A complete guide to keeping your reading skills alive for an A+ performance in Life!

“The whole world opened up to me when I learned to read” — Mary McCleod Bethune

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

We are bombarded with life’s everyday countless tasks & as a result feel burnt-out. Sometimes, taking a little step back and revising basics are the only things that seem missing. Revitalising reading skills in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle broaden the horizon of our brain which in turn assist in accomplishing A+ outcomes in life. In this article, we will discuss step by step, essential reading skills, along with life’s strategies required for keeping our reading spirit alive.

1- To read actively & avoid being a passive reader

In this overstimulating world, everyone suffers from some form of attention span problems. Finding interest in reading after high dopamine activities remains a big challenge. Refreshing our reading skills from time to time can protect us from these glitches.

SQ3R or SQR1-3 technique which was originally developed by an American education philosopher (Francis P. Robinson) suggests some important steps:

S= Survey

Q= Question

R1= Read

R2= Recite

R3= Review

This article modifies with some insights into the already known SQ3R technique from some highly successful candidates’ experiences.

Survey or skim (3–5 minutes) is the first step — Instead of diving into an in-depth reading. The aim is to avoid the enticement to read it all at once, and instead first go through individual chapters and grasp the headings, sub-headings, and other descriptions, such as flow charts, tables, figures, marginal information, pictures, and summary paragraphs.

Software: Microsoft word — Dr. SMA Logics

Extension to “Survey” technique: Take it into notes taking form using your computer or write them simply on a plain paper all headings and subheadings of your chapter.

Advantages of survey, skim & then writing down the outline of the chapter:

· This quick survey step which usually takes 3–5 minutes provides a structure, framework or an outline & the brain gets better equipped with the reading.

· This method also triggers the brain to think and to articulate the questions & prepares for the next phase of active reading.

· Writing or typing (headings & subheadings) provides a written record of an outline or framework for what will be presented, and will provide you with a list of topics you could use for later. This is particularly relevant to students, before their class lectures, during active memorising phase, while solving past papers and for smart organisation of time management skills that are required during stressful exam revision weeks or even a day before any exam.

Questions — to change headings & sub-headings into questions, and then explore for answers later. Generate other common questions for example what the topic is about? How will this topic help me? and so on…

Extension to “Question” technique: Remember, SQ (survey-question) techniques should be so efficiently embedded in you that you should be able to use these two skills consistently, swiftly, even subconsciously throughout your entire life. Whether you are reading a newspaper or a report or a newsletter or scrolling down a webpage, doing a book review, or even travelling and you are stuck in an airport or a restaurant or signing important documents. You should be able to skim, scan, jot it down and apply SQ techniques all the time.

R1 or reading actively — Your brain by now is already in an active reading mode by doing the above two steps (S & Q). This means you read in order to answer the questions that you yourself have generated previously and you are already engaging with the text.

Extension to “R1-Read” technique:

· At this stage use your favourite highlighter to high light only important information (not everything). For example: use green consistently for the definitions, orange for facts, yellow for the concepts or modify with other learning styles using your own creative imaginative input and preferences. Identify FACTS versus CONCEPTS.

· Remember at this stage you are reading in order to UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING and ‘every single topic’ and DON’T pile up things for later. In addition, incorporate subject specific skills to aid understanding.

· Identify hardest, easiest and in between topics. If you don’t understand from the given book then use a variety of resources like google scholar or other web resources like wiki, you tube videos, consult other revision books or check library, ask teacher or a friend, watch documentaries, etc.

· Generate notes at this stage. Also, design the most efficient way to memorise important information for example making flash cards, mind maps or an online quiz etc that suit the subject as well your learning style. Be honest about your weaknesses and the subject or topic that you struggle the most.

· Find what type of learner you are (visual, kinaesthetic, auditory or read-write) and this would assist you in understand things. Also, figure out if you are a night owl or an early bird, find what time you are the most productive? Try to be an early bird as this would make your life easier.

R2: The second “R” is denoted as “Retrieve.” The reader should try to recall or retrieve from the memory, anything that was studied in the same way as telling someone else the story. It is vital to use your own simple words & try not to copy the information when articulating & hypothesizing the study material. Try retrieving important points like main headings or sub-headings and recall answers to the questions generated by you. This step is particularly important to set the brain in memorising mode which later enhances the long-term memory which plays an important part in the learning process.

Extension to “R2-Retrieve” technique: At this stage modify and finalise the most efficient way for future revision like planning or updating your already designed material that you did in R1 phase that could be your flash cards, mind maps or an online quiz etc varying per subject as well your learning styles that are discussed previously.

R3: The final “R” is “Review.” After completing the chapter repeat or recall the points again and repeat the process on the second set of questions.

Extension to “R3-Review” technique:

· Review technique should be testing your knowledge using a variety of questions. For a college/school student, it could be your topic related textbook questions.

· Before examinations, solving past paper questions & thinking from an examiner perspective using MARCKS technique, practising and then rinsing out weak areas. Updating notes using exam’s marks scheme and replacing specific language required to perform well would elevate your level instantly. Learning not to repeat mistakes in exams or life to improve the outcome is taught by practising more often.

· Once you reach the end of the whole chapter, connect individual topics of that specific chapter to grasp an in-depth understanding of the whole big topic.

MARCKS (when checking paper marks scheme using tally charts — a game changing plan) — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxkjjU42h8s

M: Math error MATHS or silly mistakes

A: Application error especially science, DIFFICULT SCENARIO, applying struggle to a situation

R: Read and understand the question (key terms) example which ones are NOT true?

