How Allison Used Her iPod to Ace BiologyDecember 10th, 2008 · 36 comments
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It was two weeks before her biology final, and Allison, an undergraduate at McGill University, was starting to panic. She had been trying to review her class notes but found the process increasingly tedious. Her concentration would not hold, and the material was not sinking in.
Allison knew she was more an audio than a visual learning, but recognized early in the semester that David’s technique of recording entire lectures to review later would be too inefficient. (The lectures were loooonnng and dddrrryyy.) She needed something more punchy.
That’s when she noticed the iTunes icon on her computer desktop and hatched a clever plan…
Audio Cue Cards
Allison decided that she would record a short lecture for each of the important topics covered in class. She used Apple’s Garage Band software for the recording and imported the resulting mp3 files into an iTunes playlist. (See the picture at the top of the post.)
The resulting mini-lectures ranged from 1 minute to 11 minute in length. Instead of just reading her notes out loud into the microphone — “it would be hard to listen to someone just narrating from notes,” Allison told me — she forced herself instead to organize the information into more pithy narrations. (In this sense, she was performing an audio version of the Mini Textbook Method.)
When she was done, she had 1 hour and 33 minutes worth of material. She loaded the tracks onto her iPod, put the playlist into random shuffle mode, and then started listening to her cue cards whenever she got a chance — in between classes, in bed, on her couch, at the dining hall…
Faster than Reading
For Allison, this process turned out to be more efficient than old fashioned note review. As she discovered, hearing something made it stick much quicker than reading it — her mind wandered less and and the material became clearer. Furthermore, a lot of her review could transpire in the little downtimes of the day that would otherwise be wasted, leaving her overall schedule more open and more relaxed.
Allison is still waiting for the results of her biology exam, but she feels good about her performance. As the new semester looms she’s excited to the give the system another try. This time, however, she looks forward to the efficiency she’ll gain by creating (and listening to) the audio cue cards throughout the entire term as oppose to waiting until the final couple weeks.
What unconventional study systems have worked for you?