Top 10 tips on how to study smarter, not longer

Top 10 tips on how to study smarter, not longer

1. Space out your studying

When he was a student, Nate Kornell “certainly did cram” before important exams. At Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, he studies psychology. He still believes that studying the day before a significant test is a smart idea. But according to research, it’s not a good idea to do all of your studying in one day. Space out those study periods instead.

College students learned vocabulary terms using flash cards in one 2009 study. Some pupils studied each word over the course of four days in separate sessions. Others learned the words in smaller groups during compressed, or massed, sessions that lasted just one day. Overall time spent by both groups was the same. However, tests revealed that the first group was better at learning the terms.

Kornell makes the analogy between our memory to water in a bucket with a tiny leak. When the bucket is still full but there isn’t much more water you can add, try to refill it. If you don’t give yourself enough time between study sessions, part of the information may go from memory. But when you next study, you’ll be able to review it and pick up new information. Next time, you’ll recall it more clearly, he says.

2. Practice, practice, practice!

Instrument practice is common among musicians. Sportsmanship is practiced by athletes. The same should be true of education.

Practice is the finest thing you can do, according to Katherine Rawson, if you want to be able to recall knowledge. She works as a psychologist at Ohio’s Kent State University. Students completed practice exams over a period of weeks in one 2013 study. On the final exam, they performed on average more than a full letter grade better than pupils who had prepared regularly.

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College students participated in a research a few years ago where they read content and then completed recall exams. Some only took one exam. Others had a series of tests with brief intermissions of several minutes. A week later, the second group remembered the information better.

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