Essay Writing and Answering Exam Questions

ESSAY WRITING – ANSWERING QUESTIONS
Explanatory Notes for Isaac Field (by C. Field 19/4/2013)

While writing essays and answering exam questions appears to a student to be merely a process of evaluation imposed by the school system it is much more than that. Essay writing and written answers to questions rely upon skills that are highly valuable in life and career.

These explanatory notes will explain some of the key issues related to essay writing and written answers to questions, hopefully prompting intelligent development and application of the appropriate skills, not just in the school context but into adult life and career.

1.         Core Skills.

The core skills relied upon in writing essays and exam answers, and throughout the rest of your life, are:
a) Observation, comprehension, understanding and memory of the source content under investigation (book, movie, article) and the exam question or essay topic, including ability to make relevant quotations.
b) Analysis, reflection, interpretation, evaluation and re-expression of the ideas conveyed or prompted by the source content under investigation and also in the exam question or essay topic.
c) Comparison of ideas or expressions, which shows that you have observed and comprehended and also interpreted and analysed what you have observed, seeing the distinctions between the elements being compared.
d) Communication, organisation of thought, clear expression and convincing argument.
e) Extent of ideas, including originality and insight, arguments for and against a point, ability to accommodate various and divergent perceptions and keep them in balance and how widely read and rich the student’s information is.
f) Underlying language tools, such as spelling, grammar, vocabulary, technical terminology, clarity (without ambiguity or vagueness) and presentation skills.

2.         Presentation.

While this may seem a lesser consideration it is true that clarity of presentation requires clarity of thought and so it is always a good starting point.

Note that this article starts with a Heading, followed by a sub-heading, and includes identification of the author and date. The opening sentences explain the subject matter of the article and its purpose. A reader will quickly know whether they wish to read this article or if it is the one they were seeking.

Poorly identified documents can be overlooked or lost or fail to get the attention they deserve.

This is not an exam skill, but a requisite life skill, to clearly and accurately identify documents and the content therein. Get into the habit of doing this automatically whether required or not. If it is inappropriate make the exception for that answer.

At the top of your essay or assignment put the relevant information of Subject, Class, Topic, your name, date and so on.

Eg: SOCIAL SCIENCE, Yr 10, Mid Term Exam, Cultural Diversity, May 5, 2014, Billy Smith Class 10J.
Question 1: Primary Culture in Australia.
While cultural diversity exists within communities and even within each cultural group there is usually a primary culture overriding all other cultural elements. In Australia that primary culture can be seen …….

3.         Clarity.

The first sentence or two in an essay or exam answer should (unless a very short answer is required) restate the topic or question in some way, so the reader or examiner can be confident you are answering the right question.

This is also a checkpoint for yourself, to ensure you are doing the right thing. There is no prize for writing an exam question where you wrongly understood the question.

4.         Interpret the Question or Topic.

If you get the question wrong or do not fully answer it you are throwing points away and wasting your time.

Observe what the question or topic asks, interpret it, keep all the parts in mind and in their place, organise your thoughts and then express them effectively.

Eg: Assignment Question – Using Examples from the Source Material (Text / Article / Chapter) Describe two different processes that produce the result.
Note that this question asks for EXAMPLES and DESCRIPTION of TWO things that are DIFFERENT. You must provide all those elements or you cannot expect your optimum score.

If you are struggling to answer a question, at least show the examiner that you UNDERSTAND the question. Refer to the elements mentioned in the question (examples, description, 2, different).

5.         Do what is Required. Follow Instructions.

Most essay and exam questions will ask for a specific performance from the student.

One level of question simply asks you to Describe or Give Examples. This checks that you know the material. Quotations, summary statements and listing the core elements of the material will be helpful here, to show that you do know the material.

Another level of question asks you to Discuss, Address, Analyse, Compare or Explain something. This type of question checks your ability to analyse, comprehend, see the implications, make assessments, filter the material through some kind of lens or otherwise interpret the material.
In most classes teachers tend to feed students sufficient examples of what is required such that an astute student can usually pass an exam by re-presenting those thoughts already presented in class.

Higher level students will have taken the teacher’s observations and promptings as a springboard for their own insights and analysis, and their essay or answer to a question will include original thought, and/or more widely read understanding, likely gaining them higher marks.

Be sure you keep an eye on the question and do what it asks. If you must give 2 examples, then do so. If you must present your own thoughts or impressions then do so.

