Your school will re-open soon. You would like to perform better academically this year and you intend to score higher grades this year than the last. What can you do to improve your learning capacity? Is there anything you can work on to tweak your studying skills this academic year?
First of all, we are not looking at one particular aspect of your life. Improving your learning abilities will involve changes in your overall lifestyle. Let’s look at some things you can do.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle: We just cannot be successful in studies without a sustained effort to be healthy. Pay attention to the following:
Watch your diet: If you want to improve your memory make sure that you eat a diet rich in fruits, dark green vegetables, nuts, Omega 3 fats and B Vitamins… And breakfast is the most important meal of your day. Studies show that there is a definite positive link between regular breakfast eating habits and high school grades. Drink plenty of water as dehydration by even 2% negatively affects your attention and memory power.
Exercise, jump around, dance, play! : Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain. Exercise will specially benefit you during exam preparations when you sit for hours together at the study table. Make sure you get up and do some physical activity at intervals as this will improve your cognitive skills. Even low intensity dancing is great aerobic exercise which gives you the additional benefit of being a stress buster.
Get adequate sleep: We cannot stress enough the importance of adequate sleep on your learning ability. Get your 8 hours sleep, especially the night before your exams, to give your brain time to absorb all that you have studied.
Relax: Try to maintain a relaxed attitude. If you have stress in your life, deal with it through relaxation methods, meditation, yoga and in really difficult times – therapy. A stressed mind can be a major obstacle to your memory and attention span.
Adopt different methods of study: Make your study time a dynamic activity where you constantly improvise and try different ways to understand and retain information. Here are a few methods suggested by experts:
Study and Recall: Make it a practice to study your lesson thoroughly and then try to recall what you have studied. The process of retrieving the information that you studied itself improves learning. Studies show that most students feel confident after studying, rereading and elaborate concept mapping of lessons. However, retrieval practice is a process that makes you far more thorough in your lesson than concept mapping. (Concept mapping without your textbook, however, is a great way of involving the retrieval process and hence strengthening retention).
Ask yourself questions: As you read your lesson, ask yourself questions and try to find the answers. This ensures that your brain is active while reading and it lends meaning to your study which helps you remember your lesson better.
Distributed practice: Spreading out your study over a period of time has been found to be far more effective than cramming. Although cramming is better than not studying at all, keeping an interval between two practice sessions on a particular chapter is extremely helpful in increased comprehension and retention.
Practice testing: This involves recalling and also completing exercises and sample tests at the end of the chapter or unit. Studies show that this is a highly effective learning method even though it may not appear to be a learning process at all! For best results, try practice testing twice after a second round of studying.
Use flash cards: Once again spacing is important. When you prepare your flashcards, make sure you prepare large stacks of cards and review them over several days. This is far more effective than studying smaller stacks and mass studying on a single day.
Take music lessons: Research suggeststhat music training improves your ability to understand and remember concepts and solve problems. Allow yourself to enjoy music and adopt music into your life as a hobby rather than something you are forced to do. Choose a musical instrument that fascinates you and find out where you can take lessons to learn to play it.
Give up the following:
Repeated passive rereading 🙁 Experts say that active recollection or practice testing is far more beneficial as a review method with rereading after the attempted retrieval or practice test.)
Cramming one subject for hours without a break
Stressing over exams
Not respecting your study schedule
Quite simple, don’t you think? The key is to pay attention to your overall well-being with exercise, play, music, dance, healthy food and sleep. Add some consistent, smart studying techniques to these and you’ll be a scholar in the making!