How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Dartmouth published a paper discussing ways for students to improve their memory as they study. These tips will help any student study smarter, not harder. Here are some of our favorite study tips:

Recite As You Study
Recitation should first take place as you read through each paragraph or section. Quiz or test yourself. This promotes understanding as well as faster learning because it is a more active process than reading or listening. It also tests understanding, revealing mistakes or gaps. Recite in your own words. Auditory learners should spend more time in reciting orally what they are learning than visualizers. Read aloud passages you find difficult.

Take Fuller Notes
Visual learners should take fuller notes during lectures and their readings, as they learn more readily by visualizing than hearing. Auditory learners should take fuller notes perhaps on their readings. Notes should be in your own words, brief, clear but succinct. They should be legible and neat. Writing notes better reinforces memory than mere underlining, which is frequently done mechanically , often to excess and does not check understanding.

Study the Middle
The best time to review is soon after learning has taken place. The beginning and the end of material is best remembered, so pay close attention to the middle which is likely to be forgotten. The peak of difficulty in remembering is just beyond the middle, toward the end. change your method of review.

Sleep On It
Study before going to bed unless you are physically or mentally overtired. Freshly learned material is better remembered after a period of sleep than after an equal period of daytime activity because retroactive interference takes place.

Connect Ideas Whenever Possible
There are two ways to memorize: by rote (mechanically) and by understanding. Multiplication tables, telephone numbers, combinations to safes, and the like are better learned by rote. ideas, concepts, theories and significances and the like are learned by understanding. Sometimes they work simultaneously.

The more association you can elicit for an idea, the more meaning it will have; the more meaningful the learning, the better one is able to retain it. Always note similarities in ideas and concepts, and put them in their proper place in a larger system of ideas, concepts and theories. A bare literal understanding is often of little valuable. Never be satisfied with a hazy idea of what you are reading. If you are not able to follow the thought, go back to where you lost the trail.

Read ways to help you study smarter. . .

Memorizing Dates and Numbers Quickly

There are a lot of techniques to help you memorize numbers and dates quickly. One of my favorites involves associating numbers with letters.

For example:

0 = Z or S (zero)
1 = T or D (one downstroke)
2 = N (two downstrokes)
3 = M (three down strokes)
4 = R (R looks like 4 backwards)
5 = L (Roman Numeral for 50 is L)
6 = G (six looks like a G)
7 = K
8 = F
9 = P (9 looks like a P backwards)

You can associate any number with any letter, but the key is to memorize one letter for each number. Any letter not associated with a number doesn’t mean anything.

So this is how it works:

Let’s pretend you had to memorize that George Washington was born in 1732. To do this, you simply substitute the numbers for letters.

In this case: 1732 = TKMN

TKMN doesn’t make any sense, so you can add vowels to develop a fun way to associate TKMN with George Washington.

For example:

Take Men George Washington had to take men to war
Took Men George Washington took men to war
Teak Man Imagine George Washington made out of teak

The more creative you can use the letters, the better youll remember the date.

How to Sleep Amazingly Well – And Wake Up Refreshed

Now that final exams are almost here – and term papers need to get turned in – its time to make sure youre getting enough rest.

You see, proper rest is vital to keeping your brain functioning to its full potential. Quality sleep is also important so that you can stay energized and focused on your various assignments.

Stanford University published a great list of ways to help you sleep better. Heres an excerpt:

Take a hot bath.
People with trouble falling asleep might benefit from taking hot baths about 90 minutes before bedtime, the researchers speculate. When they get out of the bath, body temperature will drop rapidly, and that might help them to fall asleep faster

Drink some warm milk.
If youre stomach is empty, it can interfere with your sleep schedule.However, a heavy meal can also interfere with good sleep. Dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Try a warm glass of milk before bed.

Dont take naps.
Try not to nap during the day. A nap will often it make it more difficult to go to bed at night.

If you dont fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring.
Staying in bed longer wont help you fall asleep. If youre having trouble sleeping, get out of bed until you feel tired. You need to teach your body that your bed is a place of sleeping – not worrying, brainstorming, or thinking about tomorrow.

Dont expose yourself to bright lights.
Dim your lights prior to bed, and refrain from turning on bright lights if you wake up during the night to use the restroom. Bright lights signal to your brain that its day. Try to only use dim lights at night.

