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9 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get the Most Out of Study Time

by Law Library on 2019-09-09T09:30:00-05:00 | Comments

For anyone in the thick of study, science has been working hard to help you get the most out of your time. Here is how to study smarter, boost your learning, and stockpile the information away in your head so it’s ready when you need it.

  1. Get your heart pumping.
    When you exercise, your blood chemistry alters and your brain becomes the very happy beneficiary of important nutrients. It returns the favor by increasing its performance – specifically memory, attention, information processing and problem solving.
    Try for 20-30 minutes a day. Anything that increases your heart rate will do the trick – running, bike-riding, walking, or dancing it out. It does not have to be pretty or graceful. It just has to be active. 
  2. Spread your study. Yep. You got it. No cramming!
    Cramming doesn’t work! The problem with cramming is that the material doesn’t get the chance to convert into long-term memory. Short-term memory is like the party zone in your brain– information is there for a good time, not a long time. When information reaches long-term memory, it’s faithful and there when you need it. So how do you transfer information from short-term memory into long-term memory? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for it. The only way to do it is with time and repeated exposure to the material.
  3. Know what’s to come and look ahead.
    We have a finite amount of mental resources, and during a test you want as much of those resources available as possible. Any thoughts related to test anxiety take up some of those mental resources, leaving fewer resources available to retrieve important information. Studies show that looking through an exam before working on it will lessen anxiety and enhance performance.
  4. Teach what you’ve learnt.
    Expecting to teach what you are learning, rather than only preparing for a test, has been shown to be better for learning and memory. It’s a slight shift in mindset, but the effect on learning is significant. Learning material with an intention to teach confirms that material is actively understood and stockpiled away in your memory, rather than being passively looked over.
  5. Test yourself.
    Testing yourself will force you to remember information. Every time you remember something, the information becomes a little more permanent. Testing yourself might also help to lessen test anxiety, in the same way that exposure to any feared object eventually makes that object less frightening. Testing yourself on the material you’ve learned is more effective than reading the material over and over. Re-reading material can trick you into thinking that you’re familiar with the material, but until you have to retrieve that information from memory, you won’t actually know how well you know it or if there are any gaps in your knowledge.
  6. Get some sleep.
    Deep sleep allows for physical changes in the brain. When you learn something, your brain cells grow new connections. This strengthens the pathways in your brain around whatever it is your learning. Sleeping after learning encourages memories of the information to be wired into your brain. Think of your brain like a tree; learning allows a branch to grow, but sleep helps it to grow leaves and other tiny branches that will bolster and strengthen it.
  7. And ditch the all-nighters.
    All-nighters will mess up with your ability to process and remember information. Pulling an all-nighter can cut your capacity to learn new things by up to 40% because sleep prepares your brain for learning. To make matters worse, it can take up to four days for your brain to return to normal after an all-nighter.
  8. Take a break.
    Taking a short break after every hour of learning is better than working straight through because it improves your ability to focus on a particular task and lessens your risk of being distracted. Your brain remembers things the best immediately before and after a break, so keep the tough stuff for those times.
  9. Power pose.
    Before a test, strike a power pose. Think Wonder Woman – hands on hips, legs apart. This simple act will reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and increase testosterone (the dominance hormone). The mind-body connection is a strong one. If you don’t think you can do it, fake it – eventually your mind will not know the difference and you will start believing you can do anything.

 -Melissa Brand, MS-LS Candidate 2019


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