Exams, essays and projects can be a stressful prospect for even the most level-headed students. The nerves are there for good reason. Exams are daunting. Essays and projects take hard work. You need to be able to recall and communicate all the relevant information that was crammed into your comprehensive syllabus. And you need to do so in a pressure-cooker situation.
Thankfully help is at hand. There are a few tips and tricks that can help you study to the best of your ability. While they’re no substitute for hard work, these little study hacks may be the difference between a good result, and a great one.
According to a 2010 study on the ‘production effect’, reading aloud increases your ability to remember things. The study looked at the differences in the retention of a piece of written material, half of which was read silently, and the other half of which was read aloud. People remembered the material that was read aloud markedly better than the material that was read silently. This is because by voicing the material, and giving it a distinct sound, you’re giving the brain yet another way of remembering it.
Use mnemonic devices
Never Eat Soggy Weetbix. For most Australian children this is how we remembered the north, east, south and west compass points in order. Mnemonic devices – fun acronyms that form a list of information – are terrific for memory retention. You only need to remember a trigger word or letter, and you’ll remember a whole concept!
Want to remember the order of mathematical operations to help you solve a range of equations? Check out this handy-yet-daggy mnemonic device in the form of a song.
Make an infographic
Infographics are the internet’s favourite way of delivering information. They condense often complicated subjects down to an easily digestible visual form. If a whole infographic isn’t possible, simply taking notes in the form of graphic illustrations makes them more memorable. It’s also been found that notes taken in your own handwriting – or drawing style – are recalled more easily than typed notes. Find out more about the art of note taking.
By rewarding yourself for studying hard, you’ll set up a subconscious link between study and reward. Allow yourself an episode of your favourite show after two hours of study, for example. Give yourself a few jelly beans when you finish a page of text. Do whatever will personally motivate you to keep studying. This work-and-reward cycle, if done right, could lead to stronger retention of the information you study.
Record your lectures
The furious note-taking that accompanies some lectures can be taxing, and often you can miss out on vital information while trying to note down what was said two minutes ago. Why not record your lecture, and listen back to it at your leisure? This takes the pressure off of catching everything the first time around, and allows you to work through it at your own pace.
Use a smart study app
There are a wealth of study apps available that aim to streamline the study process, and help you be the best student you can be. Simple is best. Apps like Flashcards+ and Study Blue offer simple interfaces to create and revise flashcards and notes. Just make sure you don’t ironically waste study time by playing around too long on a study efficiency app.
Feeling distracted? The only solution is to be firm with yourself. Make a schedule and stick to it. Manage your time wisely. Find a quiet space without a TV or a phone, and put your head down. Denying yourself the temptation of procrastination and getting focused is your best bet for success.
Explain it to a six year old
Do you think you know your stuff? Albert Einstein once said, ‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself’. So find someone who is totally unfamiliar with the subject, and see how well you can convey it.
Change your surroundings
Sticking to your favourite desk in your favourite corner of the library may be comfortable for you, but interestingly, that comfort can somewhat numb your brain. It’s been found that changing your study surroundings forces your brain into reforming new memories, meaning that you’re more likely to retain information when it’s collected in a fresh setting.
Stop the all-nighters
Our bodies need time to rest and recuperate in order to properly function during the day. And while we’re resting, our brain actually strengthens and reaffirms the new memories we’ve collected through our day. To study effectively, good sleep is a must.
Treat your body as a temple
Just like you service your car in order to avoid it breaking down, make sure you’re treating your body with respect to get the most out of your study time. If you eat well and exercise, you’ll find that you cope with exam time far better.
Digest information steadily
Don’t gorge. If you chew through your study material quickly, it’s likely that you won’t remember much. Study each piece with focus, ensure that you understand it, and then move on.
Putting it into practice
There’s no magic formula to becoming an ace at studying. Certain types of study techniques will work better for some topics than others, and everyone responds to different study techniques in different ways. You need to test and see which ones work best for you in which situations.
By no means do these tips offer a substitute for good quality, nose-to-the-grindstone study. But by using some study smarts you may be able to extend yourself just that little bit further, reaching your goals faster and smarter.