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Water Cooler: Dive into school year with effective study techniques

Aug. 31, 2021 Updated Tue., Aug. 31, 2021 at 8:55 p.m.

Studying can be stressful and a time-consuming task. Make sure to work in intervals to help relax your brain in between long study periods.  (Pixabay)
Studying can be stressful and a time-consuming task. Make sure to work in intervals to help relax your brain in between long study periods. (Pixabay)

After a summer of fun, you may need to brush up on those studying skills for the new school year. Here are a few techniques, hacks and recommendations to get the most out of your study sessions.

Work in intervals. It can be helpful for some people to study in intense bursts, rather than leisurely study for long periods of time. This can be an especially useful technique for those who feel they have a hard time focusing for more than a few minutes at a time. Set a timer for a short period of time, such as five, 10 or 15 minutes. Study without any breaks for that entire period of time, then allow yourself a timed break. For example, study for 15 minutes then take a five-minute break. If that feels too long, try five or 10 minutes, followed by a shorter break. If you find yourself on a roll and don’t want to stop studying, you can start the timer for another 15 minutes then take a longer, 10-minute break afterward. Play with the intervals to discover what works best for you. You may discover that with practice, you can study for increasingly longer intervals .

Reduce multitasking. In that same train of thought, do your best to not multitask. Playing music or even a television show in the background is fine, but be honest with yourself if you notice it becoming a distraction. Your brain cannot do two tasks at the same time, but it can quickly shift its attention among several tasks. This feels like multitasking, but your brain is actually “context switching” or jumping among the tasks and increasing your likelihood of error, as well as disrupting your efficiency.

Teach what you have learned. Reiterating new information in your own words is one of the best ways to solidify and test your comprehension. Try to explain what you have learned to friends or family. If no one is available, try to imagine how you would explain it. If you find yourself struggling to explain a concept, it is a great indicator that you may not understand it as well as you thought.

Beat the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve is a hypothesis about the durability of memory and newly acquired information over time. It suggests that the forgetting curve drops off quickly and then tends to flatten out, meaning that most information is forgotten shortly after learning it. To beat this, it is recommended to review information multiple times throughout a course or class. One method for doing this is spaced repetition, which involves reviewing new and difficult information more frequently, while reviewing older and easier information less frequently. This kind of spacing helps information transition from working memory to long-term memory.

Exercise before studying. Exercise can provide great short-term and long-term benefits for overall cognition. In the short term, exercise will increase blood and oxygen flow throughout the body and help stimulate the brain and nervous system. It can specifically stimulate the hippocampus, which is integral to memory and learning. Exercise can help reduce stress immediately and overall, aiding in your brain’s ability to focus and learn.

Study before sleeping. Your brain processes information during sleep, so studying a few hours before bedtime can help solidify new information more effectively than studying early in the day. Just make sure to not sacrifice the amount or quality of your sleep just to get extra studying in.

Study with a goal in mind. When you sit down to study, it is best to decide what specific things are most important to review rather than aimlessly glancing over past material.

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