Every college student knows how insanely stressful studying can be.
Whether you’re facing a challenging midterm in the morning or feeling dumbstruck at the prospect of a pop quiz, it’s harder than it looks to pull up the necessary information buried deep inside your brain.
Both professors and fellow students are happy to offer tips on what works for them, but sorting through the many methods of studying can be tedious.
Instead of taking a shot in the dark and hoping it pays off, check out these six study hacks that are helping students of all kinds get through the school year.
While chunking may sound a bit silly, the phenomenon is backed by solid scientific research. A study by UC Santa Barbara psychologists revealed that grouping related information together makes it easier to recall than if the same information were stored in the brain as single, separate points.
This explains why we think of a phone number as one long sequence and why we can rattle off those 10 digits without having to scour our memory for each one.
Chunking takes this idea and turns it into a helpful study tool. By making short lists of between five and nine related names or numbers, the information is stored as an easily-recalled sequence and can be brought to the front of your mind in a flash.
Cramming for a history test? Group together those Civil War dates that seem unbelievably bland and forgettable and make them into a list. When it’s test time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well you know Lincoln’s inauguration date and Mississippi’s secession year.
2. Better Bedtime Routines
Wondering why your morning study sessions aren’t working, even with the addition of several cups of coffee?
As the Harvard Health Blog explains, cracking the books at the crack of dawn leaves your brain open to interference throughout the rest of the day, leading to reduced productivity from your early study sessions.
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Instead, schedule some time to hit the books right before you hit the sack. Research has shown that unrelated word pairs are best remembered when learned directly before going to sleep, an outcome that further proves how helpful sleep is in stabilizing new information learned during the day.
Although you’ll no doubt be tempted to pull a couple all-nighters this school year, remember how effective a bedtime ritual of studying can be and opt for seven or eight solid hours of snoozing per night.
3. Climbing the “Forgetting Curve”
Regardless of whether you’ve ever said the word Ebbinghaus in your life, you’ve definitely experienced the effects of this common phenomenon.
The Forgetting Curve proves that information is better stored in our memory if we review that information often.
When your professor says to take notes during his lecture, he’s not just being bossy. Reading those notes every day for the next week will give you a serious leg up during your next quiz.
4. A New Perspective on Brain Health
For years, college students looking for an edge would ask around until they found a friend with a prescription for Adderall or Ritalin.
After their all-night study session resulted in a mediocre test score, they’d pop some Xanax or Ativan to curb the jitters. In 2017, students are increasingly dropping the prescriptions and turning to nootropics.
Nootropics are more-natural “smart drugs” — compounds that improve cognition, intensify focus, and ramp up study sessions without the grogginess or jitters of Xanax or Adderall.
While many nootropics offering various benefits are now on the market, Adrafinil is probably the most effective over-the-counter option for wiping out fatigue and giving your brain that extra boost it needs to soak up information during your study sessions.
Adrafinil doesn’t produce a hyperactive feeling, but simply gives you a focused, clear-minded outlook that’s perfect for studying.
5. Move Your Body, Move Your Mind
While a pop quiz might get your blood pumping for a few minutes, moderate cardio for 20 minutes a day is a much better way to exercise.
Benefits of exercise include reduced stress, better blood flow, and even enhanced memory, so going for a quick jog before your next study session is a great way to maximize your memorization potential.
Many students are understandably turned off by the prospect of paying a monthly fee to join a gym, but there’s plenty of opportunity for cash-free exercise if you look in the right places.
6. Take a Break!
Just like all-nighters, cram sessions hold an eternal temptation for college students. The idea of buckling down for three or four hours seems like a winning idea, and the reality is that long study sessions can be beneficial, with one important caveat.
Put down the pencil and take a break. Not just one break, but many breaks. As long as they’re short, intermittent pauses actually help you focus better. If you find yourself staring at a single sentence while wondering what you’ll have for lunch, that’s a sign you’ve been at it too long.
For students who have trouble tearing themselves away from the books, even when daydreaming, setting a timer can be extremely helpful in announcing it’s break time.
With all the advice concerning study sessions out there, it can be hard to choose the method that’s right for you. In reality, most students don’t have a single way of studying, but instead employ multiple methods to help them gear up for challenging tests and ace difficult projects.
Staying engaged in school isn’t too different from staying engaged at work, as the helpful tips in this article show.
Regardless of what you’re focusing on, use scientifically-backed techniques and you’re sure to complete your goals.
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