Check out the other ways to sleep better . . .

Why You Should Talk to Yourself After Studying

The next time you finish studying, Id like for you to give yourself a 5 minute lecture on what you just read.

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but just give it a try.

You see, one way to help new ideas cement in your mind is to recite them back to yourself.

If you simply read a textbook passively, you will probably remember less than a third of what you should within a few days. And you will probably remember a lot less two months later.

However, if youre actively reading and reciting key concepts back to yourself it will help connect these ideas to your core memory.

And if youre able to attach these new ideas to subjects you already know well, this will help the new ideas stick in your mind much longer – and much easier.

So talk to yourself after youve studied.

Its a great way to test yourself on what you just read. And it will force your mind to remember more and more each time you study.

Recommended Reading

The Cure for Writers Block -10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Brain

As an English Lit. major in college, I had to write dozens of essays a quarter.

And, unfortunately, I got hit with writers block on a regular basis.

I tried to combat it by spending more time researching in the library, but that just made my problem worse.

You see, even though research is important it didnt help me write my paper. In fact, Ive found that research just helped me procrastinate more.

So how do I cure my bouts with writers block?

Here are 10 ways that have helped me write when Im not in the mood:

1. Relax your mind.
The more you worry about not having ideas, the more youll freeze up your mind. You need to relax and think positively about your writing assignment. Realize that everyone goes through writers block, and the cure is to relax your mind.

2. Take a hot shower.
I dont know what it is about a hot shower, but it really helps me refresh my body and mind. The hot shower helps me relax and focus on my writing assignments. Its also a place where I brainstorm easily. Take a notepad and leave it next to your shower door for when the ideas start flowing.

3. Write freely.
Whenever Im at a loss for words, Ill just start writing. It doesnt matter what you write, just write something. The very act of getting words on a page will help you build confidence, and help your mind to start pumping out your thoughts.

4. Write what you would say to your friend.
Sometimes it helps me to pretend that Im explaining the subject to a friend. By imagining a conversation with a friend, it helps me write what I would say – and this is a great way to trick yourself into writing.

5. Dont worry about punctuation or organization.
When youre struggling with writers block, this is not the time to focus on punctuation or how youre organizing your paper. You want to eliminate everything that stands between you and getting words on a page. So just write and dont worry about anything else.

6. Take deep breaths.
There are many benefits to breathing deeply in meditation, and one of them is to help you refresh your mind. I personally like Dr. Weils deep breathing exercises when Im feeling tired and uninspired:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  3. Exhale through tightly pursed lips, creating back pressure, for eight seconds.
  4. Do this eight times, twice a day, everyday.

7. Move around.
Get your body moving and possibly even try writing in a new location. Just by moving around will get your blood pumping faster and will help you feel more energized.

8. Concentrate on a different section of your paper.
If youre stuck writing your introduction, just skip it. Start writing another section. Dont worry if you dont have the best paragraph structure – just write and the words will start to flow. You can always edit later.

9. Listen to music.
Sometimes listening to classical music or jazz can help you start writing. It doesnt work for everyone, but Ive found that it can help me block out any surrounding noises and focus on my writing. Try music when youre out of words.

10. Dont worry about failing.
Look, a lot of people get writers block because they think theyre afraid of failure – or they think they cant write a good paper. You have to get rid of that negativity and start writing. The more you write, the better your paper will be. You can always edit it later – and find a friend to proofread it to give you some suggestions.

So just start writing . . .

Flash Card Hacks

Flash cards can help you memorize information quickly and more efficiently.

As long as you carry them with you, you can study whenever you have a free moment. You’d be surprised how many times during a day you can break them out and start studying.

And flash cards can be used to narrow down the subjects and terms you’re having the toughest time learning. As you practice, you can start creating two stacks of cards: the stack of cards you know well, and the cards you still need to study.

Flash cards not only help you learn quicker, but it builds your confidence with the material you’re learning.

Here are 5 great websites that you can use to create, share, and find free flash cards:

Flash Card Wiki
Create and share your web-based flash cards

Pauker Open Source Flash Cards
Create and import your flash cards

Pro Profs Flash Cards
Tons of free flash cards ready to download

Flash Card Machine
Interactive web application for you to create and share your flash cards

Flash Card Exchange
Print and share your flash cards