7 Scientifically Effective Techniques for More Productive Study Sessions

August 02, 2016

Learning can prove to be both a rewarding and testing journey as students must delve into diverse courses and meet performance standards regularly. While learning is expected and studying has been widely accepted as the best way to go about this journey, learning how to effectively learn has been a topic that is not as clear. 

Some students fall victim to late night cram sessions, while others space out their studying across multiple days. Regardless of the amount of time spent studying, many students may still find that their mind is adrift and may even encounter anxiety or lack of self-confidence in difficult areas. Fortunately, research has found a number of ways to successfully learn new material, leading to not only high grades, but an enduring knowledge base.  

1. Space study sessions out and study before bed.

While cramming is a popular occurrence throughout the nation, it is definitely not the most effective or recommended way to study! It drains energy and doesn’t lead to lasting learning outcomes.  It has been shown that spreading small chunks of learning material out over the course of several days can lead to greater retention of the information. Studying a little bit right before bed has also been shown to be helpful. Research shows that the mind strengthens memories while sleeping, improving recall ability the next day.

2. Take breaks while studying and move around.

It has been researched that taking short study sessions of 30 minutes to an hour are more effective than studying for hours on end without breaks. Getting up to move around can be helpful with blood flow and act as a means of recharging, helping with energy and concentration.

3. Use Mnemonic devices

Whether it is by using lists, songs, short poems, or memorable phrases, mnemonic devices help you to memorize information by associating it with other easily understood ideas. This can come in handy for learning terms and concepts. Take some time to find creative phrases or ideas; though they may be a bit bizarre or foreign to others, they will greatly improve recall.

4. Highlighting, re-reading, writing and summarizing.

Writing out important notes has been shown to be more effective than typing them because it is more of an active process. Research also shows that summarizing notes and sections that you have read helps to solidify the information. Truly contemplate and elaborate how and why what you have read is important. Also, determine how new information relates to old concepts.

5. Visualization.

Studying can be an opportunity to use your creative an artistic side. As you are studying the material, visualize the concepts or specific areas. Come up with scenes or scenarios in your mind that directly relate to the material. For example, if you are studying historical events, visualize what the environment and people of the time would have looked and acted like as well as the actions and activities of key figures.

6. Physical and environmental control.

Make sure that you eat throughout the day. Healthy diets consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole, grains, healthy fats (nuts, fish, olive oil), lean protein, and non-starchy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes aid in energy levels and overall brain health. Consuming plenty of water and even the appropriate levels of caffeine found in coffee and tea can also improve focus. Research also shows that temperature control should be considered. Make sure the room isn’t too warm but also isn’t unbearably cold either.

7. Practice Testing

Test yourself after each study session. You may do this by developing questions over the material or simply quizzing yourself using practice exams in the book or online. Asking a friend to test you is also helpful. You can also teach or tutor the material to a friend in order to truly deepen and validate your understanding.

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Written by Alecia Hyatt, an AdmitSee Intern

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​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

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