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How to study for exams the scientific way

study for exams
You'll retain more info if you sit at the front. Source: Ina Fassbender/AFP

Procrastination. It hits us all at the worst points in life, like when you need to study for exams. The key is to use it to your benefit. The question is: how?

Some say it’s the music you listen to, some say it’s the foods you eat, some say use psychological conditioning in a reward system. There is some truth in this. According to research, different media stimulate different parts of the brain and the more areas of the brain are activated, the more you retain and keep the information.

Other popular methods to retain information include: making notes, watching videos on the subject you’re studying, teaching someone what you’ve learned, and creating a mind map. Below are more scientific methods to help you study for exams:

Instead of one subject a day, try multiple subjects

Doing an in-depth focus on one subject a day can only lead to you losing attention quickly. The better solution here? Taking in a little from multiple subjects per day. 

This is because you are most likely to confuse similar information should you study one subject all day long. Researchers found that interweaving and blocking produce better results as your brain will have more time to lock the information in. 

Take a seat in the front row of class

Where you sit matters. Those at the front row of class tend to get the best exam scores over the ones sitting in the middle or the back of class. By sitting at the front of the class, you have a clear view of the board, the teacher’s voice is clear, and your concentration will be unhindered.

study for exams

Instead of one subject a day, it’s better to study multiple subjects so your brain has a better chance to keeping the information. Source: Romeo Gacad/AFP

Compress that zip file

Another nifty way to study for exams is mnemonics. This includes techniques such as mind mapping, acronyms, rhyming and imagery. When your brain can associate a piece of information with something familiar, it makes it extremely easy to keep it etched in your mind. 

Handwritten notes all the way

Hide your phone, laptop and table. Writing down notes has proven to be one of the best methods to study for exams as you are more likely to process and reframe the information.

Test yourself on the regular

Study for exams the smart way by giving yourself regular quizzes. In addition to helping you get rid of your fear of exams, it’s proven to be a useful practice method for memory retention. 

Take regular breaks and reward yourself after every session

This increases productivity and refines your focus. The human attention span can only handle so much. Set up a reward system for yourself after completing a study session too. This way, you’re conditioning your brain to be proactive. Rewards can be some of the simple joys of life such as going for a short walk, eating a healthy snack, exercise, and so forth.

Focus on your progress and the process

Instead of aiming for a particular grade, it’s better to focus on how to study for exams by learning the information. A psychologist at Stanford University, Carol Dweck conducted a research that shows two types of mindsets: the Fixed mindset, and the Growth mindset. 

The Fixed mindset focuses on performance goals, like looking intelligent and constantly trying to prove yourself to others. The Growth mindset is the better one, that makes the learning process a goal in itself — for this group, it’s all about mastering a subject and how you progress. 

Get your fill of H20, sleep right, and eat healthy!

study for exams

Healthy food can be prepped in advance and super beneficial for your body and brain. Source: Rob Kim/AFP

Learn the most challenging material just before going to bed. This makes it easier to remember the next day, according to sleep expert Dan Taylor. Get your fill of omega-3 fatty acids in too — they encourage proper brain function and reduces exam anxiety too. If you want to study for exams the right way, you should be eating the right way too. An apple a day keeps the doctor away!

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