Paper trumps screen for exam success

Digital distraction means hand-written study notes is still key when it comes to preparing for exams.
Digital distraction means hand-written study notes is still key when it comes to preparing for exams. Thinkstock

GOOD old-fashioned paper study notes are still the most effective student study method at exam time, according to new research.

A national survey of more than 500 students found that 39% find it hard to focus on study online while 23% admit that they struggle to remember what they learned online unless they print it off and read it again.

The survey, commissioned by Canon Australia, found that among the biggest problems with using a screen to study was the temptation to check social media and other digital distractions.

Paper-based study notes dominate as the most effective student study methods at exam time with 56% of top-performing Australian students claiming that they use printed and hand-written notes.

According to Professor Glenn Finger, Professor of Education, Griffith University, while Australian education institutions are increasingly embracing the shift from paper-based to digital platforms, studying totally online is not the solution to successful learning.  

"While we are making transitions from the use of page to screen and even studying totally online, content changes from screen to screen make it difficult for people to remember what they've seen. We cannot assume clicking through many screens equates to successful, deep learning," said Professor Finger.   

"We need to take notice that students reported hand-written and printed notes offer them a consistent, memorable form to revise as well as reflect.

These are critically important learning processes which are developed in students throughout all levels of their schooling."  

Rowan Kunz, CEO of Art of Smart Education, achieved an overall ATAR result of 99.6 in 2004, and has since conducted eight years of research with Australia's top students who scored ATARs of 98 and above, agrees that digital distraction is a serious problem and attributes his own success and that of top performing students to putting pen to paper and writing out their study notes.  

"There is certainly a lot of pressure on students to perform well in final exams and having the tools and study techniques that help memory retention and improve confidence will put students on the right path to develop good study habits and achieve exam success at any level of education," said Mr Kunz.   




Why study offline?

A quarter (23%) of Australian students admit that they struggle to remember what they learned online unless they print it off.

Just under half of all students (47%) claim to get easily distracted by messages and emails coming in while half (52%) admit they get bored with study and start checking other sites.

Females are more likely than males to print off notes, highlight and write comments than just write notes by hand (35% compared to 21% of males).

Males are more likely to find it hard to focus on the study online (39%) and are more likely than females to be tempted to play a game or two online when they are supposed to be studying (39% compared to 19% of females).

Almost nine out of ten (86%) students printed off something to help them study such as course notes (62%), articles they have found online about the topic (45%) and pictures/ images (31%).

Topics:  education exams school studying university

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