The human brain is by far the most complex organic object to have ever been found in nature. After nearly a century and a half of unrelenting examination, we’re only just now starting to crack the codes of the cerebral.
As far as studiers are concerned, this is a bit of a shame, because we’re not very good at understanding why some people ace tests and others don’t despite having identical intelligence quotients and hours of devoted study.
With that said, there are a few “hacks” you can try on your own that some preliminary science has suggested can improve your ability to critically think and commit knowledge to memory. They won’t replace interventions for differentiated instructions and other alternatives to standard study that have proven to help folks, but they may help you score higher on tests and exams if you put them into practice.
Four such brain boosters are as follows:
Switch hands when performing certain tasks
When it comes to non-hazardous daily tasks such as brushing your teeth and putting butter on toast, switch up the hand you usually use. Studies have shown that doing so can increase IQ scores within weeks. It’s thought that by performing familiar tasks with your hands while closing your eyes, you force your brain to essentially “work” in a new way. This in turn can lead to you having an easier time thinking critically.
Close your eyes when performing certain tasks
Again, we aren’t advocating that you operating machinery or shoot a rifle with your eyes closed. But try taking a shower without the benefit of vision (come shampoo time you practically do anyway). Manipulating bottles and faucets while blind makes your brain once again have to fire off neurons in new places, which leads to you have a more creative mindset going into the day.
Study in the same place
New study environments will distract you. In addition, the information you consume will get mixed up with distinct memories of the new experience. Instead, hit the books in your bedroom or somewhere else very familiar. That way virtually every iota of information entering your brain is involved with the material you need to be learning.
Review right before bed
It’s critical you take the time to review recently learned material on that same day. Bedtime provides a great opportunity for this. Not only has every other concern of the day subsided by that point, your brain uses sleep as a time to convert recently learned information into long-term memory. By reviewing that day’s material right before you fall asleep, you increase the chances of it sticking with you as time marches on.
The aforementioned four brain boosters are not going to cause C students to start churning out A material overnight or even after several weeks. But chances are they will help you think a little bit fresher and retain information for a little bit longer. As far as academic improvements are concerned, they’re a great place to start.
When you sit down and begin studying for a test, you likely lay out all your notes, lectures, quizzes and homework assignments in front of you and – in doing so – realize that there’s a lot of material you’re going to need to cover. When faced with this realization, some students crack down and power through the material, in the process insuring that no details are left unexamined. If you can effectively study this way, that’s great, you’ll probably show up for the exam knowledgeable and highly prepared.
But most students will not learn well when they attempt to study every single detail. Sometimes this is because they get tired and distracted and never make it all the way through the material. Sometimes they do make it through, but the sheer amount of information crammed into their heads inevitably leaks out before the actual test has been administered. For these students it is far more beneficial to take a targeted approach – to separate out what’s important to study from what’s not, and in doing so create a list of topics from which they can prepare.
Whether you’re a high schooler, a graduate student, it’s consequently always important to be able to recognize key material and focus most of your energies there. Here are a few tips for differentiating between materials of different values:
Use the three column approach
One of the best ways to differentiate between material is to start the studying process by drawing three columns on a sheet of paper. In the first column, list off all topics that will be covered on the exam that you know well. In the second column, list those topics that you understood at one point but have since forgotten. Finally, in the third column, write down the topics that you never learned or understood. When you sit down to study, focus primarily on items listed in the second column. Ignore the first one completely and concentrate on the third only if you have sufficient preparation time.
Study to the lecture
Exams at many different levels of education will cover material from both classroom lectures and from textbook readings. While a teacher may say that the textbook content is just as important as what is taught in class, the reality is that the subjects covered in the classroom setting are more likely to appear in depth on a test. After all, a teacher will talk about those topics in which he is most comfortable or interested – and he will likely write his tests with a similar bias in mind.
Spot trends in the class
Teachers can be just as predictable as the rest of us. They can repeatedly harp on certain subjects more than others, for example, and they can write tests that are similar year after year. On this note, assessing the main themes of your course as a whole and the focuses of your teacher in particular can often help you narrow in on the information that is most important to study.
Hopefully these tips and approaches can help you begin differentiating between crucial and non-crucial material when preparing for a test. Although it is always theoretically best to walk into an exam knowing every possible detail, in reality this is often not possible. Consequently, we want to have the ability to focus on the material that matters most.
What is the best way to study? Great question, this article will attempt to answer this question.
If you are looking for a truly detailed answer to this question, please download your copy of the Study Guide PRO and get started immediately on the road to better studies. It contains lots of study techniques and tips on how to study effectively.
Where’s the best place to study, the best possible study room? There’s – in my opinion – not a simple and straightforward answer to that question. What we can say though, is that that the best study room is the place that a) satisfies the basic conditions and b) goes beyond this
So what do we mean by all of this? Read More