1/20/2014

To Study or Not to Study: How to Become a Study Guru

Studying: It's long, tedious, and somehow always turns into texting, facebooking, watching TV, or eating with an open textbook nearby. As much as they know they should be, being buried under books just isn't something students look forward to. Others have become masters in the art of cramming, and then there are those who choose not to study at all. The matter of fact is that studying is very personal. It is only effective when individualized. You don't have to be a hermit and live in a soundproof reinforced bunker to go over your notes. Sure, some may find this approach gratifying and even relish the silent retreat. But it's often that secret habit, or that study snack, or that certain lighting that works for each person.

Location Much like finding that good neighborhood to live in, your study spot needs to be something that is comfortable, but also keeps you focused. On certain days, you may need the silence of the library, but sometimes its just too hard to find the motivation you need among the racks of dusty books in those dreary study halls where the stillness sucks away your soul. Instead, change up the location and head down to a Starbucks or a Barnes and Noble. Go for a healthy little caffeine or sugar rush and, of course, don't forget to instagram that frappuccino because, let's face it, you cannot disappoint your followers even during study time.

Music Sure, you can listen to your upstairs neighbors moving their furniture or your roommate clipping toenails, but studies show, in what is called the Mozart effect, that music can boost spatial thinking and logical reasoning. Now, we're not talking about screeching metal or hardcore rap. Instead, try some classical tunes or some ambient instrumentals in the background. Some may even prefer plain old white noise, so get out the noise-canceling headphones and switch out those Jay-Z and Robin Thicke albums for some quartets and light instrumentals.

Sleep This one may, unfortunately, not be too familiar to a lot of college students. Remember those days in elementary and middle school when you would finish your homework and be in bed by 10pm to drift off for 8-9 hours? Yes, that was called sleep. We've come from a time when we barely knew what dark circles were and our biggest concern was whether Tom would ever catch Jerry to a time when we stand in line at midnight to get into The Pool After Dark and discuss how drunk we are going to get every Thursday night and pull all-nighters to memorize orgo structures. The only thing that hasn't change through all this is that it's still all about the REM. So, when you have that exam coming up, ditch the coffee, ditch the alcohol, and get those 8 hours of sleep.

"There's an app for that" Unless you've been living in a cave for the past couple years, you'll know that everyone and their mother has a smartphone. In an age when our lives are based on technology, it's more than likely that there's something out there that can help us be more productive on the go. Somewhere in between those Twitter, Snapchat and Fruit Ninja apps, download to-do apps, like Wunderlist, that help you organize your tasks, or apps like StudyBlue or Evernote that help you organize and easily access your notes. And such tools aren't just limited to your smartphone. Apps, like Self-Control and TrackTime, for your computer allow you to set time limits for certain websites and give you reports on how you spend your time on the computer. So, if you often find yourself stuck in that Facebook break sinkhole for much longer than you would like, these programs may just be what you need.

Food is good You are what you eat. Of course, not literally, but studies do show that the food you eat can help improve your ability to focus, retain information and remain alert to get through the most strenuous study sessions. So pick up that bag of nuts to improve your mental alertness, or those apples and dark chocolate to improve your memory while you study.

Distributed studying and flashcards As far-fetched as it may seem, spreading out your study sessions rather than going through a cram marathon actually helps you better retain information. Sure, cramming the night before may help you get through that one exam, but the material will quickly disappear from memory. Depending on how long you want to retain the information, whether its weeks or years, spread out your study sessions and go through the material over intervals, with longer intervals for longer retention. Another strategy is using flash cards. You don't have to go through them every time you study, but organizing and periodically recalling the information you study does help you retain the material better. And flashcards are just the thing to help you do that. So next time you are waiting at the doctor's office or the bus stop, and have nothing else to do, don't be hesitant to pull out those flashcards and review those theorems. There are even apps like StudyBlue and Quizlet that let you make flashcards on your smartphone.

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