C: Communicate (How you have reworded your answer) use specific language (science)

K: Knowledge (process)

S: Statement example full marks question based on the marks of questions 4 (2 points)

2- If you want an ‘A+ in life’ behave like an ‘A+ human’

To get A+ grades or success in life, you need an outstanding A+ approach. Be attentive in the class, workplace, or any environment. Make sure you understand the tasks before embarking on to any… Being attentive is something no one can do for you. Make sure you get the best out of every learning environment by being more interactive.

A+ people are always a head of the normal crowd. For example, A+ students study their material, analyse the questions for the topic being taught in the class well before their lectures.

To get A+ outcomes, you need to connect all topics for each chapter and grab the finer concept. After basic knowledge, they critically evaluate things and invent and apply the concepts in real life situations. They connect all the topics from all the chapters to grab the ultimate bigger picture.

3- Memorising tips: facts versus concepts

Software: Videoscribe — Dr. SMA Logics

Active reading does most of the job & makes memorising task simpler. Memorising techniques depend on what type of learner you are? (visual, kinaesthetic, auditory, read-write). All the facts and some key words of concepts need to be memorised to pass the exam successfully. Object technique or mind palaces, flash cards, online quiz, notes, graphs, charts, discussions, mind maps, pneumonic, pasting somewhere you look more often or make some notes are some tips to make memorising fun & achievable.

4- Revision tips & techniques before any exam

Remember revision is rethinking or recalling something… Ideally by now you should have compiled all the subheadings or topics for each individual chapters, understood all your concepts, documented the best revision style like flash cards, mind maps or notes, and you should have solved all the textbooks as well as past exam questions and updated all your notes and errors or mistakes from the past papers.

Revision is the time when must never underestimate the impact of a healthy lifestyle (good food, exercise, and sleep), efficient time management or organisation skills which are discussed later.

A traffic light system is a smart method of classifying the study material. You could broadly categorise the study topics into three colours (green, amber & red) and prioritise accordingly. Green: topics to be revised first — they are very important, quick, and easy to accomplish. Amber: topics next in the list; important but time-consuming, Red: the lowest priority rare topics; complex and time consuming. You must also revise your solved past papers and recap your previous mistakes as well as the updated version of your revision notes.

To avoid being burned out, you could set cut-off limits for revision blocks like 30- 45 min and focus 100% then take short 15 min breaks (like eat a healthy snack or stretch).

Revision is also the time to sit under exam conditions and do the entire paper. Aim is to Improve your exam timings, familiarise with exam format or style and rehearsing how to cope with pressure and to train your nerves.

Deciding which subject to revise first or the “revision order” also matters. You could start a revision for the last paper first to keep your exam order consistent. For new unexpected or unknown topics, reverse your approach: that is choose a past paper question first, study and revise, do the question in time, mark it like an examiner, get feedback and improve all your mistakes and strengthen your weak areas.

5- Productivity after work or college

Change (clothing sets your mood). Take a short healthy break for example spend 20min on healthy snacks, check messages or watch a short TV programme. Then aim to adopt ‘task first’ and ‘relax later’ approach

Turn off your phones, hide them miles away, and then make a to do list (rank them priority wise — extremely important, easy short quick tasks first). Lists are such vital part of the productivity process as it would protect you against the dead-line pressures. Some people prefer revision timetable, choose what you find workable?

Once priority list is ready, do not procrastinate and just start doing it!

Also place sets your mood, sitting constantly at one place for example, a clean quiet place is not enough. Change it often from one house room to another, even do some tasks at a coffee shop or a library. Grab some good stationary as it gives motivation.

Brain attention span lasts for 30–45 min so study and focus 100% then take a very short 10 min break (a healthy snack or exercise). Set a cut-off point for example 7:00 PM and after that relax, do your bed night routine, and remember sleep is crucial (8–9 hours minimum) for the following day.

6- Consistency & time management:

Consistency is the main ingredient for success in life, and this logic is equally applicable in studies. Establishing consistency is often linked to things that are not related to the study material itself, but to important life-style related factors. These include time-management skills & evading procrastination, good sleep, emotional well being & staying motivated, healthy diet & exercise.

Time management

Time is never enough and we often feel overwhelmed by the amount of task or stuff to be done in life. “Time management” enables us how to prioritise the given task that yield the greatest result in the best available circumstances or time. Therefore, embedding time management strategies in life is vital!

Making use of “efficient prioritising systems” for example “traffic light system” during exams encourage brain to order the list of the given task. Similarly, “ABC Analysis” allows planning & time saving decision tactics. Also, it is important to say no to things that waste time, energy & efforts.

Sleep

When we don’t get enough sleep, we invite a collection of health problems in life. Sleep helps in memorisation which is one important aspect of learning & retaining information. Following natural sleep circadian rhythm is equally important as it correlates with our body hormones and well-being.

Emotional state

Our emotional state plays an integral role in our day-to-day decisions. Keeping life simple, choosing wise friends, avoiding clashes with the colleagues and keep telling yourself that ‘the sky is your limit” provide ultimate boost for the challenges ahead. Calmness and motivation help a lot in studies. It is widely seen that we make more errors when we are nervous, therefore keeping our nerves calm during exams is essential. A positive mindset is one of the absolute best exam revision tips that one could ever get.

Healthy diet and exercise

How Glycaemic Index of Food Effects Your Health and then studies — The choice of good food is also important. Avoiding foods that initially gives a high dose of energy, but later suddenly crash & makes a person hungrier need to be avoided. There is a big science behind food and therefore healthy options should be incorporated in life. Some foods even uplift our natural mood boost & stimulate happy hormones and reduce stress.

Exercise affects the brain and body at a much bigger level. It increases heart rate, which pumps oxygen rich blood to the brain & thereby enhances the performance of brain. It also assists the hormonal system of our body which indirectly affects our health by decreasing depression, improving memory, and stipulating a healthy environment required for the growth of our brain cells.

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