It is that time again: You need to study. You already know to avoid cramming and to get a good night’s sleep before your test. But there are seven less-common study techniques that will increase your efficiency and up your game. Some of them will even help when you’re filling out those last college applications or coming down to the wire on college essays.
1. Rotate through multiple study locations.
Although you may know that choosing the correct study spot can help you concentrate on the task at hand, did you also know that it can be even more helpful to have several study locations? Varying location as you review can increase content recall in certain circumstances. The brain associates what it is studying with the environment around it, so by changing your location, your brain makes more associations between the information and a variety of environments. In addition, Dr. Robert W. Greene (a researcher who studies memory), says that “anything that will grab your attention in a persistent kind of way can lead to [its] activation to enhance memory.”
2. Create a review outline.
Creating an outline of all the content that you have covered in your class up to this point can help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you address every important piece of information. It is also the first step in determining what you currently know and what you need to study before an exam.
3. Set a schedule.
Once you have determined what you will need to review, set a schedule of what to study and when to study it. Reviewing for a short time each day is better than cramming at the last moment.
4. Vary what you study – and how
Again, novelty benefits content recall. Just like varying your study location, varying what you review helps memory. Begin by studying one subject, and then move on to another. You can also vary the type of material that you are using (for example, flashcards or practice problems). By reviewing information via multiple techniques (completing practice quizzes, rewriting notes, watching videos, etc.), you can avoid boredom with your routine and master course content.
5. Provide yourself with a broader context for understanding.
When you are studying certain subjects (world history, for example), doing additional reading or watching movies about the topic can present a broader context for deeper understanding. Rather than attempting to just memorize a list of dates and facts, possessing an overall understanding of what happened during the time period can help at exam time.
6. Hang new information on an old “hook.”
Learning facts in isolation can be challenging. If you can relate what you are attempting to learn to what you already understand (the “hook”), your recall may improve. For example, if you know that your grandmother was born on December 6, 1941, that may help you remember that the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened the next day. Try using acronyms, mnemonic devices, songs, and other tricks to “hook” your new knowledge to what you already know.
7. Find a study group.
Sometimes it is best to study alone so that you can concentrate specifically on what you need to review. At other times, studying with a group can help you focus. It can also provide you with different explanations about how to do a problem or what a poem means, or it can simply provide moral support. The key is to find a group that is serious about doing well on the test, and whose personalities mesh well with your own.
The best way to increase your efficiency and to up your study game is to be an active learner. By making a plan, introducing novelty into your study sessions, and finding a way to relate what you are learning to what you already know, you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your study sessions.