10 Studyhacks That Will Supercharge Your Learning


Are you having pre-exam anxiety? Worried you’ll walk into the exam and forget everything? Not to worry! We’ve compiled a list of 10 Studyhacks that will supercharge your learning and help you ace your exams!

1. Smell Your Way to an A

Studyhacks Smell Your Way to an A

You know how sometimes you’ll smell something – maybe the smell of fresh baked bread or morning coffee – and you’ll be flooded with memories that you haven’t thought about in ages?  You can use this to your advantage.

Harness this quirk of the human brain by having a distinctive perfume or cologne on/around you when you study. When it comes time for your exam, you can spray a bit of that same scent onto one of your pens or pencils. When you’re having difficulty recalling something, just smell that same pen or pencil and hopefully you’ll be able to stimulate your brain into remembering what you need.

Be sure to use a scent that you don’t normally come across in your daily life – even if it means using a perfume or cologne that you don’t normally use. The more distinctive the smell, the more likely your brain will associate the scent with what you’re studying.

Source – How Stuff Works: Smell and Memory

 

2. Take a Gum-Ho approach

Take a Gum-Ho approach

You can use gum to bolster your chances at an A – here’s how. Studies show that chewing gum right before an exam will improve your ability to recall for a short period of time. Scientists believe that this temporary boost in memory happens because chewing gum is like a warm-up for your brain – it sends extra blood to the brain, which gives the brain the extra kick it needs to rev up into high gear. This effect lasts for about 20 minutes, so once you get into the exam room; answer all the memory based questions first!

Source – LiveScience: Gum-Chewing Improves Test Performance

 

3. Let your Notes play Hard to Get

Use a Hard to Read Font

This studyhack probably seems counter-intuitive, but according to research, reading from notes or textbooks with a difficult-to-read font leads to better recall in exams. This makes sense if you think about it. Everybody knows that feeling when they’re reading over notes and they start to glaze over – what should be concentrated study turns into skimming.

Reading notes that are typed up in a hard to read font probably makes it harder to just skim – you’re forced to put more care and effort into the actual reading process. This in turn leads to better recall when it comes time to take an exam.

The results of these studies have even been reproduced in the classroom, meaning that this is not a phenomenon that occurs only in the lab.

Apparently the much derided Comic Sans is a pretty good font to use to achieve this effect. Feel free to pick your own ugly, hard-to-read font to use – just don’t go crazy and use wingdings (although if you can actually read wingdings then you probably don’t need help with memorization).

Source – Harvard Business Review: Hard-to-Read Fonts Promote Better Recall

 

4. Put your Notes to a Tune

Put Your Notes to a Tune

Isn’t it weird that you find it difficult to remember the names and dates of important historical events no matter how much you study, but the lyrics to Shake It Off are pretty much forever embedded in your head?

For some reason, our brains are naturally wired in a way that makes it super easy for us to remember music and lyrics (and super difficult for us to remember whatever the professor was talking about during lectures).

One way we could take advantage of this natural tendency to memorize music is to force all teachers and professors to perform music numbers while lecturing – but that would perhaps decrease the class attendance rate too significantly.

Instead, what you should do is distill your notes down to the most important concepts – then rewrite the concepts as lyrics to a popular song. Brownie points if the lyrics rhyme (this helps recall also).

This technique is also useful if you’ve got a long list of facts/information to memorize – for example, if you need to learn the periodic table by heart, you might want to use this song:

 

Source – Psychology Today: Why We Remember Song Lyrics So Well

 

5. Dress to Impress (on your Test)

Dress to Impress (on Your Test)

While there aren’t any studies yet about whether or not dressing well impacts exam performance specifically, there are definitely a multitude of studies out there that suggest that what you wear can have a very real effect on your cognitive abilities.

Researchers found that wearing a suit gives the wearer greater confidence and changes the way the wearer sees the world. Subjects who wore suits tended to think in more abstract, holistic ways (rather than concrete, detail-oriented ways). This suggests that if you’re taking an exam for a subject that is more conceptual and abstract, it might be a good idea to suit up – on the other hand, if you’re going to be regurgitating a ton of nitty-gritty details, you may not want to dress so formally.

Another study found that when subjects wore what they thought were doctor’s coats, they tended to be more attentive – but the same thing didn’t happen when they wore identical coats that they thought belonged to painters. This suggests that the association you have with a style of clothing may be important.

Obviously, you should never take an exam while wearing clothes that make you uncomfortable. It may be worth dressing smart so that you feel smart – and in the exam, there’s a good chance you’ll act smart. (Don’t take this too far – we don’t recommend that you attend your history exam while dressed like someone who’s going to attend a historical reenactment).

Source – The Atlantic: Wearing a Suit Makes People Think Differently

 

6. MMMMM (Mnemonics Make Me a Memory Master)

Mnemonics for Learning

The studyhack that we told you about above about putting your study notes to music? That’s technically a mnemonic device. Here are a few more mnemonic-based studyhacks that you should be using when you’re prepping for your exams:

Name/Word Mnemonics – Make a name out of a list of items – for example ROY G BIV is a well known name mnemonic for the colors of the rainbow (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet). You can do this with words as well.

