Are you studying hard but not making the grades you want? Or maybe you’re making good grades, but wanting to spend less time hunched over your books? Either way, you can benefit from an overhaul of your study habits. The fact is: many methods of studying are outdated and inefficient; learning new brain hacks and study tips can help you get the grades you deserve without turning your entire life into a study hall.
Learn how you learn
Not everybody learns in the same way. Some people learn best by reading, and others do better if they hear material read aloud. (This, by the way, is why your professors insist on reading aloud from their slides during lectures.)
Take some time to think about how you learn best. Want a tip? Figure out how you learn information in non-classroom settings. Think about the last video game you played: did you read the manual, listen to the audio tutorial, or just jump right in and figure things out kinesthetically? Or, the last time you baked cookies: did you use a written recipe, listen to a recipe on YouTube, or sort things out by getting your hands dirty? This will give you clues as to your preferred learning style.
Once you know how you learn, set up your study sessions to maximize your preferred learning style. Don’t forget about including others — some people learn best by having conversations and sharing information.
Learn from the masters
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Find resources like this list of ten study tips to get you started. The items on these lists, like taking practice tests and making sure you study in a productive environment, are road-tested study tips and guaranteed to help your study skills improve.
Add in some brain hacks
Here’s a fun brain hack for you: do you have a favorite piece of music that really gets you going? Listen to it in the background on a continuous loop as you work on math problems or take practice tests. Over time, you become faster and better at your homework and tests simply by having the music in the background. In the classroom, simply thinking of the music is enough to get the mental boost. Yes, that’s right — sometimes earworms can be beneficial!
As University of Dayton researchers discovered: if you want an extra mental bump, make sure the music you listen to while studying was composed by Mozart. However, for everyday brain hacking, any type of music is fine.
This is just one of the numerous brain hacks that help improve your study speed and your ability to retain information. Here’s one more: having trouble memorizing a series of facts or vocabulary words? Don’t use flashcards; instead, learn them set to a specific rhythm or physical activity (like tapping fingers). This technique is why you can still remember “Fifty Nifty United States” years after you learned it in elementary school, and it works for just about anything.
Ditch outdated methods
Some people swear by recopying your notes, or using flashcards to retain information. We’ve got better tools now. You and I both know that when you use index-card flashcards, you often flip the card over before you’ve really thought about the answer. Switch to a smartphone flashcard game that won’t let you cheat, and one that keeps track of which answers you miss most often. For every old study method (remember multi-colored highlighters?) there’s a new version that’s more effective and more efficient. Explore the App Store for some ideas.
Which method gets you a better score on an exam: pulling an all-nighter or getting a good night’s sleep? Surprisingly, it’s the latter. Scientists learn more and more about sleep every year, linking sleep to everything from an increased ability to focus to hunger regulation and weight loss. Recently, a study appeared indicating that dreams allowed our brains to dump garbage fluids, and without these regular dumps, we would have less brain space to focus on the good stuff — like that biology exam you have tomorrow, or the thesis you need to write this month.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? According to the CDC, you become part of a public health epidemic. You lose the ability to focus on tasks and remember information, even if you just spent the past four hours trying to learn everything you could about American History, 1865-1900.
Start with these brain hacks and study tips, and you’ll be on your way to better grades and more efficient study habits. As you continue to study, learn which hacks work best for you and which ones you can leave behind. Eventually, you’ll be covering twice the material in half the time!
Have other study tips to share? Let us know in the comments.