Our brain can potentially memorize 2.5 petabytes of information, which is roughly the equivalent of 3 million hours of YouTube videos. In order to use some of that staggering capacity a little more effectively when you learn, here are some study tips that are based on widely-accepted research by neuroscientists and learning experts.
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Our brain can potentially memorize 2.5 petabytes of information, which is roughly the equivalent of 3 million hours of YouTube videos. In order to use some of that staggering capacity a little more effectively when you learn, here are some tips that are based on widely-accepted research by neuroscientists and learning experts.
Try out spaced repetition. To maximize your learning, study short but often. Neuroscientists have proved that synapses, the million billion connections in your brain that make you remember and understand stuff, grow mainly at night when you are asleep. This means that it is more productive to study regularly with sleeping breaks in between. Try it! Practice something for 15 minutes every day and you’ll be surprised by your progress within just weeks.
Find your own style
Make sure you find your own style. While listening to the history teacher, Tom scribbles images and Jane finishes 1 kilo of nuts. Some enjoy watching videos over reading books, others study with friends and some like sitting in silence among a million books. Everybody is different.
Good night sleep
Make sure you get a good night sleep. Sleep and dreams are vital to processing and storing new information. A Harvard study showed that students who had a good night’s sleep remembered their study materials 35% better than those who studied in the morning to take a test in the evening.
Train your focus. If you tend to procrastinate, which means that you tend to switch from doing something hard like studying maths to something easy like browsing the web, protect yourself from distraction. One way of doing this is to shut down your mobile phone or go to a quiet place like a library.
Allocate your learning time with the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer to 25 minutes when you focus entirely on your studies. When the timer rings, relax for 5 minutes. If you want to continue just set the timer again. The small breaks in between are relaxing and motivating to keep going.
Hard stuff first
Start with the hard stuff first. Do the things that are difficult first. Because if you are like most people, you have the strongest willpower in the morning. Once you are done with the hard stuff you will feel better for the rest of the day and probably more motivated to get other things done.
Exercise, meditate and converse
Cleanse your mind and try to exercise, meditate and converse. There are few activities proven to grow your brain however physical exercise, regular meditation, and good conversations apparently do exactly that. They lead to the creation of new neurons inside your brain and therefore grow its potential.
If you have the chance, get out and go places. You can create deeper memories of a subject by learning in a richer environment that offers more visual clues. In an experiment, two groups of students had to remember random words. One group changed the classroom while studying, the other didn’t. The group that studied in two different rooms (one was small and windowless, the other big and bright) was 40% more likely to recall the words later.
Take fun seriously
Reframe your thinking and take fun seriously! Whatever it is, find a fun way to practice. Modern learning science believes that positive emotions are very important for increasing your learning potential. So do yourself a favor and have a good time!
Space your studies
Be organised and space your studies well. In order to remember things for a longer time, repeat the material in spaced intervals. Facts or vocabularies, for example, are best learned if you review them the first time 1-2 days after the initial study and then again after 1 week and after 1 month.
30% read 70% recite
Try the 30% read, 70% recite tip. If you have one hour to learn to recite a poem or prepare for a speech, spend 20 Minutes of the time on studying the text and 40 minutes on practicing to recite. This ratio usually leads to the best results. In the case of an emergency, put a glass of water next to you. Take a sip whenever you lose it 😉
Instant self test
Tease your brain with an instant self test. After you study, finish up with a quick quiz. Immediate recall in the form of a test or a short summary on what you’ve just learned can increase retention by as much as 30%. Because it’s much harder for your brain to reflect than to read, that extra effort creates deeper traces in your memory.
Don’t force it
Most importantly, however, don’t force it. Motivation is like hunger. You cannot force yourself to be motivated just like you can’t tell someone else to be hungry. So if you are not hungry right now, don’t worry. Take a break and do something else.
“This really works, I’ve learned more after this.”– Gabriel Guetner
- Brain Capacity – Scientific American
- Spaced Repetition – Wikipedia
- Sleep and Learning – Article in the Science Journal
- While you were sleeping, synapses forged… – Alzforum
- Learning Enthusiastically – A conversation with Prof. Dr. Gerald Hüther
- Good Night Sleep – news by McGill University
- Pomodoro Technique – Wikipedia
- Hard Stuff first – Learning How to Learn
- Expertise, Meditate, Converse – Study on mindfulness and regional increase of gray matter density
- You can grow new brain cells. Here’s how – TED talk
- Take Fun Seriously – says Edutopia
- Space Your Studies – A study on the psychology of spaced learning
- 70% Recite vs 30% Memorize – a book on the importance of recitation
- Instant Self-Test – and the psychology behind it
- Read the full script here – by Sprouts
If you enjoyed reading about how to study better you may also like these articles from Sprouts on learning:
Try one tip a week with your class. At the start of the week introduce the tip and have a brief discussion with your students about why they and you think this tip might be useful for them. At the end of each week ask the students to reflect on how they were able to incorporate the tip into their daily routine and whether they think it was useful or not. By the end of half-term, your students should have accumulated useful study tips that fit their style of learning. Let us know how it goes 🙂
For more background and some ideas check out our sources section!