Expression Mnemonics – To learn the names and order of the planets in the solar system, you might remember this phrase “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos” – this makes it easy to remember the order of the planets. No, we didn’t include Pluto. If you have any complaints, please reach out to Neil Degrasse Tyson – it wasn’t our call.

Model Mnemonics – This basically means using charts and diagrams to help memorization. The Food Pyramid is a good example of this – most people who grew up in the 90s and the early 00s are very familiar with the food pyramid (even though it’s since been mostly discredited).

Food Pyramid - Model Mnemonic

Rhyming Mnemonics – Basically, this is when you come up with a poem/rhyme that includes the pertinent details that you remember. It can be tricky to come up with these yourself, but in most cases you can find subject-specific rhyming mnemonics on the web. Here’s an example:

Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November;

All the rest have thirty-one,

Save February, with twenty-eight days clear,

And twenty-nine each leap year

Columbus sailed the ocean blue

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

There are a couple of other mnemonic learning devices that are a little more complex. We definitely plan to cover these at a later date, so stay tuned to LearnU to for those.

Source – Learning Assistance: Mnemonics

 

7. Take a Brisk Walk (or Pace Relentlessly) Pre-Exam

Take a Brisk Walk

This one is really straight forward – along with the pretty well known physical and cognitive benefits of exercise, research shows that taking a walk or doing some light exercise for 20 minutes prior to an exam can enhance memory and cognitive function. The reasoning behind this is probably similar to tip about chewing gum – light exercise will improve blood circulation to the brain, and this in turn allows it to function better.

Source – The British Psychological Society Research Digest: Why you should go for a brisk walk before revising

 

8. Read The Important Stuff Out Loud (Just don’t do it in the Library)

Read Notes Out Loud

This is another relatively straightforward studyhack that is extremely easy to put into practice. In one study, subjects were tasked with remembering a list of words – the people who had to read half the list silently and half the list aloud performed better (on the half of the list that they read out loud) than the people who had to read the whole list silently or read the whole list out loud.

Researchers explain that this happens because when reading half the words out loud and half silently, subjects are forced to form two distinct blocks of memories. Apparently, participants were 50% more likely to remember the words that they read aloud.

Our memory tends to favor things that are distinctive or out of the ordinary – for example, if given a list of words and a single number, it’s much more likely that a person will remember the single number rather than any of the individual words.

Put this into practice by choosing the most important section of your notes or of a textbook, then reading only those sections out loud. This will make it all the more likely that you’ll remember them come test time.

Source – Psychology Today: Say it Out Loud

 

9. Fists of Fury

Clench Your Fists for Memory

No, we don’t want you to threaten your study group/professor/TA with physical violence. In fact, that’s pretty much guaranteed to lead to a failing grade, so don’t do it.

This studyhack is actually about clenching your fists. That’s right – something as simple and easy as clenching your fists can have a statistically significant difference to your ability to memorize information.

Scientists believe that the left hemisphere of your brain is used for encoding memories, and the right hemisphere is used for retrieving memories.

Since the human body makes very little sense, apparently clenching your right first activates the left side of your brain and vice versa – meaning that when you’re trying to learn or memorize something, you should clench your right hand for 90 seconds – this will help you encode your memories better.

Then, when you’re taking the exam or test, clench your left hand for 90 seconds – this will activate the right hand side of your brain, which should aid with memory retrieval.

If you need help remembering, use this useful (and slightly meta) mnemonic to remember which hand does what:

Robert Has Emeralds, Lenny Has Rubies

Right Hand Encodes, Left Hand Retrieves

Source – BBC: Clenching fists ‘can improve memory’

 

10. You Don’t Really Know it Until You Teach It

Teaching to Learn

This studyhack is one you’ve probably heard of already, but it’s devastatingly effective. In fact, this hack is probably the most useful of all the studyhacks we’ve covered! We saved this tip for last because it’s the one that probably requires the most work – but at the same time, it’s also the one that’s most likely to guarantee success in your exams.

If you can teach the contents of a class to a layperson (friend or roommate who’s not taking the same class), then chances are you know it well enough to ace your exams.

One of the reasons why this might be the case is because of social pressure/social obligation. Knowing that you’re going to be teaching someone is an extra incentive to learn the material better – probably because trying to teach something to someone and failing can lead to embarrassment.

Indeed, just the obligation (even if it’s never fulfilled) is enough to elicit better learning from students. One study by Washington University in St. Louis showed that when tested, subjects that were told they would be teaching material to other students performed better than subjects that were told that they were going to be tested.

In practical terms, this means that knowing that you’re going to have to teach someone is better incentive to study/learn than that anxious, lingering feeling of a looming exam.

Put this into practice by offering quid pro quo – ask friends to give you an hour to teach them the material from one of your classes, and do the same in exchange for them. Not only is this an incredibly effective studyhack – you might also learn something new and interesting!

Source – Time.com Health & Science: The Protégé Effect

Source – Science Daily: Expecting to teach enhances learning

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