece of my step-by-step system for raising your grades with less stress. Click here to find out more about the whole system.

The Coolest Memorization Tool You’ve Never Heard of Until Now

What if you’ve got a bunch of stuff to memorize for your next test, but no time or energy to make flashcards or set up a study group?

Enter a cool study tool (used by students all over Japan, evidently!) called a Check Set!

I just ordered myself one for a client who needs some new approaches to memorization, and I got myself an extra! So check out the video below to enjoy my demo for how to use this cool memorization tool that you’ve never heard of (until now!).

For those who prefer reading to watching, here are some highlights from the video:

What is a Check Set & How Do You Use It??

“I’m so excited today to show you this check set that came in the mail! It’s a way that many Japanese students study.”

Check Set | Memorization Set | Memorization Tool | Study Tool | Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach

This image is an Amazon Affiliate link to the product.

“A memorization set, sometimes called a check set, are a great way to turn what can sometimes be a kind of boring learning tool like standard worksheets, into what I like to call a quizzable study tool.”

You highlight the answer, key phrase, or term you want to study with one of the two markers. You take the opposite color piece of plastic and hold it over it and now you can’t see it. So you can quiz yourself, slide down the plastic piece to check your answer, and continue on quizzing yourself using old tests, quizzes, and homework.

“So with the final exams coming up you all might want to order these check sets because for old tests and quizzes and homework it can be a great way to quiz yourself.”

Another reason many students feel anxious around tests is that they don’t feel confident about their studying. Along with today’s tip, I’ve got a step-by-step system for studying that makes the entire process super simple and reduces test-taking freak out. I promise!

Easy Tips for Prepping for Finals Over the Holidays

Gretchen Wegner | Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Studying Tips | College | Finals | Holidays | Notes | Testing | Study Tools

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, as are the winter holidays.

If you get started studying for finals now (or over the winter holidays, if your finals aren’t until the end of January), you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later — plus, you’ll learn the information better! Today Gretchen shares:

  • How to put in more effort to studying without feeling like you’re working too hard
  • The importance of testing yourself using “spaced retrieval”, and a few simple ways to do this over the holidays
  • How to get yourself organized so you don’t waste time later finding important study tools
  • A crucial tip for how to use your notes so that you’re actually learning (rather than just faking it)
  • and more!

For more strategies about getting prepped for finals, check out Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

Tune into the podcast by clicking here.

Evernote: A Note Taking Tool That Will Revolutionize Your Academic Life

screen-shot-2016-08-24-at-5-04-06-pmDo you have a good way to organize your your research — both the digital and nondigital variety — as well as other aspects of being a student?

Evernote is a surprisingly robust note taking tool, which we learn how to use under the guidance of guest expert Darren Layne.

In this fun discussions, they discuss:

  • What Evernote is and how to use it
  • How to use it for the first time when you feel intimidated
  • Different possibilities for how to organize Evernote
  • Additional plug-ins to use with Evernote
  • Additional free research resources, including Zotero, WorldCat, and Archive.org.

Darren Layne studied history at UC Berkeley (BA), Scottish History at University of Edinburgh (MSc), and Scottish History at University of St Andrews (PhD). He is passionate about expanding access to historical materials through the creation and curation of a custom-built prosopographical database of persons connected to the final rising. He also blends traditional historical approaches with Digital Humanities and critical data awareness. Darren is pro-interdisciplinary collaboration, hugely pro-technology, pro-Green Open Access, anti-historical elitism and anti-intellectual snobbery. To find out more about Darren, visit www.jdb1745.net, check him out on twitter at @JDB1745, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jdb1745.

 

Take Notes That Make You Smile

Let’s play a quick word association game! When I say “note taking,” what’s the first thing you think of? I just *bet* that the word you thought of is more likely to make you frown than smile. But note taking doesn’t have to be that way!

Check out these cool notes that my friend Jo took at a conference she attended recently. I bet you’ll smile, too.

Hey there, while I highly recommend watching the video to get the full effect, here’s a short summary for you:

My friend Jo and I were at a conference and I noticed that she has some of the most amazing notes I’ve seen in a long time. So here are some of those tips.

  • Start with a large title at the top, so you know what that page of notes is about.
  • Next up, you can split a page up into sections. For example, you could draw a line down the middle, with the notes on the right, tips and tricks on the right, or other relevant information, perhaps the location of information you need.
  • Then we have the use of visual imaging. Basically, make small doodles along with your notes that help you visualize what the notes are about.
  • Try and use colors, as these can make notes more fun, and they help bring attention to the notes.
  • You can also try and group notes that are similar into chunks so that you can more easily find and take action on those notes.

