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April 9, 2024

I, for one, am sick of all those basic how-to guides that scribble the same five tips for studying over and over again. Haven’t we tried ‘em all? And if we haven’t heard of one before, when we do try it out, it’s “like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street,” as Taylor Swift would say.

We know that struggle all too well (That’s two Taylor Swift references in two sentences. Proud?). So, we listed out our top ten favorite study hacks that are actually different and actually work. Get ready to up your study game, just in time for finals!

Tip #1: Engage in Active Listening

Even if your class is just a credit or two, actively listen during lectures! When you listen intently and take in the information you are being taught, your brain is way better at retaining that information. 

Take notes! I know what you’re thinking right now–this is such a basic tip! But when you pair it with highlighting or underlining your notes as you revise them later, your information retention skyrockets. So, don’t be cocky and try to memorize everything you hear.

Tip #2: The 20-Minute Trick

Studies show that we only remember the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes of a non-fiction reading session. So, read in 20-minute intervals, recommends BYU Humanities Professor Laurie Haddock.

Space out a large textbook assignment with 20-minute intervals throughout the week. You won’t have to spend hours reading the same boring material, but will break it up, little by little. Light work.

Tip #3: Play Teacher

Once you learn the material for yourself, teach it to someone else–a boyfriend/girlfriend, roommate, call your mom, or talk to your dog. It’s much easier to remember something if you teach it out loud to someone else.

Tip #4: Chew Gum

The more senses you engage while studying, the better you remember what you studied! Especially if your senses recognize similar sensations while taking the exam as you did while studying for the exam.  

To activate your spidey senses, chew a certain flavor of gum while studying for an exam. Then, while you take the exam (if allowed), chew that same flavor of gum! Watch as magic happens.

Tip #5: Hold Personal Review Sessions

For each class, at the end of the week, go over what you learned that week. Then, freshen up on everything you have been learning in weeks past. Do this each week until the end of the semester.

Yes, the list of material to review will elongate as the semester goes on, but it keeps those cobwebs out of your brain. Worth it!

Tip #6: Reward Yourself

Lian Parsons, Digital Content Producer at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education, points out that giving ourselves incentives boosts our motivation. 

When applied to studying, reaching goals and then rewarding ourselves (with an ice cream cone, Bachelor break, or a nice power nap) helps us to study harder. Plus, who doesn’t love watching The Bachelor?

Tip #7: SMART Method

Psychology Today recommends this method to catalyze study efficiency.

Set specific goals and plans.

Eg. “I will read my Psychology textbook every day for 20 minutes.”

Set goals with measurable milestones.

Eg. “I want to score 10% better on my next finance exam.”

Make sure your goals are not too far-fetched so as to not get discouraged.

Eg. “I will increase my daily study time from two hours to three hours,” as opposed to, “I will increase my daily study time from two hours to five hours.”

Keep in mind your other commitments and responsibilities in order to maintain your social life, work schedule, et cetera.

Eg. “I will have all my studying for the day done by 6 pm so I have time to make dinner and spend time with friends.”

Keeping these tips in mind will ensure a successful week of studying without overwhelming.

Tip #8: Ask Questions

Write out questions you have about the material you are studying and then do some research to answer them, or ask a classmate. 

“Rereading is like looking at the answer to a puzzle, rather than doing it yourself,” Mark McDaniel, who works at Washington University, highlighted. Simply reading the textbook is not enough–we must find other ways, like asking questions, to truly understand.

Tip #9: Practice Interleaving

Interleaving is the process of mixing up topics throughout your study. It enhances attention span by keeping you in the unknown–you can’t predict what kind of question will come next!

For example, if you are studying for an exam about the history of the Renaissance, you might test yourself on the religious, social, artistic, linguistic, and literary aspects of the Renaissance, as well as its events and dates. Instead of asking yourself all the questions relating to religion first, then moving on to social life, and so forth, you should ask yourself one question about religion, then mix it up with literature, add in a historical event, and so on.

This way, you keep yourself on your toes and never miss a detail!

Tip #10: Use Mnemonics

Mnemonics are clever ways to remember definitions or other key facts with play-on-words or stories. When we relate our study material with things we are already familiar with, like food, memorizing is easy!  

When I was in seventh grade, we had to memorize every country and its location on a world map. We used mnemonics to help us remember each one. Chile looks like a chili pepper, so that was easy. Africa’s country of Chad looks like the profile of a man’s face, so we named that man Chad. 

Silly connections like these spice up our studies, easing the weight off our backs.

You just got yourself a front-row ticket to Study Sesh 2.0! Use these hacks & your GPA will thank you.