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Primary ITO: Knowledge to grow

News & Features

12 tips, tricks and tools to make studying easier

14 November 2017

The key thing when embarking on workplace study, particularly for people who didn't enjoy school much, haven't done a lot of studying or have been 'out of' study for a long time, is to understand your strengths and weaknesses before you begin.

Primary ITO National Literacy and Numeracy Coordinator, Marianne Farrell, said it is important to prepare, particularly if you're worried you might struggle.

"A lot of people we work with are good at their jobs, but they worry that they're not so good at studying. Preparation can overcome those obstacles.

"Talk to your training adviser if you are worried about your literacy and numeracy, and if you think you may be dyslexic you can ask your training adviser to organise a dyslexia screening for you," she said.


Before you begin

 There are four ways for a learner to assess his or her strengths and weaknesses:

  1. Complete the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Tool (ALNAT) to get a starting point (as your training adviser for more details).
  2. Register with Pathways Awarua to improve your literacy and numeracy skills – it's free.
  3. If you do not do a lot of handwriting day-to-day, it is a good idea to practise your handwriting daily for speed and legibility.
  4. Do the VARK test (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinaesthetic) online – it's quick, easy and free, and will be able to help you identify which learning strategy may be best for you.

By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you will enable yourself to learn more efficiently rather than discovering by trial and error what works best for you.

 "Get a good night’s sleep before class. Even though sitting all day may not seem particularly tiring, if you're not used to sitting for periods of time it will tire you out," says Marianne.


During class

Avoid sitting passively and staying silent because that will most likely cause your attention to wander.

Be an active listener and participate in the class. Listen and make sure you understand what the tutor is saying – don't let it go over your head. Ask questions because you will find there are others with the same questions but they're just too nervous to ask.

Here are four ways to capture notes during class:

  1. If you're racing to keep up, take photos of the whiteboard with your phone to collect notes.
  2. Use bullet points and different coloured pens and markers to make notes – highlight keywords and phrases.
  3. Try mind mapping your notes. There are tonnes of explanations on Google, but mind mapping is really about using pictures and key words to connect information so you remember it better.
  4. Put technology to work. In addition to taking photos, use an app for spelling and consider buying a smartpen.

Smartpens let you write down notes while also recording what is said. Later, you can touch a word or picture in your notes, and the pen will play back the audio from that time. Smartpens can cost up to $300, but funding is available for those who have dyslexia.

"Be organised and if you miss a class, ask somebody to take notes for you or for your tutor to send them to you. Stay alert by taking lots of fresh air and water breaks, and don't compare yourself to others in the class – we all have our strengths and weaknesses," says Marianne.


After class

Primary ITO offers learners a tremendous amount of support, and it is in every learner's interests to make use of that support.

"Engage with your mentor and attend study nights – it's much more productive to study with friends.

"Work and family pressures make studying part-time a real challenge, but establishing a routine and tapping into your support network will make your life a lot easier," says Marianne.

Four actions to take during your own study time

  1. Make a regular, set time to study and stick to it.
  2. Create a quiet space for yourself.
  3. Set goals and chew off bit size pieces.
  4. Relate what you are learning back to what you do in your job, or what you already know.


"Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your training adviser, tutor, employer or rural professional, and use technology to help you. For example, use spell check when proofing your work and try using voice-to-text on your computer.

"Most important is to make sure that you understand the content. Don't stress, ask for help and celebrate success," says Marianne.