You know when you decided to go to college studying is going to be a big part of making sure you know your stuff.
But knowing you HAVE to study is only half of it. Making sure you’re studying smart can make a big difference. There’s a ton of advice out there about how to be a super studier, but we wanted to find something backed up by cold, hard facts. Here are four scientifically backed study tips to help you study like a rock star.
Have you ever pulled an all-nighter? Then you know they are not fun. But BBC Future says cramming as much info into your brain as possible actually makes it harder to remember what you’ve learned1. Instead, Medical Daily says you should study for 30 minute chunks2. That way you’re not on information overload and you have just enough stuff to recall it when you have to, like at test time. The less information your brain has to handle, the faster you’ll be able to spit it back out. Harvard Magazine calls this study tip spaced repetition3, you break down chapters or big tables into smaller, easy to manage sections.
Adios Mr. Highlighter
Does your back pack have a couple of these neon study buddies in it? Experts say, ditch them. Medical Daily reports highlighters just aren’t that good of a memory building tool2. Instead, use something like flash cards. They cut out the extra stuff you don’t need to know and let your brain focus on only the most important pieces of information. When you re-read highlighted text, you can actually miss some important links between concepts and other ideas.
Don’t Get Stuck in One Place
You probably already know how important it is to find a good place to study. Study Point says the best option is somewhere without extra distractions (like your TV or radio) and with good lighting4. But several studies, including one from the Journal of Experimental Psychology5, show that moving around during your study time can help! Getting moving every once in awhile can help improve your cognitive functions and ability to recall info. That’s because as we move around, we force our brains to form new associations which strengthens the memory that goes with it. If you do have to stay in one spot, try standing. Medical Daily says that can expand your overall memory6.
Catch Those ZZZs
When is the best time to study? You might think it’s when you’re at your most awake and alert…nope! According to a 2012 study published in the journal PLOS One, the human brain enhances and develops memories during the nightly sleep cycle7. That means the best time to actually study and retain any information is right before you go to bed. If you do study before you snooze, don’t do your work in bed. The Greatist says working where you sleep can throw off your body’s internal mechanism, making it harder to sleep.
If you do study before slumber time, though, don’t actually do any work in the bed. As The Greatist pointed out, working atop your mattress can throw off your body’s internal mechanism, thus making dreamland all the much harder to access. You can also study just before you wake up: As Psychology Today mentioned, your brain can most readily absorb new information in the early morning9.
1 “Memory: Why cramming for tests often fails,” BBC Future. November 18, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140917-the-worst-way-to-learn
2 “9 Study Tips That Will Help Students Study Smarter, Based On Science,” Medical Daily. September 9, 2015. http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/9-study-tips-will-help-students-study-smarter-based-science-351842
3 “Learning by Degrees,” Harvard Magazine. December 2009. http://harvardmagazine.com/2009/11/spaced-education-boosts-learning
4 “Back-to-School Study Tips,” StudyPoints. May 2015. http://www.studypoint.com/ed/back-to-school-study-tips/
5 “The effects of environmental context on recognition memory and claims of remembering,” Journal of Experimental Psychology. November 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18980405
6 “Good Posture And Intelligence: How Standing Up Straight Helps Your Memory And Brain,” Medical Daily. March 31, 2015. http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/good-posture-and-intelligence-how-standing-straight-helps-your-memory-and-brain-327666
7 “Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake,” PLOS One. March 22, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3310860/
8 “Is It OK to Work in Bed?,” The Greatist. January 2, 2012. http://greatist.com/happiness/it-ok-work-bed
9 ” It’s Not How Much You Learn That Matters. It’s How Much You Remember,” Psychology Today. April 27, 2009. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/smarts/200904/smarts-its-not-how-much-you-learn-matters-its-how-much-you-remember