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Go Old-school: Use a Pen and Paper

The act of writing answers helps you remember the information. Here are some ways to use writing while studying:

  • Recopy your notes
  • Write the answers to flashcards
  • Make a study sheet
  • Practice writing essay answers Writing by hand is best because it requires your attention and focus.

Swap Topics Regularly

Keeping your brain trained on the same information for long periods of time isn’t beneficial. It’s smarter to jump from one subject to another a few times during a long study session. Along those same lines, you should study the same material in multiple ways. Research shows that using varied study methods for the same topic helps you perform better on tests.

Highlight Key Concepts

Looking for the most important information as you read helps you stay engaged with the material. This can help keep your mind from wandering as you read. As you find important details, mark them with a highlighter, or underline them. It can also be effective to jot notes along the edges of the text. Write on removable sticky notes if the book doesn’t belong to you. When you’re preparing for a test, begin your studies by reviewing your highlighted sections and the notes you wrote down.

Summarize Important Details

One good way to get information to stick in your brain is to tell it again in your own words. Writing out a summary can be especially effective. You can organize your summaries in paragraph form or in outline form. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t include every bit of information in a summary. Stick to the key points. Consider using different colors on your paper. Research shows that information presented in color is more memorable than things written in plain type. You could use colored pens or go over your words with highlighters. After writing about what you read, reinforce the information yet again by reading aloud what you wrote on your paper.

Create Your Own Flashcards

For an easy way to quiz yourself, prepare notecards that feature a keyword on one side and important facts or definitions about that topic on the reverse. Writing out the cards will help you learn the information. Quizzing yourself on the cards will continue that reinforcement. The great thing about flashcards is that they’re easily portable. Slip them in your bag, so you can pull them out whenever you have a spare minute. This is a fantastic way to squeeze in extra practice time outside of your regularly scheduled study sessions. As an alternative to paper flashcards, you can also use a computer program or a smartphone app to make digital flashcards that you can click through again and again.

Improve Recall with Association

Sometimes your brain could use an extra hand to help you hold onto the information that you’re studying. Creating imaginary pictures, crafting word puzzles or doing other mental exercises can help make your material easier to remember. Try improving recall with the following ideas:

  • Sing the information to a catchy tune.
  • Think of a mnemonic phrase in which the words start with the same letters as the words that you need to remember.
  • Draw a picture that helps you make a humorous connection between the new information and the things that you already know.
  • Envision what it would be like to experience your topic in person. Imagine the sights, sounds, smells and more.
  • Think up rhymes or tongue twisters that can help the information stick in your brain.
  • Visualize the details with a web-style mind map that illustrates the relationships between concepts.

Absorb Information in Smaller Chunks

Think about how you memorize a phone number: You divide the 10-digit number into three smaller groups. It’s easier to get these three chunks to stick in your mind than it is to remember the whole thing as a single string of information. You can use this strategy when studying by breaking a list down into smaller parts. Work on memorizing each part as its own group.

Make Your Own Study Sheet

Condensing your most important notes onto one page is an excellent way to keep priority information at your fingertips. The more you look over this sheet and read it aloud, the better that you’ll know the material. Furthermore, the act of typing or writing out the information will help you memorize the details. Using different colors or lettering styles can help you picture the information later. Just like flashcards, a study sheet is portable. You can pull it out of your bag whenever you have a spare minute.

Be the Teacher

To teach information to others, you first have to understand it yourself. Therefore, when you’re trying to learn something new, challenge yourself to consider how you’d teach it to someone else. Wrestling with this concept will help you gain a better understanding of the topic. In fact, you can even recruit a friend, a family member or a study group member to listen to your mini-lesson. Reciting your presentation aloud to someone else will help the details stick in your mind, and your audience may be able to point out gaps in your knowledge.

Know When to Call It a Day

Yes, you really can get too much of a good thing. Although your studies are important, they shouldn’t be the only thing in your life. It’s also important to have a social life, get plenty of exercise, and take care of your non-school responsibilities. Studies show that too much time with your nose in the books can elevate your stress level, which can have a negative effect on your school performance and your personal relationships. Too much studying may also keep you from getting enough exercise. This could lower your bone density or increase your percentage of body fat.