Everyone can be the perfect student. Yes, even you. It all comes down to science, psychology, and many, many treats.
- Don’t cram
With new research from Microsoft revealing humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish (8 seconds to be precise), this method of learning won’t get you very far. The brain has also been proven to strengthen memories during breaks. So make sure you plan ahead and give yourself enough time to work through your material in sessions your concentration span can manage.
If you’re still with us, there are more excellent tips below.
- Study in different rooms
New information can cloud older information. But all is not lost. Memory is aided by environmental contexts, which means studying different subjects in different rooms can reduce confusion. At the very least, stick to one subject at a time and take breaks between topics.
- Combine whole and part learning
Memory expert Dr. Kenneth Higbee recommends two approaches to tackling big subjects (Your Memory: How it Works and How to Improve It). First is whole-to-part learning. Focus on the overarching concept or read the whole chapter first, then break it down into chunks and study the details. The second option is part-to-whole, where the details lead to a better understanding of the broader topic. Decide which one suits your learning style or subject-matter best.
- Say it out loud
You’re 50% more likely to remember something if you speak it out loud, because it forces you to pay more attention than you would when reading. Flash cards are a great way to prompt recitals, or find a study partner and quiz each other.
- Get moving
Extract yourself from the sofa. A study by the University of British Columbia found regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus (the verbal memory and learning part of the brain). Similarly, Dr. Chuck Hillman of Illinois University found that 20 minutes of exercise before exams improves performance.
- Draw diagrams
Many people are visual learners. These students tend to remember what they read rather than what they hear, never forget a face, and might not follow verbal instructions all that well. Sound like you? Then whip out those felt tip pens. Diagrams, mind maps and colour-coded notes will all help you remember more.
- Reward yourself
This one’s a goodie! Study is more effective when you incentivise it with rewards. But make sure you pick something proportionate to the achievement. If you finish reading one chapter, we can’t advise you treat yourself to a holiday. Equally, when you nail your first year at business school, you can probably do better than a gummy bear or an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
- Do away with distractions
According to a GWI report, the average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing them every day. Well, you can probably quadruple that when you’re sat at a desk with nothing but a textbook for company. It’s time to bite the bullet and download a tool to block your favourite distractions. With SelfControl you can block tempting websites for a set amount of time to keep your study sessions on track. FocusWriter re-creates a word processor-like environment, blocking out absolutely everything on your screen (even your menu bar and clock) except for the words you type on a plain grey background.
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