Study Smarter, Not Harder

Not all studying is equal

We’ve come across many questions by students wanting to know how to make studying more efficient. In today’s article, we have compiled all the tips that are relevant for you to properly understand the concept of smart studying. Whether you’re studying for your O-levels, FSc, Bachelor degree or simply expanding your knowledge base, these tips will help you get the most out of your study time. We uncover that it’s not necessarily about working harder, but how you study that matters.

Make your own notes

Prefer making your own notes
When trying to cut corners a problem most students run into is copying their friend’s notes. This never works. Those are your friend’s notes, and they make sense to them but have little meaning to you. Many studies have shown that students who take notes during classes retain information longer rather than those who merely copy notes. Not only that, but the best way to take notes is on paper, not a laptop. Studies at Princeton and the University of California have found a relation between physically writing on paper and increase in cognitive function.

Study in short chunks with intervals

Take a break every once in a while.
Short study sessions with intervals between each study session help the synapses in your brain process information better than lots of information in long sessions. In other words, short and intensive study sessions are more effective than drawn out studying. Intensive study will allow you to get work done with minimal wasted effort. Avoid all-nighters, avoid cramming a day before the exam, start planning and reading early in the study period and make a study schedule that enables you to take intervals. Not all studying is equal. You will accomplish more if you study intensively.

Know what atmosphere works for you

Everyone is different. Figure out whether you prefer having background noise, music, or complete silence. Think about the kind of ambience you feel comfortable in, but not so comfortable that you find yourself falling asleep. If you’re a person who enjoys a change, try changing your study space once in a while. Other people might feel comfortable in having a set routine. In either case, find what works best for you. The point here is that the silence of the library may be just as distracting than the noise of a gymnasium.

Reading is not studying

Simply reading and re-reading textbooks or notes is not actively engaging in the material and should not be considered studying. It is merely re-reading your notes. Re-reading leads to quick forgetting. Think of reading as an important part of pre-studying, but learning something requires actively engaging in the material. Active engagement is the process of establishing meaning from text and involves making connections to previous knowledge, forming examples, and regulating your own opinions and conclusions.

Sleep well and exercise

Hit the gym, or just go on a jog.
You absorb information better when you are well-fed, rested and even better after you’ve exercised. For the brain to get powered up it is essential that you ensure you are consuming nutritious foods – things like fish, nuts, berries and yoghurt. It also effective to stay hydrated and get up to move in between your sessions. In the world today, it seems as though every college student is extremely stressed and sleep-deprived. Exercising on a regular basis will help improve your thinking skills and give you more energy. Make sure you take care of the basics: get a lot of sleep, drink lots of water, and exercise regularly.

Lose the screen

A psychology lecturer at the University of Leicester in England has found that it is more difficult to remember what you’ve read when reading from a screen. Instead reading from a book or piece of paper has shown more retention levels. So try printing out some of your lecture notes or online articles, and give those eyes a rest!

Aim to teach it

By teaching, we learn.
Chat your friends, relatives, or well-wisher’s ear off explaining whatever it is you’re trying to learn. Doing this will get you two things: first, it’ll identify any gaps and mistakes in your understanding you need to work on; second, you’ll come away feeling more confident in your own learning. Studies have shown that people who study material to teach it to others, absorb the information more logically than those who are merely studying for themselves. Another study has shown that students who actively engage in peer learning scored significantly higher during exams than the students who had not, indicating the effectiveness peer tutoring can have on academic achievement.

Ask for help

There are bound to be times when you will not understand things. In such cases, never hesitate to approach your teachers or tutors. They are there to help you. If a teacher turns you down, go to the brightest student in the class and ask for his or her help. It is a good idea to always make friends with the bright ones.

Just like any other task, changing the way you study will be challenging in the beginning. But once you develop a system that works for you, by incorporating the above points, studying and retaining valuable information will come naturally to you. Your brain will function similar to an assembly line, where each information will have its own file ready to be handed to you whenever you need it. When your system becomes smooth and efficiently running, you’ll see an increased quality in every output you intend. You wont get bogged down by overwhelming information. So work at it by making the above points a habit till your brain gets used to this process.