I’ve written in the past about how I’m working through the study materials, both online and textbook. I realized it was kind of a general approach, and that there were some additional, specific, tips I have for successful studying. Here are my favorites, direct from me to my fellow aspiring agents…
Skip the Study Guide. As I worked through the first four lessons, I was copying and pasting information from the Rockwell slides into a Word document–essentially creating a study guide for myself. It was actually a lot of work, believe it or not. What got me to stop doing it was a combination of a couple of factors. First was that I noticed that I was having to refer to my study guide for answers to the pop quiz and final quizzes associated with each lesson. I wasn’t retaining much of the information. Second, the textbooks arrived, so I knew I could refer to printed materials for review time that way. And finally, Rebecca told me about the “Cram” course on Rockwell. It’s part of the test prep and sample exam feature and it walks you through the crucial concepts. So, I essentially had an electronic study guide at my fingertips. But this one was better than the one I was creating because it focused on the most important topics, rather than studying everything in preparation for the exam. And here’s the real litmus test–I did just as well, or better, on the quizzes when I didn’t have the study guide to refer to than when I did.
Teach it to Someone Else. I found that having to explain concepts or terms to someone else, helped cement those things into my memory. And the people I “taught” weren’t aspiring real estate agents. They were my mom, or my best friend or my brother–anyone I could get to sit still and listen to me.
Take Breaks. You may remember that I wrote about setting a goal for the number of hours each week and day you are going to devote to studying. Well, in addition to that, I’d limit the number of hours you devote to studying at one sitting. I set mine at 2 hours before I took a break to rest my eyes…And my brain 🙂 I found that if I tried to push it further than that, I stopped paying attention. My mind wandered. I was tempted to go online and read the news or check my email. I didn’t retain much of anything. And my eyes would get really tired and eventually my head would hurt. In addition to limiting study sessions to no more than 2 hours total, I got up every 40 minutes and stood or walked around the house for a few minutes to get my blood flowing and keep my muscles from stiffening up.
Get Some Context. I work part-time for Rebecca in her real estate office, and I do some work for her from home. The time I spend doing those things and talking to Rebecca about some element of her business, have given me invaluable context for the things I’m learning about as I study. I’m exposed to the “language” of real estate and I’m seeing and hearing about the real-world, practical application of the concepts in my textbooks. If you don’t work for a real estate agent, maybe there are ways you can get a similar experience. Chances are someone you know, knows an agent. Maybe you could invite them for coffee and conduct an informational interview. Ask them about some of the things you’re most interested in or challenged by with respect to your studies. Do an inventory of your skills. Are you a great writer? If so, maybe a local agent would love some help with content for their website, or writing a blog, or managing social media. Offer your help for free a couple of hours per week in exchange for getting some experience in the industry. There are legal limitations in terms of the kinds of activities you’re allowed to do without a real estate license though, so make sure whatever you propose or whatever they suggest, comply with applicable laws.
Pay Attention to Your Study Space. Give yourself the gift of a comfortable space that’s conducive to studying. Make sure you have enough light to see properly. Get yourself a comfortable chair and a desk with enough space for your computer, notebook and whatever else you need close at hand. If you need it quiet, set-up in a room with a door away from the activity of the house. If your house is always noisy, find somewhere quiet, such as a college library, to do your studying. Have some water nearby, turn your phone off (or switch it to silent). Make sure your space is supporting your goal and is a place you won’t avoid because it’s not functional or it’s physically uncomfortable.
Conduct Periodic Reviews. I didn’t wait until I finished working through all of the material before reviewing it. After completing 2 or 3 lessons, I’d look through those slides again and make sure I could pass the lesson quizzes. That way, I wasn’t trying to memorize all 18 Fundamentals Lessons all at once. It reinforced the material and didn’t take much extra time.
Take ALL of the Pop Quizzes. I took every single pop quiz in Rockwell. And because I did, I spotted the areas where I missed little details that made huge differences in my understanding of the concepts. When I got a question wrong, I made sure I understood where my thinking went off track, so that I could pass the final lesson quizzes. I learned that reading the questions is really important. One word can change the whole meaning, so you have to pay attention to what the question is actually asking. The quizzes also helped me get comfortable with how the exam questions would be structured. During my periodic reviews, I made sure that I completed the pop quizzes again too. Again, just reinforcing the information.
Get Out. I used to do this when I worked full-time in an office and noticed fatigue and/or lack of focus setting in. Go outside for 5 minutes and stand on your deck, walk around the neighborhood. Breathe in fresh air. Get your eyes away from the computer screen. It makes all the difference when you come back. You need a variety of sensory stimulation in order for your brain to work properly and for you to feel your best. So much of what we do now is on computers, phones, tablets or kindles. We have to make an effort to step away and spend some time in the kind of environments our bodies were made to enjoy.
Prioritize Sleep. This is good advice for all of life, but is especially true when you’re trying to learn something new and/or when you’re preparing for a big test. There is also some evidence that if you study for a few minutes before you go to sleep, your brain will retain that information better than if you’d studied it that morning. If you are going to try that, I’d recommend studying from your textbook or other notes rather than online. Screen time before bed is associated with a difficulty falling asleep and more restless sleep. I’d also recommend doing your reading somewhere other than bed. Read in the awesome study space you set up for yourself for a few minutes, and then hit the hay.
Take the Sample Exams. Take as many as you can. Seriously. If you’re going to fail or get something wrong, you’d rather do that on a practice exam than on the real deal. The practice exams often have the very questions you’ll see on the real exam, or at least questions that are close enough that acing them will leave you in good shape for the big day. Also, I found that the more practice exams I did, the less anxious I got about the exam experience in general. I’ve been out of college for a long time, so taking tests is not a normal part of my recent history. Studying and keeping calm in an exam situation are muscles that can atrophy a bit, so practice is key. Once I’d passed a couple of practice exams, I felt much less nervous.
There you have it. The 10 or so studying rules I lived by. Feel free to share your tips or questions below!