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Rowan Kunz Paper Is Mightier Than The Screen For Exam Success Interview

Rowan Kunz Paper Is Mightier Than The Screen For Exam Success Interview

New research launched by Canon Australia reveals that almost all (93%) of Australian students currently studying for exams experience problems while studying online, with over half (52%) citing the temptation to check social media as a key challenge when focusing on exam success. In its place, paper-based study notes dominate as the most effective student study methods at exam time with over half (56%) of top-performing Australian students claiming that they use printed and hand-written notes to remember points and increase confidence to achieve exam success.

Commissioned by Canon Australia, the national survey of more than 500 students found that almost two-fifths (39%) find it hard to focus on study online while a quarter (23%) admit that they struggle to remember what they learned online unless they print it off.

Of the research, Jason McLean, Director – Consumer Imaging, Canon Australia said: 'As a father of a son who is completing his last year of University I'm not surprised by the findings. Every student makes study notes in the lead up to their exams, and the study shows they prefer to do it on paper. The current Canon PIXMA printer range is great for study support. Students can print online information from the cloud, an app or email, so when it comes to study time, they can review notes away from digital distraction."

Exam success lies in students' predisposition to read, scan and learn via paper

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 necessarily the simple solution or -silicone bullet' for most students to learn successfully.

'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."

'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."

'Specifically, students' ability to use printed study materials provides numerous advantages for them, such as annotating directly on the page in a free form way that suits individual notation preferences. It is important to understand how successful students engage in deep learning through these practices when they revise, review, rehearse, replay and reflect," says Professor Finger.

Printing exam notes is a habit of top performing students

From the survey respondents, 45% claimed they performed at the top of their class or well above average in their last exams. Of those well over half (59%) indicated that marking printed notes -helped a lot' compared to those who achieved average or below average marks in their last exams (43%).

Further to this, almost half of the top performing students (48%) agreed that highlighting and writing study notes helps them a lot to remember points compared to a mere 16% of students who performed about or just above average. 52% of top performing students also say that highlighting and writing study notes gives them a lot of exam confidence, compared to 15% of students who performed about or just above average.

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."

Rowan's five top tips for exam success include:

Get your notes organised – print out the syllabus for your subject and go through your notes to identify that you've covered everything.
Go through the syllabus you've printed out and conduct a self-rating on your level of understanding. Identify what you don't know very well and focus on this.
Print out your study notes and with a pen and paper write out the key points. This could be writing key words or phrases, creating mind maps or drawing.
Use the rule of three – write out, in creative ways, the key content at least three times to boost memory retention. Start with an open book and move to a closed book.
Try and teach someone else what you've learned – reading out your notes to someone makes the key points familiar to your mind.

To ensure your student is set up for success, visit your local retailer for a Canon MG5660 printer available at under $90 (including GST).

To download Canon's study guide, featuring further information, top tips and advice on how to achieve exam success, please go to

Interview with Rowan Kunz, CEO, Art of Smart Education and Jason McLean, Canon's Director of Consumer Imaging

Rowan Kunz is the CEO of Art of Smart Education, an award winning provider of one-on-one tutoring and mentoring that has helped more than 2,500 students achieve their academic goals for school. Rowan has conducted eight years of research with Australia's top students who scored an ATAR over 98 which is the feature of the book, Secrets of HSC Success Revealed and online YouTube channel for students which has been viewed more than 1,000,000 times. Rowan was selected as one of Australia's 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs by Anthill.

Question: Can you talk about the student study habits found via the Canon Australia research?

Jason McLean: According to the research, 93% of Australian students have some problems studying online for exams, citing the temptation to check social media, digital distraction, memory retention and loss of focus as a key challenges. When you consider how much students rely on the internet to learn, these findings are pretty significant as they drive both parents and students to reconsider smart and efficient study methods during and beyond this HSC period.

The study also proves that Australian students achieve far better results when they revise from printed notes, with 1 in 2 top-performing Australian students preferring paper to a screen – claiming that they use printed and hand-written notes to remember points and increase confidence to achieve exam success.

Question: Can you explain how the Canon Australia research found that paper is mightier than the screen for exam success?

Jason McLean : The study Canon Australia commissioned was conducted by Galaxy Research, and more than 500 students – comprising 12-17 year old school students and 18-24 year old university/tafe/tertiary students – responded to a questionnaire on their current study habits and the challenges they face. This research proved that students who study online experience digital distraction and that top-performing students use and annotate on printed notes for effective revision. Some highlights in the findings include:

a. 56% of students revealing that social media was a huge barrier to successful studying

b. 39% find it hard to focus on study online while a quarter (23%) admit that they struggle to remember what they learned online unless they print it off

c. More than half of all respondents (52%) say that they are tempted to check what their friends are doing on social media

d. Almost half (47%) of all students claim to get easily distracted by messages and emails coming in

e. By using printed notes and revising on paper, 59% of Australian students found that their marks were higher than those of their peers who didn't revise using printed notes, pens and paper

f. The results showed writing notes by hand (31%) and printing off school notes and highlighting and writing notes on those to remember (28%) continue to be the preferred method of students across the board in the digital age

Based on these findings, Canon Australia approached Professor Glenn Finger (Professor of Education, Griffith University) and Rowan Kunz (CEO of Art of Smart Education, and past HSC student with a UAI of 99.6) who then supported with their own research, findings and proposed paper and pen-oriented study tips.

