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Learn How to Learn – Short Guide for Students

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Memorizing textbooks is not only tedious but also very ineffective. If you’re like most students, your dream is to somehow unlock the power of your brain so you can learn everything you need at a phenomenal speed, get good grades and still enjoy vast amounts of leisure time. Unfortunately, this article can’t help you with that. But if you read it to the end, you will learn how to study effectively with a reasonable time investment. You’ll be able to recall the information when needed, including during an exam, and you’ll know how to apply it.

That’s what matters most. Good grades can certainly help you get ahead, but they shouldn’t be your only motivation. Keep in mind that in the current job market, the best jobs go to candidates that are willing to stay competitive by constantly learning new skills.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

No More Cramming!

While cramming sessions are almost a requisite part of the college experience, you know they’re counterproductive. We’ve all gone through this at some point. You kept putting off studying for an exam, and now it’s the next day. You stay up all night trying to study as much as possible. Since you’re really nervous, that keeps you energized, and your fear of failing serves as motivation. But at the same time, the anxiety makes it very difficult to focus.

You drink all the coffee you can stomach and go to your exam the next day, hoping you’ll be able to recall at least half of what you studied. During the exam, you feel nervous, tired, and groggy. You just want it to be over. Sometimes cramming works and you get a decent grade, and sometimes you’re not as fortunate.

But you know what would give you much better results? Studying consistently over a longer period of time which allows you to benefit from spaced repetition. It would also be better for your health. Plus, it’s much easier to motivate yourself to study for an hour than for five or six. The closer you get to your exams, the less time you have to go through everything you have to learn, so the longer the study sessions have to be. The longer the study sessions, the more intimidating they seem. You enter a vicious cycle where you keep putting it off until cramming is your only option. So no more cramming!

Make a Study Plan and Stick to It

It’s not smart to put off learning until “you feel like it.” If it’s not exactly your favorite thing to do, you may never feel like it. Maybe you’ll go to lectures, and some topics will pique your interest, but you’ll probably learn more about them by watching videos or reading about them online. You won’t rush home to immerse yourself in your textbooks.

Waiting until you’re in the mood will lead to more cramming. Instead, you want to create a study plan that you can stick to. Let’s say you have enough time to study for two hours every day. You make this your goal and schedule around it. Perhaps you break it into one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, but you need to have a set time frame for studying. Eventually, you’ll get into a routine and study out of inertia. Moreover, you’ll get better results because of spaced repetition.

Learn in Multiple Ways

The more regions of the brain you use to process the information you need to learn, the more interconnections you’ll create and the easier it will be to recall the information when needed. So you’ll want to learn in multiple ways.

You’ll start by reading from your textbook and trying to relate the new information to things you already know. Then you can research some of the material you need to cover online and watch videos of people explaining certain concepts or even documentaries if you can find anything on the subject.

On particularly tedious subjects, it would help if you imagined you have to give a presentation. This will give you something practical to do, and it will make studying a lot more engaging. Prepare for it as you would for any other presentation by gathering materials, summarizing them, and using to like a free PDF combiner to make your own study materials that will come in handy when you need to review for exams.

Then, since you made the presentation, you can go a step further and actually present it to someone – preferably one of your peers so they can benefit from the knowledge they gain. You can make a group and take turns with these presentations, which will keep you motivated.

Take Care of Your Brain

If you’re in the habit of cramming the night before an exam, you already know how difficult it is to think clearly when you don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is very important for your brain’s health as well as your overall health, and it’s essential for memory consolidation.

Anything new you try to learn will first get stored in your short-term memory. That’s why you can remember a phone number or a passage you just read for a short amount of time. But you can’t read a chapter and then recite it. If you want to memorize anything longer than a few sentences, you have to repeat it over and over again until it’s stored in your long-term memory. But then, if you don’t use this information for a long enough period of time, you forget it.

That’s why whenever you cram for an exam, you tend to forget everything you learned within a few days, sometimes even a few hours. According to research, the best way to get the information in long-term memory and to improve recall is to study in the evening. Then you get to sleep and review in the morning. Learning and reviewing like this over several weeks also indicates to your brain that the information is useful and the connection will get consolidated.

Another important aspect of brain health is diet. College students tend to eat a lot of junk food and sugary treats, but they’re not the ideal fuel for your brain. You’ll get a surge of energy from all the sugar, but it won’t last long, and then you’ll crash. It’s another vicious cycle. You keep crashing, so you keep eating more sugary food and drinking coffee which will also affect the quality of your sleep.

Make some changes in your diet and replace this type of food with healthier options like fatty fish, nuts, fruit, and leafy greens.