Study Tips from Eight International Competitors
Greetings from DECA’s International Career Development Conference! If you are not aware, DECA is a student marketing association with 185,000 members in eight different countries. My husband and his co-worker (Brian and “Ms. D”) are advisers of their school’s DECA chapter. Brian and Ms. D have worked hard over the last few years to grow their program and coach their students.
This year, they have eight students qualifying to compete in DECA’s international competition! I am tagging along as a chaperone.
As I always say, I believe it is imperative for students to learn employability and entrepreneurial skills, which is exactly what DECA provides for students. However, today, I want to share study tips from our DECA competitors. I have had a wonderful time getting to know these eight students over the past few days and thought it might be interesting to get their input for today’s article. They did NOT let me down!
I asked them to share any tips or strategies that have made schoolwork easier for them. “Tell me the first thing that comes to your mind,” I said.
Jessie immediately blurted out, “I know this sounds stupid, but I tape my notes to the shower door and I study in the shower.” That is actually quite brilliant! The brain works most efficiently when emotions are calm and relaxed and very few places are more relaxing than the shower.
Jessie also added a couple of other tips: To prepare for tests, she asks her parents or friends to quiz her. She also creates acronyms for anything she needs to memorize. “I use silly words and the names of people I know,” she explained.
Megan swears by notecards for vocabulary tests. She writes the word on one side and the definition on the other, then quizzes herself. (By the way, Megan is on her way to one of the most elite schools of fashion and merchandizing in New York this fall!)
“When teachers give a study guide with all of the questions we need to know,” Jordan responded, “I go through and write out the answers. That works better for me than just thinking about the answers.”
Jen described her process for tackling big papers and projects. “I segment projects and schedule when I will do specific parts. For a paper, I give myself a deadline for completing the outline, the introduction, writing the rough draft, and things like that. The schedule really helps a lot!” Several other students standing around her, responded, “Oh, that’s a good idea! I should do that.”
Jen also believes in the power of verbalization! When she reads a section of a textbook or an article, she explains it back to someone. “It really helps to think about it again, in your own words. The verbalization is really good.”
Will is also a fan of “using your own words.” Specifically, he uses this strategy to create his own captions for photos and visuals in texts. “If I can explain them in my own words, then I know I’ve understood what they represent,” he explained.
When I turned towards Garrett, the rest of the students commented that Garrett is a genius. His secret, however, is simplicity! “I always try to break things down and think about how I might explain stuff to a five year-old,” he said. “If I can explain it to a five year-old, then I know I really understand it!”
Julia uses visualization and connections. “When I have to memorize something,” she described, “I think of the first thing I visualize, and then I find a way to relate the concept to that item.”
“I find something to relate information to.” answered Tyler. “For example, when I study chemistry, I think of the TV show, ‘Myth Busters’. I can tie all of the terms and concepts in chemistry to something I’ve seen on Myth Busters or, something they MIGHT do on the show.” Another example Tyler shared is a video game called, “World of Warcraft,” which is about a micro economy; he tied all of the terms and concepts he learned in his economics class to this video game.
The Genius Behind Their Suggestions
Jessie didn’t realize there is actually a reason why studying in the shower works for her; she just knew that it did. Likewise, everyone else in the group shared things that work for them, but they may not know exactly WHY they work.
Jessie, Megan, and Jordan’s tips all revolve around answering questions: Jessie has people quiz her, Megan quizzes herself with notecards, and Jordan responds to questions on study guides. The brain shifts into a higher learning gear and works much more efficiently when it is answer questions, versus rehearsing information.
It is impossible to eat a full steak in one bite. Instead, it must be cut into small, bite-size pieces. Likewise, Jen has learned that the only way to tackle a big project is to break it down into small parts. The brain does best working with “small chunks.”
Jen, Will, and Garrett utilize variations of “verbalization” to help them study. Jen and Will already understand that repeating things in their own words helps them better understand and remember information. They may not realize that they are actually answering *silent questions* like, “What did I just read?” or “What is this visual about?” when they transfer information in their own words.
Garrett’s process of distilling information down to its simplest form engages him in one of the highest levels of learning. I once heard a successful entrepreneur say, “The sign of a true genius is when someone can explain a complex concept at an eighth-grade level.” Explaining things to a five year-old puts Garrett way ahead of the game!
Julia and Tyler create connections between the new information they are learning and something they already understand. This process of making connections is the very essence of learning and is supported by the physiology of the brain; as our brains learn new information, brain cells forge new connections amongst each other. Making connections is one of the most powerful learning strategies! (Note: answering questions and verbalizing information are both forms of making connections.)
Many students already use good strategies, but they often do not know why they work or that they can take them to another level. This was a great topic of conversation for all of us and would be good to bring up with any student or group of students; I know I learned several new ideas from these students and they obviously learned from each other!
I wish them all the best of luck as they wrap up their competitions today and appreciate their contributions to this article!