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Use Your Best Mnemonics
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Whenever we study anything, we invariably become faced with a mountain of books and a huge list of recommended reading texts. Often this situation is overwhelming and instead of being a positive source of useful information it can be a huge demotivator. Wouldn't it be good to be able to zip through a book in about 15 minutes, get a good idea of what it is about and have a written summary of it that you could memorise quite easily? The sceptics amongst you will already be saying that it can't be done but if you bear with me, I'll show you how it can. Before you start you'll need:
1. Your text book
2. Plenty of book marks (use strips of scrap paper)
3. A timer
4. A positive attitude
Now take your text book and turn each page over and briefly look at it before moving on to the next. I tend to run my finger in a 'V' shape across the open book starting at the top left corner of the left hand page working down to the bottom right hand corner of that page and then up across the right hand page to its top right hand corner. You do this for every open page taking only 10 minutes for the entire book. Now you are not trying to read the book you are trying to get a feel for it by identifying:
1. How the book is put together (sections, chapters etc)
2. If there are any summary points
3. How comprehensive the contents and index are
4. What looks interesting
5. What looks relevant
As your eyes sweep across the pages every time something jumps out at you put in one of your book marks so that you can explore that section later. The key to this exercise is that you don't read the book, you are just analysing its structure and apparent relevance to you and you are identifying sections/chapters/graphs/diagrams of interest. It is very important that you keep to the 10 minute time limit. Now once you have done that make a Mind Map of the main points you have identified. If you wish, refer back to the text book to help you but it is best done from memory. Doing the Mind Map should take no more than 5 minutes.
Now once you have done that, if you review the mind map, you will have memorized the key issues in the book. To study the text in depth requires a different approach that I'll be covering in a later article but what you now have is a much better feel of the book and its relevance to you. This is useful for a number of reasons. First of all if you have 30 study texts but only need to focus on 5 or 6, in just a couple of days you can zip through all of those books to find which ones to concentrate on without actually having to read every single one. It also means that a 30 page key point summary at the back of a text book negates the need to read the whole volume. If you had started at page 1 of a 600 page book and read it "conventionally" first, I'd imagine you would be pretty upset to find that you did not need to read all 600 pages.
If you keep your Mind Map tucked inside the front cover of the book, it will also serve as a useful summary for future reference. By leaving the bookmarks in place you'll never have to search for long for the diagram or graph that is the key to your assay or project.
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