Struggling to Study?
If you google study tips / hacks, you will find a plethora of sources giving you their opinion on what study hacks work and what don't. Here are some that are scientifically proven.
Chunking is the practice of studying in small sections of information. Trying to cram all the information into your brain in one sitting will leave you overwhelmed and your brain will not remember most of it.
Think of your brain as a conveyor belt at a factory. The conveyor belt can only hold 5-7 pieces of information at a time before one has to be pushed off to make room for another. If someone lists a grocery list of 20 items, the average person will remember about 5-7 of the items from the list.
Therefore, try to chunk your studying into categories. For example, if you are having a test on World War II coming up on Friday and it is Monday you may want to chunk the information by category/subject each day. Your schedule may look something like this:
Battles & Military Information (Monday - 30 minutes)
Policies / Politics (Tuesday - 30 minutes)
Economical Topics ( Wednesday - 30 minutes)
Bigger Ideas / Reviewing something you already studied (Thursday - 30 minutes)
By chunking your information and staggering your study sessions, your brain is more likely to retain the information for the test on Friday.
Avoid the Forgetting Curve:
The Forgetting Curve is the concept of memory that the longer you go without reviewing new information, the faster you will forget.
To prevent the Forgetting Curve from occurring, you should aim to review your new information as frequently as possible. This does not have to be a in-depth and time consuming process either. Simply reading your notes, or textbook for 10 minutes a day will help prevent the Forgetting Curve.
Our brains receive so much new sensory information each day that our brain has to decide what is important and what is not. Think about when you are walking through the school campus. Your brain is actively taking in all forms of information. The color of every shirt that other students are wearing, how many people there are around you, the temperature, the time, the smells, and more. All of this is information, but not all of it is required so our brains will forget it naturally through the Forgetting Curve since we are not actively trying to remind our brain of the importance of that piece of information.
If you really need to remember a very important piece of information from class, try reading about it for 5-10 minutes every night before bed. This should help you retain as much memory on the subject as possible.
We all know exercise is good for you. But did you know that exercising before studying can help improve your cognition. The Hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for reasoning and memory) is stimulated by exercise causing it to perform better.
In addition to this, exercise is a good stress reliever. When you are less stressed your mind is clear. Doing a cardio related exercise for about 20 minutes before studying will improve memory retention of whatever you need to study.
Study Before Sleeping:
You may have noticed by now that studying before sleeping is a commonly recommended practice when it comes to studying.
Sleep is believed to stabilize the memories we create and form throughout the day. Have you ever tried to recall a specific piece of information after staying up for 24 hours straight? Sometimes it is hazy at best and sometimes you just do not remember at all.
Research suggests that studying before bed and then getting 7-8 hours of sleep will help improve memory retention and increase your chances of success when it comes to studying.
Break Up Long Sessions:
This is similar to the concept of Chunking. As a student you will be tempted to pull all-nighters or long study sessions consisting of multiple hours. Long study sessions are fine as long as you follow this key rule.
Do not focus on one task for too long. Research shows that focusing on one single task for a long period of time results in the mind beginning to wander. Have you ever realized that your mind becomes comfortable or use to a specific source of sound? Perhaps you have younger siblings who cry a lot but you have learned to tune it out. Maybe you work at a restaurant and the clanking of glass and plates is now something normal to your ears. Our brains are trained to become habituated to these things and the same is true for studying.
If you study for multiple hours on end your eyes may be looking at the information, but your brain has become habituated and is now just going through the motions. Have you ever read a paragraph and then realized you did not understand what you read. So you read it again... and again... and again... until you give up because you are frustrated because you just do not understand what you are reading?
If this happens to you then try taking a break. Taking short breaks throughout the entire study session is proven to help refocus your brain and also gives you a much needed break for your brain to rest on the information you are trying to remember. So for every 30 minutes of studying try taking a 5-10 minute break after.
By Dr. Jane Genovese
Perhaps this should go under the "Recommended Readings", but since we are talking about study hacks maybe you would be interested in checking out this excellent book that will help you on your journey through high school.