Are you thinking, “That’s cool and all, Gretchen, but I need step-by-step support to figure out how to take decent notes?”
Then I recommend checking this out: In my typical anti-boring fashion, I’ll walk you through the two steps to note-taking that will transform your ability to capture the key points of a lecture or book, and four simple ingredients that you can apply to any note-taking method to make it more effective.

A Silly Way to Memorize Math Formulas

As midterms approach, that one math test is approaching. Yes, the one that has seven formulas to go with it. How are you ever going to remember all of the formulas without mixing them up?

Here’s a recommendation I made to a student regarding a silly, quick way to memorize math formulas! Check it out and let me know if there is a clever trick that works for you!

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back with this short summary:

While many teachers nowadays allow students to have little flashcards or cheat sheets with their math formulas on them, there are still plenty that don’t. So in the case that you need to memorize your math formulas, I recommend finding some silly anti-boring methods for how to get these formulas into your brain. My client Sam and I were doing just this today. He needed to memorize the formula for compound interest which is A=P(1+r/n)nt. Now our brains work very well with narrative and imagery so as I was looking at this formula I came up with a story.

First I noticed that A=P made me think of “ape” so that’s the start of our story. Next, the parenthesis reminds me of a couple of bananas. So the story goes, “Once upon a time there was an A=P, and that ape really wanted some bananas (). So he started by picking 1 banana, but something scared him so he ran off (+r/n), so he did not (nt) get any more bananas.” After we came up with this little story for remembering the formula, I quizzed Sam on the formula verbally and in writing, so we were using all the study senses, and he got it down pat. Afterward, I recommend to his family, that they spend some time coming up with stories for the other formulas he needed to study.

I hope that this tip helped you, and if you have a silly method for memorizing math formulas let me know down in the comments. And if you want more tips on how to study in silly anti-boring ways please consider checking out my course.

An Easy and Fun Way to Memorize Anything

It’s officially fall! As the temperature drops, the semester is just heating up. Students are starting to sweat through harder tests and more complex assignments. Is this true for you?

Recently, a client who has difficulty with short term memory was assigned one day to memorize the preamble of the constitution. For a young man with a learning difference, this was a Herculean task!

We came up with a fun approach that might be helpful to the rest of you, so I wanted to pass it on.

Take a look at this quick 2-minute video explanation. Then, use the comments section below to tell me whether you think this might work for you. Are there other memorization tricks that rock your world?

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a short summary:

So as I said, I was working with a young man who needed to memorize the preamble of the Constitution, and this can be used by anyone who is struggling to memorize material. The first thing I had him do was look at the preamble and take note of how many parts there were to the sentence or material. In the case of the preamble, there were 8 sections that he noted. Next, we went part by part and drew a picture to represent each part. The first picture I drew was 3 stick people which represented “We the people”, and every time I held this up I made him say “We the people”. The second image was two wedding rings to represent “in order to form a more perfect union”. As before, I start by showing the first image, then the second and made him repeat them both. From there we kept going, doing an image, practice all images in order a few times, and then we’d move to the next image.

By the end of it, he hadn’t quite memorized the whole thing; however, he could do it with the pictures. So I had him practice it some more on his own, and the next day, when I texted him to check up, he had it memorized! The key here is breaking down something large into smaller more manageable pieces and then using images to help create connections in our brain.

Did this trick help you? Want more awesome tips and tricks like this one? Please consider checking out my course.

How Not to Make Stupid Decisions in College, Part 1

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Have you ever found yourself going into a new experience worrying that you’ll  totally mess it up?

For better or worse, fear of failure is one of the most common human anxieties. So, it’s no surprise that recent high school grads might worry that they’ll make stupid mistakes in college.

I’ve recently spent hours on the phone with a young woman who’s off to a liberal arts college in the midwest. Her frantic questions to me included:

What courses should I take first semester?

Do I want an advisor in my major, or outside of it?

Do I want to live in the same dorm with kids in my freshman seminar, or not?

Will I screw it all up if I make bad choices early on?

The common theme of all her questions was, “Will I screw it all up if I make bad choices early on?” And my answer to her is: no, you’ll be fine. As long as you pay attention to these 3 tips  to protect yourself from some typical freshmen woes.

