Studying is a part of college that we just can’t avoid. During our time, we have experimented with many studying techniques. Highlighting with different colours made our notes look super tidy but didn’t help much in remembering the points later. Taking down notes while reading a chapter helped but was not the most effective.
With time, we realized that the best study sessions were not about the tactics but how we feed the information to our brains in the most effective ways. The brain-friendly ways of studying are always easy – no more late-night cramming sessions before big tests!
Studying is fun when it is done right. It is less about memorizing and more to do with re-learning what you already know. Here are five science-backed studying techniques that are easy on our brains and are proven to show results.
1. Take Control of Your Calendar
A big test coming around the corner? Don’t stress. Clear your mind and take out your calendar. The first step into acing your exam is to set a plan and stick to it. Procrastination is your worst enemy and treat it as such. The famous “I’ll do it soon” probably might not be a great start to your study plan.
Once you know what areas you need to study before the exam, prioritize them. Figure out which areas you want to focus on more and less so you can allocate time accordingly. For example, your favourite area of the subject might need less attention while another area could need more of your time and attention. However, make sure you cover all areas in your study plan. Cross-check your calendar with the syllabus or the areas of study that are tested.
When you write them down on your calendar, make sure you’re clear and precise on which parts you will be studying or revising. Mark chunks of time you want to dedicate to each area or subject and make sure your sessions are not too long – there’s only so much information our brains can handle.
Allow time for breaks! Get some fresh air, walk your pet, get on a call with a friend or, as risky as it sounds, make time for just one episode of your favourite sitcom. Give yourself a breather after a session of studying and hit the books with a clean state-of-mind.
Revise, revise, revise! Once you have gone through the material, always have a few days dedicated to revisions. These extra few days could give you the boost of confidence we all need to ace all big tests.
2. Study Less but with Greater Intensity
Hate to break it to you but, you can’t multitask successfully. When we switch activities, our brains must refocus to understand the new context. So, every time you do more than one thing while studying, you are actually wasting a lot of time.
Research has discovered that the secret of straight-A students is that while they focus on studying, they eliminate all distractions. Maintain a high-intensity focus for a shorter period of time so you don’t get tempted to check your phone for texts or scroll through Instagram, which are low-intensity activities that don’t need a lot of effort, making them easy distractions.
Here are a few pointers to help you maintain a greater intensity of focus during your study sessions:
- Create a focus mode on your phone so that notifications from social media sites don’t reach you.
- Create a study space with minimal distractions. For example, find a space that is away from noise and people, creating the best headspace for you.
- Be picky with the music you listen to while studying. The lyrics can easily distract you so.
- create a playlist with just soundtracks that soothe you and increase focus.
3. Create Your Own Learning Habits
This is my favourite part when it comes to studying. The way our brains work is very different from each other so what might work for your friend might not work the same for you. Some of us remember better when we think visually and for some, it might not work the same. So creating your own habits is a very important study technique that can get you the A you are after.
To create your own learning habits, understand how your brain works. Experiment a few techniques and see what works for you best. These are a few high-intensity habits that you can practice in your study sessions.
- Self-quizzing: Make your own test questions and quiz yourself. Think about the questions that might pop up on the final test and include them in your study or revision sessions. Don’t skip over areas you might think are easy.
- Spaced practice: This is a study technique where you focus on one area of the subject for a short period of time over a couple of days. It is a difficult yet effective method where you are reminded of the knowledge you studied the day before. You can use flashcards and take quizzes for this technique.
- Interleaving practises: Most of us will study a section until we master it. Interleaving practise means you study a set of areas that are related but not the same. For example, rather than mastering multiplication, study a set of questions that include addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.
- Pre-testing: Similar to self-quizzing, pre-testing is the habit of answering questions before you study the section. This will show you which areas you will need to focus more. Research has proven that pre-testing gives you better results at the actual test.
4. Ask questions
When it comes to studying, there are no wrong questions! One thing that I always recommend is to ask yourself questions and get creative with it. Be curious about the area you are studying and dig deeper. Remember, you don’t have to stick to your material; the internet is a place full of answers.
If you are a member of a study group or you enjoy studying with your friends, make a list of questions that you want to ask them and get them to do the same. This will make sure all areas of study will be covered-even the most unexpected questions are bound to make an appearance.
Pro tip- Answer the whys, whos, hows and whats and you will get a good understanding of the chapter, regardless of the subject. For example, say you’re studying basic biology. Answer why certain systems perform specific functions, what organs support it, and how they support it and soon you will understand the concept, rather than memorize it, just to forget after the test is over.
5. Keep going!
Consistency is key! Don’t give up just because you missed a few scheduled sessions, or you missed a part of a lesson. Pick up right where you left off and try to squeeze in a few extra hours to cover the parts you missed.
If you’re procrastinating, don’t worry, the best of us are. However, identify why you’re putting studying off. Understand that there is always a bigger reason than just being lazy. Most of the time, it is because we are intimidated by the task or we simply think it cannot be done.
Consider these options if you find yourself procrastinating:
- Remind yourself of your long-term goal. This will give you the motivation to get back on track.
- Keep track of your progress, no matter how small you think it is. Any progress is a lot better than none.
- Start small. As a procrastinator myself, I start off with the smallest task and work my way up to bigger ones. Completing a task albeit how insignificant it is will give you that rush to get on with the rest.
- Talk to a friend. Tell them exactly why you are not studying and be honest with yourself. Once you crack the code you will know exactly what to do to get back on track.
One thing we always forget is that studying is not the enemy but your ally. Fall in love with being productive and as cliche as it sounds – fall in love with the process of it. If you love taking down notes, get extra with it. Spice up your flashcards, your quizzes can be funny and studying doesn’t have to be boring!