Rote memorising, i.e. to remember by repeating as many times as possible, is out as far as study tips go.
Putting facts to memory by brute force will not make you gain the most important result from studying, which is, comprehension.
And to be honest, it will be pretty damn boring.
Studying should be fun – all about thoughtful exploration and discovering new things. Rote memorising does not have any of that, simply paving a path of instant recall without any context to the information – the hows and whys are important!
So how do we prevent those facts from falling into a black hole once we enter the exam hall? Wei Li from iPrice has come up with six powerful ways to help you study better:
1. Spaced repetition
Review material over and over again over incremental time intervals.
According to 19th-century psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, instant recall has a 100 percent information retention. But as little as an hour later, you can only recall a mere 44 percent of what you have read.
To counter this, use spaced repetition. Review your materials intermittently to slow down the deterioration of your memory as time passes.
This means making notes right after lecture ends, write down any questions you have and asking your lecturer ASAP. Just before exams, make flashcards and review them every few days, instead of the last 24 hours!
2. Active reiteration
To really embed the facts you are reading into your mind, teach them to someone else.
By teaching, you are forced to summarise, condense, investigate, draw conclusions – promoting a deeper personal understanding. This is great for university study which focuses on analysis, as compared to pre-university, which are usually more fact-driven.
Use the Feynman Technique i.e. explain concepts in the simplest terms possible to anyone who would listen, a fellow classmate, roommate or to empty beer cans.
3. Directed note-taking
Go in for the kill – ask yourself what you don’t understand about a certain topic. Really get to the root of the problem and dig your way out of it.
First, spot the problem areas. Second, design a question which addresses this area. Third, answer your question. Use all your lecture notes, library books, and even Google Search. Don’t move on until you are confident with your answer and rest assured, you will understand the concepts better by going through this route.
Don’t move on until you are confident with your answer and rest assured, you will understand the concepts better by going through this route.
4. Reading on paper
94% of university students polled said they preferred studying using paper as it was easier to focus and the freedom to highlight, annotate and write on the margins. And unlike computer screens, reading on paper also helps with spatial memory – you can recall a certain bit of information by where it was placed on a book.
On top of these, paper removes one of the top factors for students losing focus: distraction. Without the Internet, there won’t be an infinite number of websites tempting our eyes away from much-needed study time and breaking our focus, which is crucial to retaining memory.
5. Sleep and exercise
Our brain absorbs information best right before sleep or right after exercise.
Research has shown that those who study before sleeping or napping have higher memory recall or higher activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which forms new memories.
Exercise has have been found to stimulate the production of a protein called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which preps the brain for optimum learning and creative thinking. You are likelier to form creative connections between ideas, and thus, retaining this better.
So, time your sleep and work out accordingly to maximise your study sessions.
6. Use the Italian tomato clock
If you have to cram, do it smartly. Set 25-30 minute chunks of intense study and rest for five minutes after.
Modelled after the Pomodoro Technique which uses the Italian Tomato Clock, this method will minimise distraction and boost productivity.
After all, our ability to retain information tapers after 30 minutes anyway. So, take a well-deserved rest after half an hour with some healthy snacks or light stretching which will do much more for your memory than forcing your brain to study more.
College may be hard and comes with a never-ending list of reading materials. But if you know how the brain works, and take on some of the methods proposed above, you can make that study time more fruitful. Good luck!