Think about how much you could increase your final grade if you could remember 20% more material.
A study from 2014 compared groups of people that had to learn a list of words, one group did wakeful rest (minimal sensory stimulation – white bars) for 10 minutes after learning and the other group did non-related easy visual ‘spot-the-difference’ games (high sensory stimulation – black bars) for 10 minutes…..which is similar to taking a study break and going on Facebook or Instagram or playing a game on your phone. The results were compared 15 minutes later and 7 days later. Which group could remember more?
The wakeful rest group! They just sat there, eyes closed or open, not doing anything, just sitting and letting 10 minutes go by. It allowed the learned information to consolidate in their brain. When they had distractions after learning like playing a game, they did not consolidate as much information and remembered 20% less.Here is the best and most efficient way to use your study time:
Here is the best way to make the most efficient use of your time:
- Study for 25 minutes – read your notes, read your textbook, make flash cards, do practice questions, do whatever you do to get information into your brain
- Rest awake for 5 minutes – close your eyes, deep breath, relax, daydream, you don’t have to think about the material you learned but you don’t want any new stimuli including music entering your brain for this 5 minutes while your brain assimilates the info you learned (set a timer)
- Repeat 2-4 times – depending on how much time you have to study that day, 1 hour per day during the week and 2 hours on weekend days is totally enough to learn a huge amount per week.
Here are some other handy tricks for improving your memory:
1. When you are studying, don’t walk through a doorway! Sounds weird but our brains clear information when we enter a new environment so we have “room” to deal with anything new that might happen…why we often forget why we entered a room and have to go back to where we first thought of it to remember
2. If you are trying to remember something particularly difficult, you need to concentrate on it for at least 8 seconds before reading another topic
3. Exercise – 5 minute microworkouts make great study breaks and help dissipate stress hormones. The stress hormone cortisol actually inhibits the frontal lobe, which is where you do all of your thinking – “I blanked on the exam” is a real thing….your stress will be lower if you know your content more thoroughly
4. Get enough sleep at night. Your brain uses deep sleep time for consolidating information and moving short term memory into long term memory.
5. Talk about the content you have to learn and remember, explaining it to someone else increases the dopamine in your frontal lobe that helps you concentrate, think, understand, and remember.