Check out this video, and I’ll explain more about what I mean.

P.S. Now that you’ve watched the video, I need to add one thing: it’s actually quite healthy  to make a certain amount of mistakes in college…and in life! Some of the most wonderful experiences in my life (and my best ideas for my business) resulted from making a mistake first. But more about that later…

Was this helpful? Please forward it to others. Please feel free to comment below! If you’re a freshman-to-be, how are you feeling about college? If you’ve already been through college, how well did YOU know yourself when you first stepped foot on campus?

3 Reasons Why Coaching Kids on Skype is as Good (or Better) Than Meeting In-Person

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t trade live, in-person interactions for anything!

So I was surprised when, after my first three coaching sessions on Skype, I realized there are some coaching tasks that work BETTER virtually than in person.

1. I get to be IN the kid’s study space…without ever leaving my home! Take my recent Skype client, Roxie.  The computer in her house is in a room with a couch, which Roxie playfully calls her “couch of learning” (see it in the background, there?).  Seeing a kid’s study space helps me better envision how to support her in being an effective learner.  Plus, as we are discussing better study habits, the client is sitting in the room where she does her studying… reinforcing these habits in the exact location that she will need them. My own mini version of place-based learning!

2. The student and I can literally be “on the same page.” When we meet in person, the student and I have a white board that helps us be visually “on the same page.” When we meet virtually, I use a Google Spreadsheet as our visual space. When we meet in person, the white board gets erased at the end of the session; however, when we meet virtually, the Google Spreadsheet saves all our work. Both the student and I (and their parents!) have a running track record of the work we’ve done.  See the pictures below for some examples of how I use the spreadsheet.

3. Virtual coaching forces me to be a more active coach. In order to keep the student engaged for the full hour of the session, I have to think of more activities for my client to do. Every five minutes I’m asking my client to do something new; when we’re in person, there’s a lot more gabbing and a lot less doing (although I imagine this will change; skyping is helping me learn new habits that I can transfer to the in-person coaching session).

Here are some examples of what Roxie and did in our last session:

We always begin our session with a “show and tell.” Here Roxie is proudly showing off her entire research paper organized into paragraphs on rings!! Evidently she kept on telling her mom, “I haven’t lost a single card!” Roxie struggles with organization, so this is a huge feat!

We’ve been working on study methods that are more fun. Last week I asked Roxie to draw pictures for all her science key terms. The above picture describes the wet environment in which most fungi thrive (see the raindrops inside the house? See my big grin as I listen to her explain the drawing?).

Google Spreadsheets now includes a drawing tool. I love asking kids to draw pictures and then guess why they are relevant. To that end, I asked Roxie to use her drawing tool to create an eye, ear, hand, and lips. We then discussed how each “sense” is a study technique, and I asked her to label each of her drawings. Finally, we applied these four techniques to planning for an upcoming geography test:

First, I had Roxie fill out the yellow column by identifying different tasks her teacher expected her to do. Although we didn’t have time to fill out the whole chart, we at least brainstormed some possible study techniques for how she might remember the various resources that the rainforest provides. By the time we finished, she was surprised that there were so many interesting options for how to prepare for the test.

 

At some point in each session, I have kids insert data into a graph so that they can watch their grades improve as their habits become ingrained. Here Roxie boosted her grades by a) using a homework folder to ensure she always turns her work in, b) ensuring she does her homework at a consistent time each day, c) packing her backpack the night before so she doesn’t forget anything important, and d) making sure her locker stays clean. As a result, check out these upward trending lines:

Roxie and I live on opposite sides of the country. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have expected that coaching from afar could be as effective and satisfying as it is.

If the upward trending lines above aren’t proof enough that virtual coaching is effective, here’s another story: at the end of yesterday’s session, we’d covered all the info I’d intended in five sessions. I asked Roxie to chat with her mom about next steps.

The email I received the next day reported the following: Roxie loves the study tips and wants one full more session to make sure her skills are rock solid. Then she wants several more shorter check-ins, to make sure she’s following through with all her great new habits. What a smart idea!

A final thing I love about Skype: virtual sessions can only work with clients who really want to work with me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be motivated to stay engaged with a computer screen for a full hour. What a pleasure it is, for me to work with clients who are so dedicated to their own growth. At the ripe ol’ age of thirteen. Go Roxie! (Which, by the way, is not her real name.)