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17 Tips to Study Better and Nail Your Exams

Gonçalo Ribeirinho

Time to say hello to sleepless nights, quick meals and that horrible feeling of knowing nothing after a marathon of hardcore studying. Exams are right around the corner, but we have 17 tricks and tips that will help you study better — proven by science.

Tips for studying better!

1. Try a different angle

There are many ways to stimulate your brain. You’ll learn more if you study using various methods. The trick is to explore different ways of studying: today you read your personal notes, tomorrow you can dive into your textbook, the day after you can check the same topic online, and finally, you can sit down with friends to discuss it.

2. Study more than one subject a day

You’ll get better results if you study more than one subject a day. Stop diving deep into one subject a day; that’s the first step into a hurricane of madness! Why, you ask? Well, Doug Rohrer, a Professor at the Department of Psychology of the University of South Florida says it’s very likely to mix similar notions in a given subject if you study it too much in one day. Thanks, Doug!

3. Make a quick review

Tips for studying better!

Quick reviews are one of the keys to success when it comes to studying. Without going too deep into scientific stuff, this is what happens when you learn something:

  1. You read
  2. You learn
  3. That info goes into a short-term memory box
  4. You either take it to the long-term memory box or you lose it

The good thing is, reviewing makes short-term learning jump into the long-term box, so get cracking!

4. Sit at the front of the class

You know that nerdy guy sitting on the front row? What about that girl sitting next to him, the one always asking those silly questions? Yeah, those guys are probably getting better grades than you — not by studying harder, but by sitting at the front of the class. Studies say it’s not about being nerdy, but because you can see and listen to your teacher better. This will enhance your attention during class, making that short-term box kick the info into the long-term one. Cool, huh?

5. Stop multitasking

Doing too many things at the same time makes us less productive and focused according to a Stanford University study. Want to check your Facebook but have to study? Go on Facebook for half an hour and then get back to your books and notes when you’re done. Anxiety about other stuff is forcing you to studying, but you’re getting no results out of it.

6. K.I.S.A.S.

Keep It Simple And Summarise. It’s proven that summarising techniques give you student superpowers, and there are many ways to make this work:

  1. Use acronyms (Europe, Asia, America = EAA)
  2. Make diagrams (link concepts)
  3. Draw a process in keywords and draw them in a circle.

7. Ditch your computer and go old school

Tips for studying better!

Using your computer to study doesn’t work. It distracts you more and it’s slowing down your ability to memorise and learn stuff. Writing your notes down is making you study two or three times better. Why, you ask again? Easy:

  1. You read
  2. You think
  3. You write it down in your own way
  4. Those concepts are now yours and not sitting on a PDF file.

8. Let it all out

No one writes diaries anymore, I know that, but scientists from Chicago Uni found out that students who write about their struggles before an exam get better results than those who don’t.

They found out that this process helps you find out what your focus should be on and your mind will help you solve those issues by facing them when studying. The exercise is super simple and even more powerful: two or three days before the exam, spend 10 minutes writing down your main stress points about the challenge ahead. Go back to studying and you’ll see that you’ll be less anxious about it in the exam!

9. Become your teacher

Tips for studying better!

No sorcery involved. Just test yourself, become your teacher every now and again. They say it’s all about applying what you’re studying. This is the same reason why Maths teachers use actual problems for you to solve. Try to do it in every subject. We tend to think this is a waste of time, but it’s actually the formula to achieve greatness in 70% of cases.

10. Connect the dots

Do you remember those games printed on the back of your cereal box when you were a kid? Connect all the dots from 1 to 50 and draw a beautiful panda in the snow? Well, when you study, you’re learning where hundreds of dots sit on the back of a cardboard box. It’ll be easier for you to recall once you’ve drawn the freakin’ panda.

11. Shout it out to the world

Tips for studying better!

Studies say students who study reading out loud have better results than most. You don’t have to read it all out loud but use it with the other tricks. For example: connect the dots, summarise the info, and now read it out loud before you go to bed (it’s best to avoid the library). Easy!

12. Take a break once in a while

Tips for studying better!

Studying is important and we all know it. But there’s something as important as studying: not studying. Take regular pauses in your study sessions; 5-10 minutes every 40 minutes will help you soak up the information and regain focus.

Make sure you don’t pause just to go on Facebook or WhatsApp. Make them good pauses, stretch your legs, get a snack, go outside for a while. Let your grey matter rest for a bit.

13. Give yourself a treat

Tips for studying better!

We never thought this actually worked, but it actually does. According to a group of scientists, setting a reward for every studying milestone is a great practice. For example: “I get to eat a gummy bear for every chapter I summarise” or “I get one long and relaxing bath after completing my daily study session”. Just don’t go overboard.

14. Eat plenty of superfoods

Scientists from Boston University found out that students with high levels of Vitamin B had a better performance in exams. These vitamins help build strong memory “slots”, and eggs and chicken have those in big doses. If you’re a vegan you’re not doomed, though, you can eat lentils, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, almonds, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli to form those memory slots.

15. Stay hydrated

Scientists from East London Uni found that water is a precious ally to overcome your study sessions. Your brain needs water to keep healthy and fresh. You brain needs water to keep the rhythm up and to process all the information you’re taking in during a study session.

How much water? Eight glasses will do the trick. They suggest you drink a glass every 40 minutes. Of course, you can have your drink when you take your 5-10 minute pauses as suggested in tip 12. Synergies, synergies everywhere!

16. Work that body

Getting better grades and working on that summer beach bod? That’s quite a match there. We’d swipe that right every time! A study from the University of Texas at Dallas says working out enhances your memory and brain functions. The suggestion is three weekly sessions of 20-45 minutes. You’ll feel better, study better, and look better. It’s a win-win, right?

17. Get plenty of sleep

Tips for studying better!

The last tip is the best of all of them: sleep. The recipe is super easy: Eight hours of sleep. It will help you rest your brain, enhance your focus, learn faster, and if you study the most difficult topics right before you go to sleep, they will sink in while you sleep and you’ll understand them better in the morning. It’s like studying unconsciously.

Good luck on your exams, everyone!


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