Eg: Exam Question: 10 Second Dash.
“You have 10 seconds only to answer this question.
Read the whole question before answering.
State Your First Name: ________________.
Year you started at this school: __________________.
Current Class: ______________________.
Favourite Sport: _________________.
Mother’s maiden name: ________________.
Father’s Occupation: _______________________.
Names of Siblings: ________________________________________________.
Hair Colour: _______________________.
Do not write anything on this page.”

Study Skills 5

These lessons present you with three key study skills which are all you should need to be a top student and an excellent learner. This lesson brings me to the third and final skill. So far we have seen the importance of Recognition and Repetition.

I spent three lessons explaining the significance of Recognition, or Paying Attention. Last lesson I taught on the importance of good old Repetition, and especially Learning by Rote. Now we come to the power-tool that really builds your mental muscle for memory of important things.

All In The Mind

Memory happens in the mind. So I like to imagine what is happening, to help me appreciate the process I am going through.

For my mind to store any information at all it must first be conscious of that information. Paying attention causes us to take note. Mindless reading or daydreaming in class fogs up our mind and it does not get to enter the information effectively. So “Recognition” is vital to ensure that the information is properly inserted and stored in the brain.

However, the information entered can easily be lost among all the other bits being entered. So we need to beef up the size and importance of that information, and this is done by various forms of repetition, including connecting the information with other things stored in the brain. Eventually the piece of information has gained such significance that it is easy to find among all the other things stored in your brain.

Digging A Trench

Your problem is that all information ends up thrown to the back of the mental store-room and it can take quite some fossicking around to find the bits that have been lost. So, a very powerful skill is to dig a trench from the front of your brain, where you want to use the information, directly to the shelf where the information is held.

This process of creating a direct link to the information is achieved by Recall. What we want to achieve is instant recall of important information. The way we achieve that is by doing the very thing we want to achieve – Recalling the information.

Each time you fossick around in the back of your brain searching for the name, date, fact, or other information requested at the front of your brain, you are strengthening the link from front to back. If you give up and don’t even try to remember, just going back to your reference book, your brain does not develop a clear link from front to back and the searching muscle stays weak.

Imagine that every time you reach to the back of your mind for the answer you need, you are digging a deeper trench line directly to the information. Eventually you will have immediate and direct access to the information you seek.

Recall is a Form of Repetition

Recall is a process of repeating the information. Every time you recall a fact you have repeated it in your brain and increased its signal strength in your mental arena. So recall is not only a key skill on its own, but a double skill, in that it does the job of Repetition as well.

If you develop a good Recall program for important information, you will not need to devote as much time to repetition, since that is what you are effectively doing anyway.

Rote and Recall

My primary school teachers not only had our class chanting the various facts which we were to memorise by repetition, but they would also give us spot tests. They would tell us to close our eyes, or turn to the back, so we could not see the answers on the board. We would then be asked to recall something that we had been memorising.

“How many yards in a mile?” “What is Six times Nine?”

As our young brains scrambled to find the answer we were engaging in recall. So our teachers used Rote and Recall, in combination, to plant certain facts into our minds. I can readily repeat those facts almost fifty years later.

Quiz Yourself

Set yourself several questions and ask yourself for the answer several times each day. Have a friend quiz you. Recall information as you sit at a red light or nod off to sleep.

Make your brain fish around for the answer. Each time you ask the same question the answer should come a little quicker than before. And each time you recall the information the trench to the back of your brain is dug deeper and works faster.

Don’t go easy on yourself. The harder you push your brain the sharper it will perform for you. If you go soft on your brain it will happily go easy on itself. Treat your recall quiz routine as a mental gymnasium, to get your brain pumping and fully fit for your study needs.

Spot Test

Do spot tests on your knowledge. Use different times of the day and ask different types of questions. When you get certain answers right every time change that question for a new one. The things you keep getting wrong are areas you can work on.

If you keep getting something wrong then go back and work on the size and shape of the information. See if you can link it to something else, explain it in a new way, summarise it into a distilled form, or find a funny connection. All of that helps to build up the signal in your brain, to make that item easier to find next time you go looking.

Discipline Required

Some of you are thinking, “There’s no way I can do that”, because you just don’t have the personal discipline to do it or even remember to do it.

Well, you do need discipline. So, you can ask others to help by phoning you with quiz questions, or the like. And you can build up your discipline over time. If it took you all year to get your brain sharpened it’s still worth it. So plan to make progress all the time until you have built up your skill to keep at it and move to the next level.

