Engage your brain

It used to be thought that people have distinct learning styles, but in recent years it has been suggested that a combination of various approaches is beneficial for everyone. What is essential is that you actively engage with content. We’ve all been wowed by a fact in the past, only to forget it moments later – this is because your brain hasn’t digested the information correctly, so it hasn’t been filed away in your memory.

Here are some tried, tested and truly effective techniques that can help you not only retain information, but also put it to good use.

1. Make notes when listening to lectures. The physical process of taking notes reinforces the information that your brain is taking in. You can refer to your notes later when using other study techniques – such as creating mind maps or condensing information into flash cards for revision.

2. Don’t just sit and watch a video – stop and start it, to digest small bits of information, and make sure you try out the calculations you see on screen for yourself. Write out answers to questions – this helps your brain condense information into useful summaries.

3. Answer every question. Don’t be disheartened if you come to a question in a practice paper but don’t know the answer.

Attempting to answer – even if you expect to get it wrong – is a great way to fire up your brain cells. It’s a foolproof method of studying and you may surprise yourself with how well you do. If you don’t get it right, take the time to understand where you went wrong – and make a note of it – so you can try again. 4. Engage with your peers. If you’re stuck, there’s no harm in asking for help – whether that’s from your classmates (who you may find are struggling with the same question), tutors or colleagues.

Often when we need help, explaining the problem to someone else helps our brain understand the context of the issue, so you may even end up answering your own question. Of course, if there’s no one around, you can always go online – a quick Google search can lead you to a myriad of online groups and forums who most likely will be discussing similar questions, practice tests and exams. 5. Become the teacher.

A great way to test your own knowledge is to explain what you’ve learnt to someone else. Explaining out loud helps your brain order information in a useful way. It doesn’t matter who you talk to – friends, family or even the dog!

• Cath Littler is the Head of L&D (Accounting) at Mindful Education