Lined index cards 3 inches by 5 inches

The Secret Weapon of Success in School

What's totally affordable, totally NON-technical and packs more power than any app, study trick or website? 

Hail, the almighty Index Card.  These were a staple for any student of my (quite old) generation but I've never stopped using them and my kids use them too.  That's saying a lot since my advice is, ummmm, not always "valued" by the people I made.

Why are they powerful?  When used for certain tasks, index cards make learning far more active and engaging. When you write by hand, rather than tap into a laptop or tablet, you slow down just enough to think more about WHAT you are writing. Handwriting activates the thinking part of the brain and helps with memory.  And that is just the beginning!

Let's look at an example.  You're in a science class or a psych class with lots of terminology.  You decide to take a stack of index cards and write vocabulary and terminology on one side and the definitions or other relevant information on the other side.  You end up doing about 10 or 12 after every class.  You've just created a database, but it isn't any old database.  It's uniquely yours.  Just by writing the term and definition, YOU HAVE ALREADY STARTED STUDYING.  This database is completely portable and you can bring it wherever you go and flip through them anytime.  You can quiz yourself and your classmates with the cards. If you really want to go all out, use color coding with different pens and categorize the information!  Think of the verbs I just used:  quiz yourself, color-code, quiz classmates, flip through them:  ALL ACTIVE!

Which sounds better to you?  The night before an exam, sitting in bed, highlighter in hand, groggily trying to find vocabulary in a textbook, nodding off, waking up, trying again OR investing some time actively copying some definitions and flipping through them while you are waiting for a class to start?  Then adding to the pile of cards with each chapter, but just like a hitting levels in a video game, you add cards after mastering the previous batch.  What does the night before the exam look like now?  

Index cards allow you to chunk your studying - by making them for each lecture or chapter, you have started studying early.  By building upon your knowledge and reviewing the cards, rather than rereading a lengthy chapter, you are mastering levels of memory and knowledge.

Next time:  how index cards take the stress out of writing research papers!


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