Three Important R’s

And there you have my three key Study Skills. They are Recognition, Repetition and Recall.

If you can sharpen your use of all three you will find yourself cruising where once you were really struggling. Your faculties were designed to do all this with ease. It’s only hard because you have allowed you mental muscles to atrophy.

I suggest you read and re-read all five lessons. Make your own notes on them. Summarise them. Teach them to your kid sister. Look for new ways to apply them.

And, above all, use them. Start today. Get yourself into gear to go where you are designed to go. Soon you’ll be cruising past others who were way out ahead.

To see the other posts in this series click the links below….

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-1

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-2

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-3

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-4

Study Skills 4

The first three lessons in this series were devoted to Recognising things, by paying attention. Before moving on, I reiterate that your ability to pay attention is the most powerful tool you bring to your study and learning career.

Yet there is more that can be built upon that foundation and so I come now to the second key study skill, which is the good old faithful, “Repetition”.

Say it Again, Sam

There are various statistics touted around at times about how little we take in from seeing, hearing, reading and so on. While the figures vary the fact is the same. We are not good at absorbing things. So repetition is important right from the start.

Haven’t you noticed that something suddenly became significant to you the third of fourth time you read it? Or you suddenly noticed something in a text you had read and re-read many times.

That’s why going over your notes, re-reading a text, reviewing the subject, having a discussion with a tutorial group, and so on, prove to be so important in our learning and study program.

Big Blob

My emphasis on Repetition, however, goes beyond the need to make sure we have Recognition. While hearing it all one more time will help people catch on to something, I am interested in the repetition process as a means of creating a Big Blob.

Look at it this way. Your brain is being bombarded with gazillions of bits of information all the time. If you are studying then you are pumping information and facts into your brain as fast as you can. So, all the bits of information are competing with each other for significance in your memory banks.

If a piece of information is important, then you need to give it higher significance in your huge bucket of data. You want that tiny blip of information to become a Big Blip!

When you repeat something, over and over again, you build upon that tiny blip and expand it into a large enough piece of information to be readily accessed. See it like a tiny drop of blue paint on the ground. If you keep dripping extra tiny drips on top of the first one, you eventually get a big blue blob. What was initially un-noticeable has become very obvious.

That’s what you want to happen inside your brain.

Learned by Rote

When I was a child (OK it was aeons ago!) we learned our multiplication tables and other facts by rote. We chanted them, song-like, over and over again. “Two threes are six! Two fours are eight! Two fives are ten!” And so on it went.

The teacher wrote down the side of the blackboard a list of key facts, such as the speed of light, speed of sound, number of ounces in a pound and number of yards in a mile. Multiple times each day she asked us to stop what we were doing and to read the facts in unison.

This is what is called “Rote Learning”. It fell into disrepute some years later, even though it had been a proven method for a long time. Discovery learning became the buzz for a few decades, and other experimental methods. Academic standards dropped away, reading levels fell, spelling skills crumbled and people needed calculators to do simple maths. But that’s another story.

What I want you to realise is that Repetition Works! When you drill yourself with information, repeating it multiple times, in various settings, at various times of the day, you build up the mental signal of that information, making it a more permanent and significant element in your memory and understanding.

Same Girl, New Dress

While raw rote is a proven and powerful way to get the information in, there is also much to be said for dressing up the information in a new way.

Rather than hammering in the information in its one shape and size, you can repeat it into the memory in a new packaging. It’s the same information, but by modifying it in some way it finds a larger place in the memory banks.

As the simplest of examples, “two three’s is the same as three two’s”. At a more meaningful level, we can help our memory of the name of Julius Caesar’s killer, Brutus, by linking it to Caesar’s question, “Et tu Brute?” (Even you Brutus?)

Adding detail to a fact builds the size of the information in your memory banks. For example: Captain Cook discovered Australia. We can expand that fact with his first name and other information. He is Captain James Cook, who sailed in a ship named the Endeavour. He was killed in Hawaii.

And you can even add some nonsense to help if you like, such as the silly school-yard song some Aussie children would sing. “Captain Cook chased a chook all around Australia. He jumped a fence and tore his pants and landed in Tasmania.” I think I hear you say, “That’s not much help to me”, and you may be right.

Distilling

While the repetition I just suggested involved repeating the information by expanding it, another way to repeat something is by distilling it. In this process you summarise and reduce the information to a very potent capsule, rather than a barrow load of verbiage.

