ChatGPT and similar AI chatbots are all the rage. News about AI, its potential, uses, and dangers has flooded the internet. Even your family member who can barely send a proper text message is probably telling you all about it. It seems like every day a company announces their new AI chatbot (My AI from Snapchat is creepy and I hate it) that will somehow revolutionize the world.
But what is ChatGPT exactly, and how can you actually use it for studying?
What is Chat GPT?
Let’s have ChatGPT explain what it is in its own words:
“ChatGPT is an advanced conversational AI developed by OpenAI. It has been trained on a vast amount of text data from the internet, allowing it to have knowledge about a wide range of topics. It can answer questions, provide explanations, offer suggestions, assist with tasks, engage in casual conversation, and more. It can understand context and generate relevant and coherent responses based on the input it receives.”
Me again (the human)! Basically, it’s just a fancy tool similar to the autocomplete feature on your smartphone. It’s trained on massive data sets, which allows them to take an input or “prompt” and generate a humanlike response.
ChatGPT already has an incredible amount of uses today, including for studying! I’ll show you how with some actual prompts I’ve found to be useful when prepping for an exam.
But before we dive into that, you need to know about the two major don’ts when using ChatGPT.
1. Don’t trust everything it says
ChatGPT is kind of like a very smart but immature pre-teen. Sometimes it makes things up or is straight up wrong, but it will present that incorrect info in an extremely confident manner which can be misleading and cause issues.
Remember, it was trained on a massive dataset that was pulled from sources across the internet, and we know that information on the internet isn’t always the highest standard of quality and accuracy. So always double check and cross reference any information ChatGPT gives you just to be sure it’s accurate.
2. Don’t use it for timely information or current events
The current free version of ChatGPT was trained on data that only went up to September of 2021. It also does not have access to the internet in its basic form, though there are ways to provide it access to the internet with plugins and other tools.
OpenAI is working on bringing internet connectivity to some of its newer versions of ChatGPT. Other chatbots can already access the internet, but are either paid services or lack the basic features that makes ChatGPT so powerful. For now, just know it won’t be able to provide up-to-date information past 2021.
Okay, let’s get into the good stuff.
Here’s how you can use ChatGPT, complete with the best prompts to use for studying.
ChatGPT for summarizing papers, notes, articles, and more
In my opinion, one of the most powerful ways to use ChatGPT is for summarizing large chunks of text or data. If you have textbooks, notes, case studies, or large articles that you’d rather not read but need a basic understanding of, ChatGPT has you covered. Here’s a prompt that can summarize a research paper into easily digestible bits of information:
“I want you to act as a research paper summarizer. I will provide you with a research paper on a specific topic, and you will create a summary of the main points and findings of the paper. Your summary should be concise and should accurately and objectively communicate the key points of the paper. You should not include any personal opinions or interpretations in your summary, but rather focus on objectively presenting the information from the paper. Your summary should be written in your own words and should not include any direct quotes from the paper. Please ensure that your summary is clear, concise, and accurately reflects the content of the original paper.”
Copy and paste that into ChatGPT, and then copy and paste in the text of your paper. You can modify this prompt to work for textbook pages, notes, or any other text that you need a concise summary of, just swap out “research paper” with the format of your choice.
Virtual flashcard generator
When you actually start studying for your exam, flashcards can be an extremely helpful and effective tool. But why go through the trouble of making your own flashcards when you can have ChatGPT make them for you? Here’s the prompt:
“I want you to be a flash card generator that generates flashcards from [a textbook/notes/text/a topic] I provide. Each flashcard will use specific terms from that text and then show the definition of that term once flipped. You should not use questions, just terms themselves. I want you to generate one flash card at a time, and then flip the flashcard to show the answer when I prompt “flip”. After you flip the card, generate another flashcard with a new term.”
For this, you can provide ChatGPT with text from your notes, a textbook, or article to create the flashcards (you will need to specify this in the brackets). You can even skip copy and pasting the text and ask to use a specific textbook title if it is readily accessible in PDF or other form on the internet. For example, I’ve asked it for flashcards based on the American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response textbook without providing actual text and it managed to create accurate flashcards from it.
After it shows you the term and you think about the answer, ask it to “flip” the card to show you the definition/explanation to see if you got it right. You will then ask it for another flashcard if it doesn’t automatically generate one for you.
Creating a study plan
As an over planner obsessed with time and scheduling, one of the best uses I’ve found for ChatGPT is to create detailed schedules to automate your plans for the day, week, month, or year. You can ask ChatGPT to create a detailed study plan for you using some basic information. Here’s the prompt:
“I want you to create a study schedule plan with dates for me. The exact date today is [Today’s Date]. My exam is on [X day], and the exam will consist of [Exam topics listed here]. I have [X] hours available each weekday and [X] hours available for each day of the weekend. I am free from [X to X time] during the week and [X to X time] during the weekends. I should be focusing more on [Subject] since it is the subject I am struggling with.”
And to make even more time for studying, why not automate other parts of your schedule? You can ask it to:
- Create a weekly food plan and include specific recipes and a shopping list
- Create a workout schedule along with specific exercises and activities that meet your needs
- Create a social media and screen time schedule to limit your distractions
- Create a pomodoro technique schedule and automatically time each interval
Learning more about your exam or certification
ChatGPT is great at providing basic information about your exam or certification. You can even ask what type of career options you have after earning a specific certification along with potential salaries, job titles, job outlook, and more.
I’ve found that keeping this prompt simple is best, and then you can ask conversational followup questions based on the information you receive. Start with something like:
“Can you tell me about the X exam? I want to know what kind of topics are covered in the X exam, how the exam is structured, and how long I have to take it.”
Remember, information is only accurate up to mid 2021. So be sure to cross reference this information to be sure it’s correct before you run with it, or use something like Bing Chat which has access to the internet for up to date information.
There’s so much more you can do with ChatGPT, get creative and see what prompts you can come up with to help you on your study journey. Here are some tips I’ve found to be extremely helpful when prompt writing.
4 Tips to write prompts for ChatGPT
1. Don’t use pleasantries
This is a chat bot, not an actual person. It seems rude not to say “please” and “thank you” since the responses are so humanlike, but adding in pleasantries can cause confusion or muddy responses. It’s best to leave them out.
2. Be as detailed as possible
Basic prompts provide basic responses. Sometimes that’s okay, but if you’re asking ChatGPT to complete complex tasks, you need to be as detailed as possible with your request. If you look at the first summarize papers prompt, it was extremely detailed for such a simple request.
3. Trial and error
Sometimes the response you get just isn’t what you expected. That’s okay, rewrite your prompt and try to add in more details to weed out any unwanted information or formatting you get back, or to add in information it missed. The first prompt you write for a task probably won’t get you exactly what you’re looking for.
4. Turn it off and on
When all else fails, start a new chat and ask the same thing again. Sometimes responses are broken, odd, or incorrect. Asking the question again in a new chat will occasionally fix that.
With all of these tips and prompts, you should be able to harness the power of AI to make your study sessions more effective, or at least more interesting. And as AI and ChatGPT continue to improve, even more uses will come out of it for studying… as long as it doesn’t take over the world and make us bend down to our robot overlords first.
Off to go watch The Matrix…again.