The final days before a big exam can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. Just about every student knows the feeling of being wired on caffeine after pulling an all-nighter cramming all too well. As if that isn't bad enough, the feeling of getting a C or lower can seriously crush your spirits after working so hard. The problem isn't necessarily how much you study, it's how you study that can make or break you.
The common thought is that if you read all of your content and memorize it, you will do well. For the longest time I would read my notes over and over again until they were imprinted in my head, thinking that would be the answer to my success. I didn't do horribly, but I knew I could do better. It is an awful experience knowing that you are not living up to your true potential, and that your grades were falling because of it. The truth is, studying effectively comes down to a science. There are plenty of scientific study strategies that have been researched and proven to be more successful than memorizing.
Science has done some pretty amazing things since the beginning of time, including the expansion of our knowledge on retaining information. This knowledge can save us tons of wasted time using ineffective study methods in the long run, if we use the information we are giving. For example, most people plan a whole night of studying with their highlighters in hand, but scientists tell us that both of these are no-no's when it comes to retaining information. It turns out that losing one night's sleep over studying can impair our memories for up to four days, and highlighting information can be very ineffective. Studies have shown that highlighting information can cause us to emphasize the wrong context of the information.
Now that we know how not to study, what are some effective studying methods? Luckily, science has provided us with some good study tips that will increase our likelihood of remembering the information. Some of these tips suggest that we study ten minutes before bed, in a new place every day, or by writing out the information down. By strategically planning your study sessions around your brain's highest performing times, you are more likely to be successful at retaining information. New memories grow stronger while we sleep, so the information you learned before bed will be more likely to be remembered. By reading the same material in a new place, we are forcing our brain to make new associations with the same information, which helps us learn it completely.
Studying can be a huge part of most anyone's life. Whether you are a student, new employee, or taking a class for training, you know that studying is important. Don't waste your time by cramming it all in during one all-nighter, because you will only hurt yourself in the long run. Take this information, and all other guidelines that research has provided, and make it worth your while. Studying is more than just memorizing, it's learning and actually understanding the information. If you have a photographic memory like I do, you understand that it's not all you need to comprehend any subject. You have to know the information inside out, and then you will find success.