The Walk Through the Bible program links a key word with each book of the Bible and then links the key words together in a set of physical movements. Thus the list of Bible books and their content is summarised in short routine. This is an example of distilling a great deal of information into a much smaller capsule.

Mnemonics and acronyms also achieve the same result. I learned “Harry ClAgNaK” to remember elements with a valency of 1. ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit’ gave me the names of notes on the treble clef lines. The acronym HOMES is a mnemonic aid to remember the names of the North American Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. And the planets in order from the Sun are remembered by: “My Very Elderly Mother Just Sat Under the North Pole”.

I distil the essential elements of faith, from Hebrews 11:6, down to two words, “Can” and “Will”. If you believe God Can do it, and that He Will do it for you, you have released your faith into action.

Interlinking

Connecting one piece of information with others also repeats the information, in a new context. This is similar to what happens when we expand the initial piece of information, but actually involves tying one piece of information to another significant piece.

The key points made by Jesus in the famous Sermon on the Mount, could be linked to the relevant laws which Moses received in Mount Sinai. The Mosaic Law was given new light by the Law of Christ, and both were presented on a mountain. Linking those two separate and significant events allows each one to support the other in our memory and understanding.

Some of the memory tricks that are promoted include linking important facts or things to remember to some pre-determined set of references. For example, the old “One, Two, Buckle my Shoe” poem leads to a list of items which points can be linked to in numeric order: Bun, Shoe, Tree, Door, Hive, Sticks, Heaven, Gate, Pine, Hen.

Again and Again and Again

I don’t mean to prompt you to be too clever. The Study Skill key is Repetition, plain and simple. Good old “Rote” is as good as you need to get, to drill yourself and pump that info in, over and over again, until it sticks and won’t fall out.

Start with Recognition, then get working on Repetition. Once you have those two working well, you are a strong student and a good learner.

To see the other posts in this series click the links below….

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-1

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-2

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-3

Study Skills 3

I am still pushing the importance of paying attention, as I move into lesson three. That’s because the most significant thing you can do to undergird your learning and study is to “Pay Attention”.

The code-word I use for this first of the three keys I am presenting in this series is “Recognition”. Recognition summarises all that you take note of as you give attention to the matter at hand. Whether you are in a lecture, reading a book, researching something or in a group investigation session you can only understand and give attention to things that your recognise.

Can You Hear It?

I recall an incident when I was learning clarinet as a young teen that is relevant here. My teacher noted how poor my tone was. In order to help me see the importance of practice and improvement he asked me to play a particular note. I did so. Then he played the same note.

He then asked me, “Can you hear the difference?”

He could tell by my blank expression that I could not, so he had me repeat the process. I played the note and then he played it. Again he asked me, “Can you hear the difference?”

He looked hopefully into my eyes and I so wanted to make him happy. But I could not tell any difference between his playing and mine. I told him so and he slumped in his chair and went back to teaching me something else.

I could not recognise whatever he wanted me to see. So how could I learn or memorise what I could not see. And that same principle applies to you. You cannot learn or memorise something if you don’t even see it in the first place.

Recognise It

When you recognise something you have a chance to get a handle on it, study it, learn it and memorise it. So opening your eyes, paying attention and comprehending what you see is a vitally important issue in your learning journey.

Be attentive to the chance to perceive at a deeper level. If those around you claim to see something you don’t see, jump in and ask them to explain what they see. Be sure to get your eyes open to the meaning, distinctions, discrete elements and relevant issues of the thing at hand.

Bird Tracks

When Austin Henry Layard and other archaeologists first discovered the ruins of ancient Nineveh the sites were pillaged for the valuable and beautiful artefacts. Museums scrambled to get the best items on display.

The sites also contained thousands of clay tablets, but no-one could read them and they were piled in abundance. Those who worked at the sites could not understand the “bird tracks” scratched on the tablets, and neither could most of the experts. So they were treated with disregard before many were shipped back to London and stored in the museum basement.

The man who deciphered the bird tracks was George Smith a self-taught Assyriologist, with a background in engraving. His eye was trained to see minute distinctions and read tiny text. Under his discerning eye the clay tablets yielded their abundant wealth of information.

He could ‘recognise’ what others could not discern. And thus was opened a wealth of knowledge.

Reticular Activating Device

A great tool you have on your side is your brain’s Reticular Activating Device (RAD). This mental facility causes your brain to either notice or discard information.

If you are in the habit of discounting the things you see you have probably programmed your brain to not pay attention. If, however, you have a reason to take note of something, your RAD gives priority to that thing and pays attention to it.

