Paper is mightier than the screen for exam success

29th September 2015
New research launched today, 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:
1. Get your notes organised – print out the syllabus for your subject and go through your notes to identify that you’ve covered everything.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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
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