Science establishes strong study habits


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As students continue into the second semester, it is helpful to keep these study tips in mind!

As the first nine weeks come to a close and the second quarter starts full-steam-ahead, many students are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of studying that is necessary to perform well in difficult classes. While many factors affect the outcomes of study efforts, there are some easy adjustments that can be made to ensure that students are getting the most out of their study time. 

One of the best ways to improve the studying experience is to remove distractions from the environment. According to researchers, multitasking between studying and checking phone notifications ultimately extends the time one needs to study and decreases the quality of the time one spends studying. Distractions break concentration, and force students to take more time to refocus their brain before it is capable of processing new information again. To resist checking texts and social media notifications, students can consider putting their devices into do not disturb mode or keeping phones out of the study environment entirely.

Just because students should avoid phone usage while studying doesn’t mean studying time should be silent and boring. Many experts agree that listening to music can help students engage parts of their brain that help them pay attention. When utilizing this tip, try to avoid music with lyrics because they can be distracting. Instead, try instrumental music to help with concentration and focus.

If listening to music doesn’t align with a student’s learning style, experts recommend kicking off a study session with some exercise. While it may seem counterintuitive to exercise instead of actively studying, research shows that brainpower gets a boost following even a short workout as the body pumps more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Therefore, exercising before studying can make students more alert, open and able to learn new information, ultimately making a study session more effective.

Small workouts can serve as great study breaks, too. In fact, studies have shown that breaks, when appropriately taken, improve one’s ability to remember information. The more stressed a student is while studying, the more the brain releases the stress hormone cortisol, and the harder it is for the brain to create and store memories. So, taking breaks to lower stress levels actually helps students to be more productive! Breaks, however, should be planned, and not used as an excuse to break concentration. Experts recommend that a schedule of 50 minutes spent studying followed by a 10-minute break is a perfect balance of work and relaxation for your brain to function at its highest level. Apps such as iStudiez Pro Legend and My Study Life can help students to stay motivated with a study schedule such as this.

While these tips can help to establish a healthy study schedule and environment, the following are some more specific techniques that experts claim can help students master the art of learning.

  • Use active recall: Instead of reading and rereading textbooks, which can cause students to think they know the material better than they actually do, students should try to close the book and recite everything they can remember. Then, they can open the book and check where the gaps in their understanding lie.
  • Pretend to be the teacher: Research shows that students have better memory and recall abilities when they learn new information with the expectation of having to teach it to someone else. By teaching content to peers, parents, or even stuffed animals, students can trick their brain into not only learning the information, but also organizing key elements of said information to explain it clearly to others, giving a complex level of understanding. 
  • Condense information: Condensing the most important class notes onto one page or study guide is an excellent way to keep priority information in reach.
  • Use memorization techniques: While it is better to understand class content and not just memorize facts, sometimes memorization is key to staying grounded in studies. Use tried-and-true tricks such as singing information to a catchy tune or thinking of a mnemonic phrase to aid memorization.
  • Say information out loud: When students read out loud, they engage their eyes as they read the words, their mouth as they say them, and their ears as they hear themselves. It’s the trifecta of understanding!
  • Study before bed: Reviewing study materials before bed can help the brain learn during sleep! It may be hard to believe, but sleep helps to cement information in the brain, so studying right before bed time is the perfect way to ensure that memories of new information are properly formed.

Due to the many variations that exist in studying, students can become frustrated while trying to find a perfect fit for their lifestyle and learning style. However,  don’t be discouraged! With patience, practice and trial and error, there is no doubt that every student can find the best studying strategies. Good luck this quarter, Hillers!