The popular example is that when you buy a car you suddenly notice all the other vehicles of the same make and colour as yours. Or when a name is made noteworthy to you, maybe because you have a new friend by that name, you become much more aware of others that have the name. Your brain is switched on to that particular reality now and pays attention to it in a new way.

As soon as you have given mental note to a name, date, design, colour, fact, or whatever, your brain will signal you when it crops up again in your field of attention. The brain begins to pay particular attention to whatever you have so programmed, even though you are not consciously looking for it.

Program RAD

Since the RAD is so powerful you are wise to use it to your advantage. You can do that by programming it to look out for key things. This is a great study tool.

When you introduce a new concept or element into your thinking your brain puts that thing onto its scanner and alerts you to its occurrence. If you are a poor student, who does not pay attention and does not make mental note of things, then the RAD is operating in a fog.

If you are a disciplined thinker and make mental note of the new bits of information being given to you, taking care to “recognise” them and their significance, then your RAD is well primed to be attentive to that thing.

If I spent time with you pointing out how often different news services give reports of the same event each day that are contradictory to each other I could probably activate your RAD, so that you notice them yourself. If I do not program you to recognise that happening then your mind will blur it over and not see it happening, even before your very eyes.

So, look for ways to get your RAD working for you. Program it effectively and get your sensory perception on side for your study and learning experiences. Activate your ability to be attentive to things you previously missed.

Mental Focus

Attention is the heart of learning and study. It is your mental focus. Don’t blame the teacher or the text book if you do not have the ability to pay attention and focus your mind.

It is up to you to be aware of what is going on around you and in you.

In the 1970’s someone popularised the saying, “Be Alert! The world needs more “Lerts”! That stupid saying attempts to address the very issue I’m pressing on you here. You must give mental focus to your whole life. If you are not good at that, then today is the time to make the change.

Attach Understanding

My Kiwi friend Sam gave me a great example of how attaching understanding transforms our ability to recognise and remember information. Sam’s Swiss surname was hard for most English people to cope with. The name is Abplanalp. Just seeing the written word was enough to have people pausing.

Sam developed an effective way to get people comfortable with his name. He told the story of the origin of the name.

Sam explained that in the Swiss Alps there are places where large elevated planes have formed high in the mountains. Homes and villages grew there, and that is where his family lived for centuries.

People who came from these alpine planes were given the name that means ‘from the plane on the alp’. In Swiss that is, “Ab” (from) “plan” (plane) “alp”, Abplanalp.

From that moment on I found Sam’s name a piece of cake (so to speak).

Build Your Vocab

A final suggestion on this first key of Recognition is that you build your vocabulary.

Vocabulary expands our awareness and increases our powers of discernment. If we do not have words for things then we very likely don’t even know those things exist, so we don’t ‘recognise’ them. By building your vocabulary you introduce new ideas, distinctions and shades of meaning.

Missionaries going to remote tribes in Papua New Guinea found some whose counting went, “1, 2, 3, 4, Many”. Once they got to five they could not distinguish the many. They described 12, 187 and 22,000 with the same word, “Many”. A limited vocabulary means that an abundance of distinctions are lost to you.

Do you talk or mumble? Are you grumbling, mumbling, whining, whimpering, whispering, wailing, rasping, raving, rambling, reminiscing, responding, reacting, reiterating, berating, bellowing, bragging, boasting, belittling, explaining, expounding, expositing, exploding, confusing, corroborating, crowing, or clowning around? All those various shades of meaning and significance rely on the meanings of those different words. The word “talk” does not do justice to the many possibilities.

Pay Attention

In case you missed the point of these first three lessons on Study Skills, you need to PAY ATTENTION. Develop the ability of Recognition, with your mental antenna twitching and taking note of things known and unknown.

Find the meaning, focus on things, expand your vocabulary to expand the degrees of distinction you can make, and Be Alert. Remember, the world needs more of them.

To see the other posts in this series click the links below….

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-1

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-2

Study Skills 2

I have begun to unpack for you three vitally important keys to strong study and learning skills. These key areas, which will be unfolded in this series, can be broken down and elaborated on, as I began to do in lesson one and continue here. But my main aim is to put these three keys clearly into your mind and to get you started in using them.

Pay Attention

The first key involves your ability to pay attention. If you can be attentive to what is going on around you, what people are saying, and even to what is distracting you, you will gain control of yourself and your mental faculties. With that attentive approach you will be able to focus, absorb, investigate and explore the things you are studying or need to learn.

