6 Ways to Study Smarter

by on Dec 1st, 2017

Some of these tips we’ve preached before and some of them are new, but all of them are guaranteed and backed by science to get you studying more effectively. It’s final exam time MacEwan. Let’s do this!

1. Stop. Cramming.

We know, we know. The temptation to cram the night before a test is all too real, but we have some disappointing news for you: cramming doesn’t work that well. This is due to several reasons, like increased stress and not enough sleep, but the real culprit is lack of retention. In order for our brains to connect new facts, we need time for the information to be processed into long-term memory. This not only takes time, but also repeated exposure. When you cram, all that information gets stored in your short-term memory and disappears by time your exam rolls around the next day.

2. Read Ahead.

Do you have test anxiety? Fear no more! We have a super simple way to help you out. When you’re anxiously awaiting your exam or worrying what the question will be, you’re expending valuable mental resources. However, researchers have found that if you look through the exam before starting, you will reduce your anxiety, freeing up more working memory resources!

3. Don’t Overlearn – Space it Out Instead!

You’ve been studying for hours and you can officially recall all your study material flawlessly. Do you a) feel satisfied and move onto something else or b) continue studying the same flashcards for another hour? Lots of students choose option b which is a common method known as overlearning. And while this approach isn’t necessarily bad, it most certainly isn’t the most effective. Research shows your energy is better spent utilizing the spacing effect, which finds that distributing (or spacing) your studying across multiple sessions seriously boosts your long-term retention.

Study Tip: Researchers at UCLA have shown that by simply alternating between study subjects, students can enhance their long-term recall of information. Once you’re feeling comfortable with a topic, switch to a different subject to make better use of your time and improve your retention.

4. Become the Teacher.

This is such a simple technique and the results are amazing! The hardest part is finding someone a willing participant to play the part of student. Basically, when you’re expecting to teach someone the material you’ve learnt teach the material to.  Expecting to teach what’s been learned has been shown to be better for learning and memory than expecting only testing. It’s a subtle shift in mindset, but the effect on learning is an important one. Learning material with an intention to teach ensures that material is actively understood and stored away in memory, and not passively looked over.

5. Take a Break.

Our brains can only handle so much information at once, and when you focus on a single task for a long time you become easily distracted by cat videos and deciphering Taylor Swift lyrics. So what should you do differently to avoid these unnecessary distractions? Take breaks. A study at the University of Illinois found that brief diversions increase our ability to stay focused and on task; but not all breaks are created equal. Try getting in a short workout or taking a power nap to really boost your productivity and memory retention!

STUDY TIP: Memory is strongest for the things learned immediately before and after a break so keep those times for the tough stuff.

6. Get some sleep.

Pulling an all-nighter might sound like the solution to all your studying woes, but science tells us the exact opposite is true. In fact, studies show that even one night of sleep deprivation can have adverse effects on your memory and ability to concentrate.

Sleep is also necessary for the formation and retention of memories. While you’re dreaming, you’re brain is hard at work growing new connections and strengthening pathways around whatever you’re learning. In other words, sleep reinforces your memory, which is why getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep is extremely important, especially while studying.

STUDY TIP: Research has shown studying more difficult or important information right before bed helps with future retrieval.