As September begins, most students in the U.S. are either back in school or about to be so. For many, getting back into the habit of studying and retaining so much information is daunting, even exhausting. So here are a few tricks to try out.
1. Set yourself up for success
Put yourself in the right frame of mind and energy to study. Science says most people should study after exercise, and before sleep.
Regarding exercise, a workout floods the brain with more blood than usual, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to be used. A pattern of exercise has also been shown to boost cognition and memory on a more permanent basis.
On the other hand, sleep, while important, should come afterwards. A study by both Harvard and Notre Dame Universities showed better memorization results in subjects who studied before a good night’s sleep, rather than after.
2. Don’t try to do all your studying at once
The field of psychology has long known that humans don’t remember in bulk. We memorize things divided into sensible portions must more easily. For instance, how much easier is it to remember a number divided into groups of three or four digits—like, say, a credit card number—than just 16 digits in a row? Studies show that five to nine objects in a string is ideal for memorization.
To apply this to studying, pick apart your research material. If it’s a reading you’re meant to be retaining, pull it apart into paragraphs, and see if each can be summed up in a few words. String those together, four to five at a time, for a concise, memorable summary.
3. Don’t wait till the last minute
Don’t leave your studying until right before your test. You’ll remember classroom discussions better if you go over your notes in the first few hours after class. You’ll remember readings better if you revisit them a day later, even just to skim. Keep retouching your knowledge, and it will remain vivid for you.
Not all of these will work for every student, obviously. Each mind is different, and so are the resources available to us all, including time. But these are all worth a try, and those that work for you will make school into smooth sailing. And while you’re here, check out our tips on how to survive your first year of college!