Follow these suggestions to make the most of your study sessions
Is studying something you dread? Do you feel you’re not always able to use your study time well? Want to get better scores on your exams? Don’t let the stress of studying get you down! We’ve got some suggestions for ways you can improve how you’re hitting those books. These tips can help you with pop-quizzes, mid-term exams, finals, and everything in between. The key is using your preparation time so you can recall the information to best of your ability.
Follow these strategies and study tips for exams, and you’ll be well on your way to being a better student. They focus on using your time well, retaining the information more effectively, and optimizing your performance on exam day. These are all the factors that go into being a great student! Soon you’ll have a study routine that will help you memorize material so you can recall it when you need it.
1. Fuel your brain with a healthy breakfast
This is key to setting yourself up for a productive study session (or exam performance). You need energy to pay attention and stay focused over the course of the day. Even if you plan to study or take a test in the afternoon or evening, a hearty breakfast will set you up for a day of stable blood sugar. Energize your brain with whole grains and low-fat dairy (such as milk or yogurt). Protein is always a good idea, since it stays with you, and eggs are a great option. Maybe try whole wheat toast with scrambled eggs and low-fat turkey sausage. This will help you be alert and revitalized. Have a piece of fruit if you need something sweet, and don’t overdo it on the coffee (with either the caffeine or the sweetener). You want to lay the groundwork for success, not a crash two hours later. Short on time? Try these ideas for fast, healthy breakfasts.
2. Take time to write out your notes
If you take handwritten notes during class, you may already be putting yourself at an advantage. Some studies suggest that if you handwrite notes rather than typing them, you’ll be better able to remember the content, because the act of writing helps your brain process information. Copying them out gets you physically involved in the studying. That way your body reinforces what your mind is doing, and you can start to create visual memories of the content. Your memory can form associations with the images of the words, and you can recognize patterns in the information you gained in class. If you’re a visual learner, try drawing diagrams in your notes. This might help you remember certain details, in terms of where you placed certain information on the page.
3. Try the technique of spaced repetition
The spaced repetition technique has been shown to be more effective than simply going over and over your textbook or your notes. It’s also slightly different from straight memorization tips. It requires that you revisit the information on a regular basis over set periods of time. Here’s how:
a. Separate your class notes into smaller sections, such as by putting them on index cards (a couple of paragraphs or sentences at a time).
b. Study one set of cards for two or three sessions at a time (lasting between 20 and 50 minutes), with 10-minute breaks in between.
c. When you come back to study, review the cards from the previous session.
d. When you’re confident that you’re familiar with the information on certain cards, put those in a pile to review less often. Put the information you still need to learn in a separate pile that you review every time. Start with this newer information at each session.
Over time this technique should help you retain the information for longer, since you’ll keep the notes from your previous study session fresh in your mind. A Harvard study shows that this learning technique helps students with memorization and improved cognitive abilities.
4. Change up your location
If you want to remember and store information well, then study in different places. The new surroundings create different associations, and can help you to create strong visual memories of your material. Finding a new location will help your brain to link certain content to certain time frames. Your notes might come leaping off the page if you switch up where you’re reviewing them—try the library, then your desk at home, then an empty classroom, and then a coffee shop. You will probably like some locations more than others, but the important thing is you’re trying different ones.
5. Keep taking breaks
Study breaks have been shown to make your studying more effective. So study for 20–50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break to maximize your ability to retain information. Ideally you’ll do something physical during that break time, to reset your brain and give it a much-needed rest. Walk around the block, listen to music, have a drink of water or a healthy snack, or even just take a trip to the restroom. When you come back, you have the chance to reorganize your next bout of studying, and reassess what’s most important to focus on. You don’t want to skip study breaks and power through, for hour upon hour, because you’ll burn out and start to feel restless, which makes your studying less effective.
6. Use the time before bed
The hours before you go to sleep are a particularly good time to study. If you want to retain the information, your brain can take all that concentrating you’ve been doing and process it all when you go to sleep. This way, the material will be more accessible to your waking mind, in terms of visuals as well as cognition. But put the notes away before you actually climb into bed. Once you're in bed, your studying is likely to be less focused, and could even put you to sleep! (And on top of that, studying in bed could interfere with your sleep.)
These suggestions for how to use your time more wisely and ramp-up your seriousness towards studying can pay off in a matter of days or even hours. Before you know it, you could be performing better on quizzes as well as tests. Another big advantage is that these strategies can reduce the anxiety you might be feeling about taking a test. You can walk in feeling more confident, knowing that you’ve been creative and strategic about using your study time well.
At Branford Hall, we want you to feel good about taking your tests, since they are an important step on your pathway towards a new profession! If you learn from your mistakes, and apply yourself, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish!
This article is part of the Branford Hall weekly blog. As a career training school with over 45 years of experience, we are committed to the personal and professional development of all our students. Find out more about our professional training programs offered at ten campuses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. These include Medical Assisting, Massage Therapy, Medical Billing and Coding, and many others. Reach out to us for more information today, or call 800-959-7599 and schedule a visit. Build a more positive future by forging a new career path at Branford Hall!