However, most people operate with their brain out of gear. Being inattentive becomes a habit and a lifestyle. So, this may not be as easy a lesson to learn as you think.

Test Your Attention

I asked my son to close his eyes and tell me what he had seen in our yard when he looked out the window that morning. I had seen him gazing into the yard, particularly watching our cat. My son described the yard, but from memory of the yard, not from having paid attention. Even though he was looking into the yard he was not seeing it.

He described some things which were not visible through the window he had been looking from, but he knew they were in the yard. However, he failed to mention a piece of furniture which is moved around our yard and which happened to be clearly in view where he had been looking. When I told him to check what he had missed he was surprised that he could not recall it when it had been very clearly visible.

That showed that he was not paying attention, but just mindlessly scanning the yard. A spy or policeman would be trained to be very attentive to certain things, even if just scanning a yard.

This also shows what I said earlier, that we don’t really use our brains, we have then in neutral much of the time.

So, test yourself. Think of some room in your house or office where you have recently been. Then see how well you can describe its current state. Then go and see how well you did. You may be surprised.

Recognition

I call this Key “Recognition”. It is the process of recognising what is there, as part of your normal routine, as you turn your brain back on, remove the clutter and get on with attending to the matters of life and learning which are around you.

Pay attention. If you don’t understand something then you don’t ‘recognise’ it, so ask questions. If you are looking mindlessly, or half-listening, then you won’t fully ‘recognise’ what is being said. If you have distracting thoughts and emotions then they will abduct your attention, so you cannot ‘recognise’ the face of what you are supposed to attend to.

Be There

Other expressions I have heard from people who promote this kind of attentiveness includes the saying, “Where ever you are, Be There!”

Another person called this process, “Practicing Presence”. It is the process of being attentive to your self, your surroundings, the things people are saying, the intent behind their words, the thoughts, feelings and reactions within you, the facts and information you need to note, and so on.

Explore the Turf

Since the key is Recognition, and foreign places, names, language and experiences are harder to pin down, you are wise to explore the turf, learn the lingo, become familiar with the surroundings, get used to the funny sounds, tastes and sensations, until you can ‘recognise’ what is going on and better lock in your attention to the key issues at hand.

Multi-Sensory Engagement

Educators know that we have multiple sensory doorways. Employing more of them enhances the learning process. So make a habit of Recognising things in multiple ways.

For example, when you come across a new name, of a person or place, say the name out loud, write it in upper case, then in lower case, listen to someone else say it, repeat it with a fake foreign accent, and so on. These diverse experiences with the piece of knowledge open a variety of sensory gateways into your consciousness, subconscious and memory.

Cranial Engagement

Along with the multi-sensory engagement, I like to use Cranial Engagement for key information. This involves you applying your mental capacities to the piece of information.

One way to do this is to create a slogan about the topic. Alternatively you could create a mnemonic code or acronym. I like to create my own definitions, instead of using the ones given me by others. I also like to listen to someone and then summarise what they have told me in one or two succinct sentences which package what they have told me better than they could have packaged it themself.

The process of applying mental energy to the topic deepens the brain’s ‘recognition’ of the information at hand.

Apply the Brain

Let me play with some facts with you to show how cranial engagement might work. I have summarised here some excerpts from my many Church History posts. The story of Robert Moffat is most stirring.

One of the famous missionaries to Africa was Dr David Livingstone, who, as a young English medical student, was prompted to give up his potential wealth and fame in London, by hearing missionary pioneer Robert Moffat make a famous statement, “I have seen in the morning sun the smoke of 1000 villages where no missionary has ever been”. Livingstone went to South Africa, married Moffat’s daughter, Mary, and became so devoted to reaching Africa that he became lost to the outside world. American reporter Henry Morton Stanley found Livingstone and followed in his footsteps. It is to Stanley that we owe the well-known line, “Dr Livingstone, I presume”.

We could summarise that by saying: “Moffat moved Morton with a Living Stone”. Or: RM drew DL to SA to marry M and meet HMS. Or: Moffat’s smoke drew England’s doctor who drew America’s reporter.

Recognition is the Foundation

This kind of mental activity accentuates ‘Recognition’ of the material at hand. It doesn’t guarantee we will remember or learn the content. That is for the next two keys. But it provides the solid foundation upon which sound learning can be established.

If you cannot pay attention then you are lost from the start. If you are skilled at being attentive your ability to study and learn is already on track for success.

To see the first post in this series click the link below….

http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/study-skills-1