Question: What are your expert study tips?

Rowan Kunz: Here's a write up of seven out of the box/counter-intuitive study tips:

Study In Reverse
Most students get an exam schedule and start studying for the first exam first - but then don't get around to studying enough of the later exams.

What usually happens? You ace your first exam (because you've done the most study for it) but then mid exam period you hit the subjects you've done little study for. You end up cramming and having to study like crazy the night before and never do as well as you could.

The solution? Get your exam schedule, and start starting for your last exam first.

What happens the week before your exam? You're now studying for your first exam - so it's most fresh in your mind and you excel. When you get to the middle of exam periods you've studied for these subjects already and you kill it - all by simply studying in reverse.

Never Just Read
Most students study by reading their notes over and over again. Why? Because it's easy. Read your notes 3 times? Awesome - that's study done.

Unfortunately reading is the worst form of studying - it has the lowest memory retention rate, estimated at less than 10% of what you read after a 2 week period. So it sucks - really badly.

Have you ever read something and gone, wait a minute, what did I just read? (because you'd completely zoned out?)

So, when you're studying a simple hack is never to just read - always have pen in hand, jotting down notes, creating flowcharts, drawing diagrams, and writing key points. The simple act of writing makes study more active (so you don't zone out) and rapidly increased memory retention.

Draw Funky Diagrams
Ideally, pictures, drawings and flowcharts (and yes, those ole' mind maps) are the best things to write when you're studying. Why? Our spatial memory is crazily powerful (back from when we were hunter gatherers finding caves, water and food).

Ever been out to dinner and afterwards could remember exactly where everyone sat and what they were wearing? It's your spatial memory at work - and you did it without even trying.

Tap into this amazing powerful method of memory by taking your study notes and turning them into diagrams, flow charts and pictures.

Rule Of 3
Go over study (by writing - because it's so much more effective than reading) 3 times at a minimum.

3's the golden rule. 2 and you won't remember it that well. 3 and it'll start to get locked in.

Top students found this to be the sweet spot. Get your study notes, make 1/3 of the page margin and print them 3 times.

Then in the margin write and draw key points out throughout your notes. And do this in all 3 sets of notes. Guaranteed by the end of it you'll know your stuff!

No Study No Chocolate
This one is simple. Set a goal for study. 1 hour and 3 items on your to-do list. Identify a reward.
Who doesn't like chocolate?
No study, no chocolate...

Ideally it should be something you love. So it could be going to the gym, talking to your boyfriend, hanging out with friends. Put something you love on the line and make a commitment to not do it (going to the party on the weekend) unless you get your study done.

Simple, but effective way to get motivated fast - because there's no way you're going to miss that party right?

Turn Dinner Into A Study Session
Typically when do you receive feedback on the level of your knowledge?

When you get your exam results back... And that's the worst time to get your first feedback because you can't do anything about it.
Teaching other is your solution.

Teaching others is perhaps THE MOST EFFECTIVE study method. It's highly active (so you can't zone out) and by teaching someone you get immediate feedback as to whether you know your stuff, or whether you're making stuff up - and all before your exam so you can work to improve.

The best way to do this? Teach your family something each night over dinner. They'll love you for the riveting conversation (at least initially) and you'll be able to solidify your knowledge and work out what areas you need to improve on.

Give Yourself 10% Less Time
Make silly mistakes in exams?

The key difference between when you got the same question correct at home and when you got it incorrect is that ticking clock at the front of the exam. The time restraint is the key variable and the way you can minimize silly mistakes is get 100% comfortable with timed conditions.

The best way (and simplest) to get comfortable with timed conditions in exams?

In practice when you're studying give yourself 10% less time than what you'd have in exams.

So work out the time you'd have in exams, and subtract 10% of the time. Guess what happens in exams? You all of a sudden feel like you've got lots more time (because you've got comfortable at doing it in less time) - so you've now got the breathing room to read questions carefully, check over answers and make less silly mistakes!

Question: What advice do you have for HSC students who are distracted by social media?

Rowan Kunz: Use the following websites/tools:

These enable you to limit your access to social media sites while you are studying.

Turn your phone onto airplane mode, or make a deal with your parents - you give it to them for the 2-3 hours of study you need to do. It's tough, but worth it!

Question: How can HSC students feel less stressed during exams?

Rowan Kunz: Avoid studying their notes immediately prior to the exam - most students do it, and all it shows you is what you DON'T know, not what you do know! Top performing students based on our research over the last decade never studied their notes immediately prior to walking into the exam.

Instead they would do something they loved to get into the zone and get relaxed. Listen to music, go for a run, kick a ball around, hang out with friends.

Avoid people who stress you out prior to the exam. You've always got that one friend - stay away!

Here's an article our team has written on this as well:

Question: What advice do you have for parents of HSC exams?

Rowan Kunz: Outside of the usual advice about being supportive, giving them space, encouraging them to get some sleep and relax, I'd also recommend:

Get your child to teach you key concepts. Quiz them on the syllabus and their notes. You can help them study, and teaching others is the most powerful way to develop and lock in memory. So turn dinner, and trips into the car into teaching time, where they teach you concepts they've been studying to lock it in for them!

Interview by Brooke Hunter


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