Exam success requires memorizing key facts. Understand how the six stages of effective learning will help you succeed in exams.

Whether you are still at school, in college, university, or undertaking professional study, the ability to learn effectively is vital to succeeding in exams. To achieve the best conceivable grades, it is well worth understanding the six steps of practical learning.

What are the Six Steps of Useful Learning?

The six stages of effective learning take students through from the initial preparation stage through to the final stage of reflecting on information that has been learned. These stages will help students learn without ending up with information overload, thus avoiding common learning pitfalls, such as procrastination. In Overcoming Information Overload, Konstant & Taylor (2008) identify the six stages of practical learning to include the following:

  • stage one: prepare
  • stage two: information intake
  • stage three: explore and expand
  • stage four: understand and memorize
  • stage five: demonstrate
  • stage six: reflect

Effective Learning Requires Preparation

The very first stage of effective learning involves good preparation. It requires using some time to spend taking stock of where you stand with your subject area. Think about the specific subject, which aspects you already know, what needs to be learned, the aim and use of this information. At this phase, it is a good idea to brainstorm how you can access such information. Examples of information sources may include academic journals, newspapers, helpful Internet sites, and textbooks.

How to Take in and Explore New Information

Stage two focuses on taking in new information, while stage three involves delving deeper into this new knowledge to gain alternative perspectives. Undertaking stage two, as suggested by Konstant & Taylor, may include following a reading system, building spider graphs, and gathering information from as many sources as possible. In contrast, stage three should involve speaking to both Joe Bloggs and professionals to acquire new knowledge and insight.

Understanding is Important for Memorising Facts

While at primary or secondary school, learning often involves memorizing a whole range of facts and regurgitating it in an exam setting; understanding new information becomes much more critical at college or university. To confirm that you understand a topic, it is sure to be able to demonstrate this through implementing new ideas. It represents the fifth stage of effective learning, where new knowledge may be shared or shown in presentations, work meetings, reports, or essay writing.

Why Reflecting is Key to Effective Learning

The final stage of effective learning requires students to reflect on new information that they have learned. It can be achieved by thinking about how this new knowledge may be utilized and how it may impact your life. An excellent resource that is often recommended to university students is Donald Schon’s The Reflective Practitioner. This book will explain in detail the benefits of reflective learning and is a must-have for anyone wishing to succeed in exams, as well as in practice.

As highlighted above, the best way to learn without ending up stressed out with information overload is to embrace the six stages of effective learning. From preparation through to reflection, these six stages provide a framework for achieving success in learning new information and revising for exams.

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