1. Unconventional Locations
Don’t limit yourself to the comforts of your desk or the silence of the library. Be creative. Some people actually work better in places where a little bit of ambient noise exists, such as a local cafe or the park. Studying outside (especially with flashcards) has also been shown by numerous studies to increase attention span and mood regulation, minimizing feelings of boredom or frustration. Other great places include the bus and waiting in line.
2. Unconventional Times
Right after school? Just before going to sleep? It may be better to sleep earlier (say, at 10) and wake up earlier, so that the material will be fresh in your memory for the day. In addition to that, it is also a great idea to review notes right after taking them in a class. Revising half an hour into a lunch break is a very effective method — just enough to maximize memory formation, without the afternoon post-consumption grogginess.
3. Stop Highlighting
Highlighting actually hasn’t been shown to increase study rendition. Instead, it potentially creates too much focus upon specific, sometimes unnecessary details. The goal is to understand whole concepts, not simply specific points. A mind map can help a lot in this process, visualizing the connections in between notes. As an alternative, using the color-coding technique is popular — and for a good reason: one color for titles, another one for subtitles, so on and so forth.
4. Study Actively
Stop reading the textbook. Yes, you read that right. It seems counter-intuitive, but this point is key — especially for memorization. Reading is passive — it does not cement learning. Get an erasable whiteboard and write down as many points that come to memory, such as years of events or mathematical formulas. The repetition of this procedure helps with both short-term and long-term memory; it’s a win-win situation for that information storage. Take notes by summarizing, speaking out the facts, and self-testing yourself — these are all valuable techniques.
5. Water, but Not Just Water
Instead of pure water, try drinking fruit water. Not only is it more aesthetically pleasing, it provides those extra vitamins to keep your brain alert and going throughout the course of the day. Remember: studying is not a sprint — it is a marathon. There are special water bottles with build-in infusers that allow the powerful flavors of the fruit to gradually diffuse, resulting in a refreshing, unique taste. This works best with ice-free, cold water.
Aim for quality over quantity, unless, of course, the subject requires a lot of practice with problem-solving (e.g. the sciences). More time spent does not positively correlate with the grade obtained or knowledge cemented into the long-term memory. Aim for routine, not necessarily at the same time chunks everyday, but make an effort to revise consistently — don’t skip a single day. Make sure your notes are legible and well-spaced for easy reading and understanding. Put a sticky note or sticker on parts of your notes that are confusing — it is important to clarify every issue as soon as possible.
7. Using Intuition (With Caution)
Think like a teacher. If certain pieces of information just happen to stand out and make themselves known to you, then there is a very likely chance that it will appear on the test or examination. Most textbooks have a summary section near the end of the chapter, which exist specifically for revision. Even if it is not assigned, doing the extra questions never hurts in the long run. Being over-prepared leads to confidence, but being under-prepared leads to anxiety.
Now, take out those pens, books, and notebooks. It’s time to study smart — not hard.