Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you study, you end up forgetting the stuff you learned sooner or later? Or as if your study techniques are not cutting it? Do you often wonder how to study smarter not harder or how to study effectively for exams? Many students realize that their learning methods are not as effective as they thought after they face a huge failure, especially as they transition from school to college.
This is understandable since college life is very different from school life. However, this does not mean that you are not a good student or you are not competent like your class fellows, instead, it just means that you need to adapt to a new environment and follow new study methods and learning tips. Fortunately, there are many science studying tips that you can follow to improve your efficiency, recall ability, and memory.
We have compiled the best study tips and tricks that have been proven to work by science. So, what you can do instead of wondering how to study effectively is that you can follow these learning tips and excel in your educational career and leave everyone behind:
1. Set the Stage
One of the most important study tips that we suggest to students is to work in an organized study area. If you do not have the right conditions – in your mind and external surroundings – you will not be able to study properly. Here are some amazing strategies you can try implementing:
- Reward yourself with a good night’s sleep: Science has proved that there is a strong positive relationship between the amount of sleep and the grades you get. However, this does not just apply to the night before a big test or final exam. You need to get enough sleep (a full 8 hours is the best) for several nights before you start revising a whole year’s syllabus.
- Listen to soothing music: There is no hard and fast rule and you can listen to whatever type of music you like, however, many people agree that lo-fi beats, instrumental, and classical music helps during study sessions. Songs with lyrics can divert your attention while calming background music can help you pay better attention to the task at hand.
- Get rid of any possible distractions: Get rid of distractions by putting your phone on ‘Silent Mode’ and muting the TV or radio as well to eliminate their annoying background noises. Do a pinky promise with yourself to avoid checking your social media handles until you are done studying for the day.
- Switch up your study surroundings: Research shows that changing up your study environment can improve your recall performance. So, instead of studying in the same spot (for example, your room), try switching things up by visiting your local library or coffee shop once in a while. A change in surroundings can increase concentration levels and enhance memory.
- Eat smart snacks: Coffee and candy are great for a temporary caffeine boost, but then you also get a blood sugar crash because of them. Instead, try eating healthy snacks like nuts, apples, granola bars, or edamame to get more focused and sustainable energy.
2. Try the Feynman Technique
The Feynman Technique is one of the most efficient study methods that involve quick learning by explaining a concept in plain and simple terms. It is based on the concept that if you want to understand a concept well, try to explain that concept simply in your own words. When you explain something in your own words, you are likely to grasp it a lot faster.
How to study effectively for exams using the Feynman technique?
- Write down the concept or topic you are learning at the top of a paper.
- Explain that topic to yourself as if you are teaching someone else.
- Review the notes you made for any areas that you have written wrong.
- Once you have identified the mistakes you made, go back to your study material and figure out what was the right answer.
3. Exercise Before You Study
The benefits of exercise for your memory and brain have been well-known in the fields of psychology, health, and fitness for quite some time now. Research has reported that our brainpower gets enhanced after a workout (even if it is a short one) because our body pumps more nutrients and oxygen to our brain. Dr. Douglas B. McKeag says that breaking a sweat shortly before you start studying can make you more open, able, and alert to new information if you study post-workout.
4. Take Regular Breaks
While you may think that the best way to study is to do it for as many hours as you can, this can be counterproductive. In fact, if you take breaks you can improve your performance. Long breaks, lunchtime breaks, and micro-breaks have all been reported to positively influence your productivity and wellness.
Everyone is built differently, so develop a study plan specifically for your needs. If you feel more productive during the night, take a break during the day so you can settle down at night. Or, if you study better in the early hours, take a break preferably after lunchtime. Do not force yourself to study for long hours or guilt-trip yourself for enjoying some sunshine instead of scribbling down notes. Plus, you need vitamin D too, right?
5. Oppose the Curve of Forgetting
The “curve of forgetting” was first studied by scientists in 1885, but it is still useful for the present day’s science studying tips. So, what is the curve of forgetting? Well, the first time you study a subject, you retain up to 80% of the stuff you learn, if you review your notes within the first 24 hours. This effect is cumulative in nature and as a result, you can retain 100% of that study material after a week by spending only five minutes to review.
Scientists agree that this type of studying is better than cramming. They believe that students should revise the material they learn in a day closer to that day rather than the day of the test.
6. Reading Is Not Studying
Simply reading your study material does not actively engage you because you are simply reading and re-reading the same thing. Plus, re-reading also causes quick forgetting. So, it is useless!
