For many of you, it’s exam time and we know how important it is to do well. Did you know that college graduates earn 50% more than those without a degree? That’s why we’ve gathered and curated our top 10 study tips so you can crush your exams! Let us know what you think at the end of the article, and good luck!
(This month’s sponsor is Coinbase , if you’re interested in trading crypto and you would like to help out the site :))
1. Make or Find a great study space
Before you even start, plan out the optimal place to study. Planning ahead will save you time and effort, and help avoid the last-minute cram.
- Studying at home? Make sure to find a quiet room and clean off your desk. Remove all distractions, unplug the TV and put your phone in a drawer. Lay out all necessary study materials in advance and in order. To quote James Clear of Atomic Habits: “Make it obvious and make it easy.“
- Heading out to study? Make sure to pack a bag with not only your study materials and headphones, but plenty of healthy food and drinks (water) to eliminate distraction points. Pack your books and materials the night before if possible.
2. Learn by simplifying
A great method for studying or learning new material is the Feynman Technique. It’s very effective and helps boil down the material into the simplest terms so you can recall it easily during the exam or presentation.
- Write down all you know about the topic.
- Pretend you’re teaching it someone much younger than you. Keep it simple and put it into “story” form.
- Whatever you don’t understand in step 2, stop and find the answers and repeat step 2.
3. Use spatial and/or funny ways to remember
Memory world champions use a simple and amazing technique to remember vast amounts of knowledge and recall it at will. It’s called the loci method and you can use it too. It takes advantage of your brains natural ability to remember locations. Imagine the material as if you’re walking through a house with many rooms and meeting people along the way. Use these rooms and people as markers to remember any number of items or topics.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re studying the Amendments of the United States constitution. Now picture your house with many rooms in it (It works better if the house is a real place, like your home, your school, your work, etc):
- Imagine walking into the first room and seeing examples of free speech and religion (maybe the place you worship or your dog with his mouth duct taped!).
- Then walk into the second room and see a “well regulated militia” (or a bunch of people in army uniforms doing burpees!).
- Then walk into the third and subsequent rooms and create a funny or memorable scene.
The more imaginative you make it the easier it will be to remember. When exam time comes, just picture walking through that house.
4. Take regular study breaks
After studying for some time, your brain can become worn out. We recommend using the Pomodoro technique which integrates regular breaks into your study/productive sessions. We built a series of timers to make this technique even easier.
During these breaks, get up, walk around, and drink a glass of water (stay away from sugary or caffeinated drinks, they’ll just make you crash). As you get closer to the end of the break, plan the next 25 minutes and focus on the one or two tasks that you need to get done in the next round. This technique will allow you to study for hours at a time and not get tired!
5. Listen to the right music
Studies show that the right music has a profound effect on your brain’s ability to focus. Listen to music with white noise, ambient noise, or classical music. Music with words will distort the material you’re trying to commit to memory, and heavy music will increase your heart-rate altering your memory capabilities.
Research has shown that 432hz music (ambient and classical) lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, and puts you in a focused and relaxed mindset, perfect for studying or getting in the zone. White Noise has been shown to increase memory, the speed of math calculations, and the speed of perception. Here are a few of our timer videos with 432hz and white noise.
6. Achieve and stay in a flow state
The most powerful way to learn is to achieve a flow state. The flow state is the perfect balance between work and play, where time loses meaning. A flow state comes from doing a task that is just a little bit harder than what you’re capable of doing.
For example, if you study something that’s way over your head you’ll become bored. Study something that’s too easy and you’ll become disinterested. Make sure to break the subject down into small enough bites of information, so that your brain thinks it’s within reach. For a given study session you should:
- Know what to do and how to do it (read these pages, watch this video, review these notes)
- Know how well you’re doing (can I explain it to a child? can I recall it on demand?)
- Finally, match the level of the challenges with the level of your skills (do I need to learn more about this? Should I break this into smaller bits? Do I need to ask my professor?)
And of course, the right music will help you stay in this flow state for longer periods of time.
7. Don’t go it alone (or do!)
The jury is still out on study groups, with arguments for and against. Do what’s right for you. As mentioned in tip #2, being able to teach the material to someone else will help you remember. A study group can even be just one other person.
Joining a group could have the following benefits: (a) Learn from someone’s strengths, and help with your weaknesses, (b) see a problem from someone else’s point of view, and (c) share the tasks of making a study guide (for example, you can do chapters 1-3 and the other people can do chapters 4-12).
But, joining a group might have the following downsides: (a) the temptation to socialize, (b) different levels of seriousness and commitment, (c) a different pace (fast or slow) than you need, or (d) having to deal with egos (someone insisting on being right).
8. Keep a schedule, not a todo list
The most successful people in the world have traded the todo-list for a calendar. Schedule your study periods and commit to a daily or weekly schedule. Make sure to schedule breaks and rest, and align them with your test schedule. There many templates out there to help you craft a study schedule.
9. Practice, practice, practice
If possible, taking a practice test is a great way to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the real thing. Just like anything else, repetitions allow the brain to prepare. If you can’t find a practice test, then make one (or make one with your study group)! There are plenty of online resources that have practice tests on any subject.
10. Get a good night sleep
Don’t forget to recharge your batteries! Studies have shown that test taking performance correlates to how much sleep you get (and surprisingly, fitness has little performance gains). There’s a whopping 25% variance between those who got a good night sleep and those who didn’t! Here are some quick tips to getting a good night sleep:
- Don’t look at your phone or computer too close to bed time. If you need to study then print out the material or write it down on paper.
- Stick to a regular night time routine (i.e., shower, brush teeth, reading, and bedtime)
- Don’t eat or drink late in the evening. Your body follows something called the Krebs cycle for when it processes food, and it can interrupt your sleep cycle.
- Don’t go into your bed until it’s time to go to sleep, don’t do anything else in your bed except sleep. This association will trigger your brain to fall asleep faster.
- Minimize any artificial light, even alarm clock lights, and if there’s a lot of external noise consider turning on some white noise.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
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