What Are Some Science-Backed Study Tips to Help Ace a Test?
Test-taking is never fun, but it’s something everyone has to deal with in life. However, it can be even less fun and more stressful when you do not have effective study habits.
You can change that today, however, with these smart study tips based on research that takes into account the biological, psychological, emotional and physical realities of being human. By putting some or all of these tips into practice, you should see drastic improvements in your study sessions and test scores.
Study When You Are Sleepy
Have you ever noticed that when you go to sleep worried or stressed, you tend not to sleep well? That’s because your brain continues to work even while your body is resting. Use this to your advantage.
Listen and Learn While You Sleep
Have you ever woken up and something that was confusing the day before was suddenly crystal clear? This happens because your brain can make clearer connections when it’s not distracted. The good news is that you can harness this ability for your own advantage.
Bust a Move
Everyone knows that exercise can improve health, help a person lose weight and tone the body. It can boost a person’s mood, improve their self-esteem, clear the mind and decrease stress. However, did you know that it can also improve your cognitive function?
Flashcards have been around for years, and with good reason — they work. They require you to interact with the information as opposed to just reading it from a book or piece of paper. If you use them repetitively, your brain quickly connects the question with the answer.
Talk to Yourself
Hearing and seeing something are good ways to store information in your brain. When you put the two methods together so that you see something and hear it at the same time, you increase the chance of remembering it exponentially.
Take a Break
Studying non-stop may seem like a good way to prepare for a test, but it can actually be the opposite. Just as your body needs time to rest, so does your mind. You should take a break during your study sessions every hour to hour and a half. Get up, move around, stretch or just relax.
Listen to Music
Music can do some amazing things to your brain. Listening to it activates memory and language centers, and it’s been found to improve a person’s ability to learn. If you turn on some background music while studying, you improve your chances of both understanding and memorizing the information.
Get Good Sleep
It’s always important to get a full night’s sleep, but especially so when test time is near. Studying all night may seem like the best choice for learning what you need to know, but the brain tends not to function so well without sleep.
Give Your Study Space a Makeover
Take some time to tweak your study environment. Clear away any clutter, as it can be distracting and drain your mental energy. Be sure that you have good lighting and any supplies you might need close by.
It’s incredibly hard to study when your phone keeps going off or Facebook notifications pop up. When it’s time for a study session, turn off your phone and all notifications on it. You can let family and friends know you will not be available during study time so no one worries.
Yoga is not only good for the body but it is also excellent for the brain. When you practice yoga, your brain is loaded with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical that improves your mood and decreases anxiety. Dopamine and serotonin are both feel-good chemicals, and they increase when the stress hormone cortisol decreases.
Meditation has similar positive effects on the brain to yoga. By meditating for even just a few minutes before you study, you should experience a boost in attention and a reduction in anxiety.
One of the worst things you can do to yourself is to wait until the night before a test to start studying. Compared to studying in smaller units of time over a week or month beforehand, cramming everything in at the last second isn’t as effective.
Have a Plan
Have you ever sat down to study and simply had no clue where to start? Maybe you began to study thinking it would only be an hour or so only to find the sun soon rising. Some people even study to the detriment of other things that should be prioritized.
Make It Manageable
Trying to read and memorize three whole chapters of information and lecture notes in one sitting is not an effective study method. Instead, you should break the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique has been around since the 80s, but it has been adapted to fit different people and situations over time. The basic idea is to focus on one task for 25 minutes, take a three to five-minute break, and then do another 25-minute pomodoro. After four pomodoros, take a 15 to 30-minute break.
Set Up a Reward System
It does not matter if you’re eight or 80, everyone loves a reward, and you can use that fact to your advantage. By setting up a reward system, you’ll be more motivated to study. The what and when, of course, are completely up to you.
Make It Personal
Ultimately, the best study technique is the one that works for you. People are different, so what works for your best friend may not be what works for you. It may take some experimentation to figure out your ideal approach, but it’s time well spent.
Try a Mix of Topics
When you study the same thing for a long, extended period, your brain goes on autopilot. This can be helpful for memorization, but it can hurt your ability to problem-solve. Try mixing things up instead.
Pen and Paper
Electronic devices are useful and convenient, but they’re not always the best option for studying. Sometimes paper and pen just cannot be beaten by modern technology. This is especially true with memorization.
Have Some Coffee
If you’re looking for a good excuse to hit the new coffee joint on the corner or spend even more money at Starbucks, here it is: Having one or two cups of coffee can boost your attention and keep you more alert.
Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins are essential for keeping the body healthy all the way from skin to the internal organs, including the brain. For one thing, a healthy body keeps the blood pumping and oxygen flowing, both of which impact the brain.
Get Mnemonic With It
Sometimes, all it takes is a silly phrase to help you remember something. Just about everyone that learned PEMDAS in school still recites, "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" to remember the order of operations. Weird? Yes, it was. Effective? Definitely. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to forget.
Spaced practice is the act of breaking study topics down to focus on small bits of information for a set number of days. Let’s say, for instance, you’re studying cells in biology. Rather than packing in everything at once, spend a couple days going over mitosis and another two on meiosis.
Start Soon After the Lecture
After a long day in class, the last thing anyone wants is to go home and review the lecture they just heard. Nonetheless, this is one of the most effective ways to memorize what you just learned.
Use a Variety of Materials
People learn and retain information in different ways. Some people recall information that they heard better than the information that they saw, while others may learn better through watching demonstrations. If you can identify how you learn, you can adjust your study methods accordingly.
Sometimes, the best way to prepare for a test is to take a test. By taking a different test on the topic you’re studying, you can see what you already know and the areas where you need more practice. It helps you determine where to focus your attention the most.
Paraphrase and Relate
It’s not enough to simply memorize information. If that’s your only focus, you may pass your test — or not — but that information will likely not stay with you for long. You also need to understand it if you want to keep it with you for years — or even just the semester.
Hang Notes and Facts Everywhere
A great way to memorize information is to have it hanging up in places you go throughout the day. While your boss may not appreciate you littering his walls, you can easily hang them up in your personal space, whether you live on or off-campus.
Try a Group Study Session
Just as people learn better through different mediums, some learn better in silence and solitude, while others learn better in a group setting. If the latter is you, look for study groups you can join or consider starting one. While it’s okay to ask your best buds, be sure that you can actually focus on studying when they’re around.