The index study system is a system that can be used to help the person studying review the material, as well as be honest with himself or herself about how well he or she actually knows the information. This system forces the person to think about the material, instead of simply looking over it. There are seven short steps to the index study system, and the other materials needed to complete the steps are index cards, a writing utensil, and the material being studied (in the form of notes or actual text.)
The first step asks the student to read and review his or her notes and the text a few times. This way, the information being studied is fresh in the mind of the student. The second step of the system is for the student to generate questions he or she has about the material. One way to think of questions is to imagine what may be asked on a quiz or test about the material. The third step, which goes hand in hand with steps one and two, asks the student to keep a list of unfamiliar terms in the readings, handouts, and notes.
Step four is where the student writes down the questions he or she has about the material, as well as the unfamiliar terms, on index cards. There should only be one question or term per index card. On one side of the index card the student will write the question or the term, and on the other side of the index card the student will write the answer or the definition. The student should try to write the answer or definition in his or her own words, instead of copying directly from the main source. The fifth step is to shuffle the cards. This may not seem important, but one may be able to recite an answer just by being aware of the order of the cards.
Now it is quiz time. Step six directs the student to answer the question or define the term on the first card. If the student answers correctly, place the card on the bottom of the pile. If the student answers incorrectly, look at the answer, study it, and then place the card in the top third of the deck. By doing this, the student will come across the question again soon and have another opportunity to answer it correctly. The final step of the index study system is to continue reviewing the cards as indicated in step six until the student has answered all the questions in the deck of index cards correctly.
The index cards can be carried in a pocket or a purse just about anywhere. Use any available time, even if it is only a few minutes, to study the cards. Try answering the questions aloud, as this is the best indication that the student knows the correct answer. Finally, the index cards can be used to study with another person. The other person can help to hold the student accountable to give correct answers, and may also help to explain difficult or complex ideas about the material.