How do I study smart:

5 scientific ways to learn faster



That is how many hours there are in a week. If you are a student, you have the feeling during exam weeks that this is not enough. Wouldn't it be nice if you could study smarter (not harder), get good grades and live a more balanced life?

1. Learn the same material in different ways.

Research (Willis, J. 2008) shows that different media stimulate various parts of the brain. The more areas of the brain that are activated, the more likely you are to understand and retain the information. So to learn a specific topic you can do the following:
  • Read the class notes
  • Read the textbook
  • Look up other online resources
  • Create a mind map
  • Teach someone else what you have learned
Of course, you can't do all of these things at once. But every time you revisit the subject, you can study in a different way. For example, read the textbook on Monday, on Tuesday the class notes and on Wednesday together with a study buddy.

2. Study multiple topics per day, instead of focusing on one or two topics.

It is more effective to study multiple topics each day than to dive deep into one or two topics (Rohrer, D. 2012). For example, if you're preparing for your exam week, it's better to study a little bit of each topic every day. Why? Because there is a good chance that you will confuse the information from one subject if you study a lot of the same subject in one day. For example, if you have to memorize a lot of different years and take a whole day to do this, it is more likely that you will confuse the years. So to study smart, spread your study time for each topic over several days.

3. Sit at the front of the class.

If you can choose where to sit during class or lecture, sit at the front. Studies show that front-row students tend to achieve higher exam scores (Rennels & Chaudhari, 1988). The mean scores of students, depending on where they were in class, are as follows (Giles, 1982): First rows: 80% Middle rows: 71.6% Back rows: 68.1% During this study, seats were assigned by the teachers. This does not mean that these results were achieved because the more motivated students sat in the front and the less motivated students in the back. By sitting in the front, you can see the board better, hear the teacher better and pay attention is also a lot better. So now you know exactly what the best place is in class!

4. Stop multitasking!

The studies are clear: Multitasking makes you less productive, more distracted, and dumber. In fact, studies show that people who claim to be good at multitasking are actually no better at it than the average person. Effective students only focus on one thing at a time. So don't try to study while also interacting with apps, watching TV, and checking your Instagram feed every minute. Here are some suggestions to improve your concentration:
  • Turn off all notifications on your phone or switch your phone to airplane mode
  • Put your phone away
  • Disable internet access on your computer
  • Use an app like Freedom
  • Close all your browser windows / tabs unrelated to the assignment you are working on
  • Clean up the clutter from your 'study area'

5. Take notes by hand, instead of using your laptop.

Scientists recommend taking notes by hand, rather than with a laptop. With a laptop, you are more likely to indulge in online distraction, and even when laptops are only used for note-taking, learning is less effective (Mueller, P. 2013). Why? Because students who take notes by hand tend to process and revise the information better. Students who take notes on the laptop, on the other hand, tend to literally copy the teacher's words without first processing the information themselves. Therefore, students who take notes by hand perform better in tests and exams. Finally, forget too these tips not to read if you want to perform better!

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