Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Young Wellington entrepreneur puts study tips to the test with new exam revision business

Jack Goldingham Newsom, founder of Thynke, an education enterprise designed to help students learn how to revise. Photo / supplied
Jack Goldingham Newsom, founder of Thynke, an education enterprise designed to help students learn how to revise. Photo / supplied

A young Kiwi entrepreneur has put his study skills to the test and set up a business to help other students pass their exams.

Jack Goldingham Newsom, 19, from Wellington, got top marks in his International Baccalaureate exams last year, and now hopes to help others do the same.

With National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams starting next week in schools across the country, his business has come just in time for some.

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Goldingham Newsom, who's currently studying philosophy at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium, launched Thynke last month. It provides study and essay-writing guides, as well as a feedback service on essays and questions from students.

The idea was spawned after Goldingham Newsom helped hone the essays of classmates and friends in high school.

"I helped out a lot of my friends and was helping other students with their essay writing, and looking at things that they'd done," he said. "So I knew I was able to provide really helpful information to them."

After spending nine months teaching English in Japan, before starting university in September, the two things came together, he said.

"Working as a teacher, knowing the fact that sometimes students aren't really taught how to learn what they need to know, they're just taught what they need to know.

"I was actually doing it myself - you teach them grammar and they learn that, [but] they don't actually learn how to use it and how to apply it in all these different situations, or how to study it.

Baradene College of the Sacred Heart students during a Level 2 English exam. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Baradene College of the Sacred Heart students during a Level 2 English exam. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"That's kind of the focus of the study guide is actually helping students learn how to study and how to learn in the first place."

The guide has different sections, including tips on making notes, how to use those notes to revise, and how to interact with your subject material to make sure it sticks in your mind. There's also different tips for different subjects.

Learning how to revise was something that was missing in New Zealand classrooms, he said.

"Even though it may have been provided in some way it wasn't emphasised enough I think," he said.

"You always hear of the students that cram, and all they do when they cram is just read. And that's the main thing that I want to get out there is that reading doesn't really work and that you have to actually engage with what you're doing and transform it or do something with it so that it will stick in your mind."

There were lots of different ways to do that, he said, but it was the most important tip.

"So that it's not just sitting there in your short term memory for a week and then you forget it after the exam, that you actually have gained some knowledge through the process of education, which is kind of the point."

He advised students preparing to sit exams in the next few weeks to make sure they're prepared, and also to have faith in themselves and the work they've put in, so they don't get too stressed or anxious before walking into the exam hall.

"One of the things that I did before my exams, which I think got me into the mode, was just going for walks, instead of sitting there with all the other students freaking out and thinking, 'oh my god, I don't know what I'm doing', but actually going outside for some fresh air. That's really underestimated."

A pile of exam papers and books. Photo / file
A pile of exam papers and books. Photo / file

According to the New Zealand Qualification's Authority (NZQA), around 146,000 students will start sitting exams from next Wednesday, November 9.

"Examinations are a big part of achieving NCEA and students should continue to concentrate on making sure they know their subject matter, when and where their examinations are, and what they need to do to achieve their goals," Kristine Kilkelly, NZQA deputy chief executive said.

She also advised parents to keep up the dialogue with their children during this time.

"Parents and whānau want to help, but sometimes worry they don't know enough about particular school subjects or worry they've been out of the classroom too long to give valuable advice," she said.

"But you don't need to be an NCEA expert to give support and guidance that ensures students are working hard to achieve their goals."

THYNKE'S TOP TIPS FOR NAILING THOSE EXAMS:
• Start early. Don't put your study off:
Cramming is not as effective as planning out your study, because the knowledge has no time to reach your long-term memory. It's way better to be doing 20 mins of study every day for a month, than three or four hours the night before the exam. If the information doesn't reach your long term memory you're almost certain to forget it.

• Focus your attention on study. Cut out all the other distractions:
Having your computer and phone on whilst studying means that your focus really isn't on your study. When you're switching between tasks so quickly, your brain isn't able to fully concentrate on studying, so it will be less effective. Instead, have 25 minute sessions of uninterrupted focus, then 5 minutes of tech-time. If you can do this, you'll also stop procrastinating!

• Actively engage with the material you want to learn. Just reading it doesn't work:
That's right. Reading your notes is one of the least effective study methods ever. You need to be actually doing something to the information - transforming it, applying it, synthesising it, making connections, or condensing it. When you engage with what you are learning, you have to think about what you are doing, and thus the brain is more likely to remember it. So do something, have a pen and paper at the ready, and don't just read your notes.

• Recall is your new best friend:
You should be able to call up the knowledge you need at any time and in any place, without needing to rely on anything but your brain. The best way to test whether you know something, and to practise before an exam, is to test your recall of the knowledge while you are not studying. If you know it, and understand it, you will be able to bring it to mind in unfamiliar situations (while in the shower or waiting for the bus) to get the right answer. If you think you know it, but actually don't, you won't be able to recall the knowledge without any stimulus.

• Take breaks:
Space out your study and remember that your brain is consolidating the information you have learned, even when you're not studying. Exercise releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine, which gives you a feeling of reward. To ensure you don't get stuck studying, getting some fresh air and exercise, along with regular breaks, is a great addition to your study routine.

- NZ Herald

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