www.whyville.net Oct 20, 2013 Weekly Issue

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Studying Tips

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Depending on where you live and what kind of school you go to, October is usually a month filled with tests and assignments. For all of you in college or university out there, October means midterm season! Regardless of whatever your situation is, it's important to get the most out of your studying. Everyone has a different way to study, but most are always on the lookout for some new tips to maximize their ability to retain information. I'm going to discuss a few tips for people to try out that have always worked for me personally.

1. Study in blocks.

By studying in blocks, I mean chop up your time and don't study for too long without a break. Did you know that the average human attention span is only between 30 to 40 minutes? That means if you're trying to cram for hours on end, you're probably not retaining the information like you should be. It would be best to work on one subject for 30 minutes, take a 15 minute break, work on a different subject for 30 minutes, take a 15 minute break, etc. You should switch subjects often to keep your brain interested. If you study one thing for too long, you're going to get bored of it and, as a result, you will only be half-paying attention to it.

2. Understand the information.

Have you ever noticed that you seem to do better in subjects that you're interested in? This is because you're actually wanting to understand the information. Someone who is not very interested in biology might just memorize definitions and whatnot without actually understanding the purpose of the material. If you make an effort to fully understand everything that you are learning, then you will find that you're able to retain more information than you would through rehearsal learning (such as flashcards). It takes more effort to memorize complex things than it is to memorize simpler things. If you're struggling to understand something, then you should go to your teacher about it. Sometimes it's easier to learn things when you talk with your teacher one-on-one.

3. Watch documentaries.

This tip might seem a bit silly, but it works! Whenever you find yourself faced with a difficult concept, you should try finding a free documentary online about it. For example, if you're having difficulties understanding the Cold War, then a simple YouTube search should bring up thousands of documentaries about the causes, the effects, etc. The reason this works is because you are not hearing information, but you are seeing it too, which makes it easier for your brain to retain this information.

4. Placing information around your house.

This tip works especially well for memorizing formulas and definitions. If you had to memorize a few formulas for your math test, it would help to write them out on cue cards and tape them randomly around your house. You could put one in front of the toilet, near the shower, on the dinner table, and pretty much anywhere that you visit often. Every time you see one, make sure you take a few seconds to read it. Over time, these formulas should start sticking in your head.

5. Chew gum/have a mint.

Perhaps this tip sounds a bit silly, but there's research that backs it up! You are more likely to recall memories better if the conditions during studying match the conditions during the actual test-taking. What that basically means is that if you chew a piece of mint gum (which has a strong flavour) while studying, chewing one while writing the test will actually help you retrieve memories better because now you associate the mint gum with the studying mindset. Also, mint makes you more alert and focused.

Hopefully you find at least a few of these tips helpful for your next assignment or your next test. Have fun studying!


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