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Memorizing textbooks has become an outdated study strategy because we now know how ineffective it is. As a student, your time is limited, and you want to get the most out of it. But the speed at which you learn is only one aspect. You also need to remember the information accurately and be able to use it.
We’re no longer just studying for good grades. Most lucrative careers in the current job market require applicants that are willing and able to stay competitive by always improving their skills and learning new ones. This results in better income and better quality of life.
Most of us know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by academic demands. You try to learn what’s expected of you, but somehow you can’t get the information inside your brain. You feel frustrated, and you start to doubt yourself. How come this colleague or that colleague gets better grades? Maybe they’re simply smarter. Or maybe they have developed better learning strategies that give them better results.
Learning how to learn doesn’t happen overnight. You need to experiment and figure out what works best for you. Hopefully, the following tips will bring you one step closer to becoming an effective student.
Avoid Cram Sessions
Cram sessions are such an integral part of college life that we don’t need to tell you how ineffective they are. You’ve probably experienced it yourself. You feel anxious because the exam is the next day, which keeps energized even without the many cups of coffee you keep gulping down. At the same time, the anxiety makes it harder to understand what you’re reading. Nothing you try to get in your brain seems to stick. But you don’t have time for this, so you lower your standards and just try to get through as much of the material as possible.
During the exam, your blood pressure is up, and you’re sweating. All you can do now is keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. Afterwards, you feel tired and groggy.
You’d feel much better, and you’d be able to retain more information if you spaced out your study sessions. Believe it or not, this also works better for procrastinators. It’s likely that you tend to fall back on cram sessions because you keep putting off studying until the night before the exam. But wouldn’t it be much easier to convince yourself to study for one hour instead of five? If you keep planning long studying sessions, you’re naturally going to find excuses to delay them because it sounds intimidating.
Give Your Brain Study-Friendly Nutrition
College students are notorious for having bad diets. They survive on junk food and sugary snacks. These are “brain poison”. You’ll have a temporary spike in energy levels, but then you’ll crash just as quickly, which makes you feel drowsy, irritable, and like your IQ dropped 20 points.
Much like any other organ in your body, your brain responds well if you give it the right nourishment. Replace junk food with fatty fish, leafy greens, nuts, and fruits. You can look for easy recipes with ingredients that are known for improving cognitive function. Even if you don’t know how to cook, there are so many video tutorials you can follow step by step, so this is no longer a valid reason.
If you want to have a healthy treat, you could try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is a stimulant because it contains caffeine so you could cut back on coffee by replacing it with dark chocolate, and it will help you stay alert and improve your focus. You can even go one step further and get organic CBD chocolate with all the benefits of dark chocolate plus CBD, which has been shown to help reduce anxiety and enhance cognitive function.
Make Sure You Get Enough Rest
Getting enough rest is essential to the health of your brain (as well as the rest of your body), and it improves your ability to recall information. Sleep is important for memory consolidation. When you’re reading from a textbook and repeat the information to yourself, this is stored in short-term memory, which has a limited capacity and a rapid decay rate. This is why you have to keep repeating it.
In fact, studies show that if you want to improve your recall - in other words, to convert short-term to long-term memory - it’s better to read in the evening, go to sleep, and review in the morning. This is particularly effective when you have to memorize lists of names or words of a foreign language.
Create a Study Schedule and Stick to It
It’s generally not a good idea to study whenever. Mostly this means that you’re waiting until you “feel like it” (which might not ever happen unless you’re particularly passionate about the subject), or you’ll keep postponing it until a cram session is your only option. Instead, you want to create a manageable schedule. Let’s say you decide to study for two hours every day. You can break this into two 1-hours sessions, or you can do it all in one go but take breaks, so you don’t lose your focus.
Set a time and a place. This will help you form a routine, and it will be much easier to motivate yourself. After three or four weeks, you get into a rhythm, and you do it out of inertia. Two hours every day means you’ll be studying for 14 hours in one week. You’ll get much better results than from an all-night cram session. If you notice some mental resistance, like you find it hard to motivate yourself to study for two hours every day, you can cut back to one hour and increase the interval slowly. Even 30 minutes every day is a good start as long as it gets you on a schedule and away from cramming sessions.
Learn From Different Mediums
To help you maintain focus and improve recall, it’s better to learn from a variety of mediums. You can read quietly from your textbook, but you can also read out loud and record yourself using your phone. Then you play it back. If you don’t understand something, you can find many resources on the internet, and videos are especially effective.
The idea is that if you use multiple senses, the information related to one topic will be stored in different regions of the brain that will form connections. When you try to remember that information, it will be easier because your brain will access the most vivid bit that then links to the other centers holding other bits of information.