Reading is a crucial component of pre-studying, however, if you want to learn something, you have to actively engage in that material. (Edwards, 2014). Active engagement is a procedure in which you construct meaning from text and it involves the formation of examples, regulation of your own learning, and making connections to your lectures. (Davis, 2007). Hence, it does not mean underlining, highlighting, or drawing circles over text, nor does it mean rote memorization or re-reading. Even though these things may keep you engaged in your study session, they are not a part of active studying techniques and aren’t even strongly associated with improved learning (Mackenzie, 1994). So, try to incorporate active studying into your life.
Some effective active learning tips are:
- Make a detailed study guide by subject. Design problems and questions along with their respective answers. In other words, make your own quiz or assessment.
- Become your own teacher. Say the information that you are studying, aloud in your own words just the way teachers do when they are teaching something to a class.
- Think of examples that you can relate to based on your experiences.
- Make diagrams, flowcharts, and maps to explain the topic.
- Organize and plan your study materials before you start to actively review your topic. Use the subtopics provided by your professors to organize your materials.
7. Find Examples
Sometimes, abstract concepts can be difficult to memorize. Concrete information, on the other hand, can be better memorized than abstract information because the former is easier to turn into an image. So, try to find supporting examples.
For example, sour foods are sour because they have an acid in them. On its own, this concept can be very vague to grasp. But if you think of vinegar or lemon, you can easily remember that sourness and acids go hand in hand. Therefore, the related examples can help you remember the concept behind sour foods.
Try to think of at least 2 different examples. Two different concrete examples provide much greater success in remembering stuff.
8. Reconsider Multitasking
A large number of studies have reported that multi-tasking does not increase efficiency instead, it negatively influences results. So, if you want to know how to study smarter not harder, you have to get rid of all possible distractions when you sit down to study. Texting, video games, web browsing, and social media can severely affect your study sessions. Avoid multitasking because it increases the time you need to learn something and decreases your learning quality.
Therefore, removing distractions will let you properly engage with your study material when studying. If you do not need to use your laptop for studying, then do not use it, do not even turn it on. Use time management apps and turn your phone off when you sit down to study. Yes, you can reward yourself after an intensive studying session by spending some time on social media but remember to time your break, so you do not get carried away.
9. Test Yourself
Try to take part in retrieval practice because it is known to help almost everyone as proved by Rawson and others in their study called Learning and Instruction in August of 2020. Their research consisted of university students with an attention problem called ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Retrieval practice helped the students with ADHD and those without any attention problem equally well.
Retrieval practice involves retrieving target information from your brian’s long-term memory. It is linked to improvements in long-term memory as compared to re-studying or re-reading.
You can try making flashcards for every new piece of information that you learn. Write the questions on one side and their answers on the other. You can involve your friends in the activity too. The key is to test yourself the way your teacher would when taking a quiz.
And remember to really grill yourself when practicing because if you just ask yourself simple questions such as definitions, multiple-choice questions, important dates, and names, etc., you might end up failing the test. The reason why? Because teachers do not ask such simple questions. They like to dig deeper. So, they won’t ask you for definitions and dates. Instead, they will ask you to compare and contrast different concepts while providing supporting evidence. These types of questions require critical thinking.
10. Make Color-Coded Notes
Messy notes cannot only be hard to decipher but they can also make it difficult to recall what you learned during a lecture. Writing color-coded notes during class can help you organize the information, and review it, and prioritize it later.
A recent research experiment has concluded that color can enhance an individual’s memory performance. It also reported that warm colors such as yellow and red can create a motivating and positive learning environment. This type of learning environment can help students develop a positive perception of their study material. Moreover, they can engage and interact with the content more actively in such a learning environment.
In addition, warmer colors are also reported to increase a person’s attention and elicit information with excitement. If you decide to start writing in color, remember to keep things organized and do not color everything.
11. Keep Practicing
Everyone requires practice in order to become the best in their field. Athletes spend their time practicing their sports skills while musicians spend their time practicing their respective instruments. The same applies to learning.
Psychologists say that if you want to remember the information that you learn, the best thing you can do is keep practicing. This was proved to be true in one 2013 experimental study performed by Kent State University in Ohio. In the study, a group of students took practice tests regularly over the course of several weeks. On the day of the final test, they got better grades (a full letter grade better) as compared to the students who did not take any practice tests and studied the way they normally did.
In a study performed a few years ago, a group of university students read study material and then took some recall tests. While some students out of that group took only one test, others took more than one but with short intervals of a few minutes in between each test. The results of the study revealed that the second group that took more than one test recalled the study material better after a week.
No one likes to spend all their time studying only to end up forgetting more than half of it. With effective study methods, you can prepare for your exams in less time while retaining more information. Hopefully, with the study tips above, you can make your study sessions more effective.