The RWSL™ study method

As part of my transition to a new career (music to public relations), I returned to college last fall. The first thing I noticed was the difference between being a mass communication major and a music major. When I was a young college-aged student of music, I spent most of my time either playing with an ensemble, or alone in a practice room. What studying I did was a secondary concern to perfecting my craft as a musician.

Fast forward a decade. Now my classes are all books and lectures and discussions and writing and exams. Suddenly, studying is very important. And last fall, I was hopelessly lost in the area of studying. I feel comfortable now, but it took some experimentation. I present to you the RWSL™ study method…

But first…

I can’t emphasize this enough: when you are in class you need to pay attention and take notes. It amazes me how many people take the trouble to show up to class, but sit there texting or surfing Facebook. Why show up?

Like any field, you need to know the audience. In this case, it is the teacher or professor. Listen carefully. Most instructors will give subtle (or not so subtle) cues about what content is important (testable). Now on to the RWSL™ study method (for real, this time)…

R is for READ

Reading is the foundation of any studying. Read the materials once to get a general overview. Read again, and take notes. That’s probably enough reading.

W is for WRITE

You just wrote down your notes from the reading. You’ve written notes from class lectures. Now write an outline. While you are at it, take all your notes and write yourself a practice exam. Make it hard.

S is for SPEAK

You’ve read, You’ve taken notes. You’ve outlined. You’ve written a practice exam. You’ve (hopefully) taken the practice exam. Now it’s time to produce your SelfCast™. Record yourself reading the questions and answers from the practice exam. Leave yourself a little space between each question and answer so you can pause your personal entertainment device.

L is for LISTEN

This one is easy. Listen to your SelfCast™.

What now?

That’s it. You’ve consumed the information by reading, writing, speaking and listening. Rinse. Repeat. You are ready. Go forth and destroy.

Note from the author: I trademarked RWSL™ and SelfCast™ for my own enjoyment. I like the little ™ symbol.  I like ©, too.



5 thoughts on “The RWSL™ study method

  1. Very true. Your method is also effective because it covers the major learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (“doing”), and it combines them conscientiously. If more students devoted the time–and this study method will surely take some time, but it will be worth it–then they would certainly get higher grades.

    I always said that college success is not about being a genius; it’s about doing a lot of hard work.

    I especially dig the advice about paying attention! Indeed, why pay for a class–or a movie, or a date, or anything–then spend it looking at a tiny screen? Classes are venues for that crucial face-to-face time many people seem to take for granted.

  2. As an older college student, I have done all of that except for the practice test. Glad you figured it out! Will you be doing public relations on a private level or for the military?

  3. Adam – great stuff! Agree completely on your study methods…and also have wondered why so many aren’t aggressively scribbling notes during lectures/classes. Like you, I outline the material to be learned and have used flashcards and self-written practice tests. I’ve not thought of recording myself though (SelfCast) but will give it a shot!

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