Many students think about how to best spend their time while studying. However, what comes before your study session can be just as important, especially if you want to improve your memory for what you are about to learn.
In today’s Education Tips, we will explore different ways of how you can boost your memory and improve your learning experience. We will explore some useful, no-cost and effective ways of what you can do before you sit down to study.
3 of the most valuable ideas to think about before studying include:
ii. Study location
iii. Pre-study tests
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Just as sleep is important for both your physical and mental health, so is exercise. Our brains rely on oxygen to function properly and exercise has been proven to improve oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain. Before you study, doing cardiovascular exercise may help you better remember what you learn. High-intensity exercise may be especially beneficial. In a 2018 study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers found that a group of young people who performed 15 minutes of high-intensity training on a treadmill, were able to recall more words from a list than the control group. Other studies suggest the importance of different kinds of exercise. It seems that both long, slow cardiovascular exercise and high-intensity exercise have different effects on memory. Researchers have suggested combining the two to get the best effects for your memory.
The important “takeaway” message from these studies is this: Exercise is good for your memory. Even if you can’t exercise right before a study session, it is still advisable to lead an active lifestyle with regular workouts included in your daily routine.
Location is also an important factor to consider for improving your learning. While it is good to have a desk or a special study area, some research suggests that changing locations, could help you remember more of what you study. Our memories are sometimes triggered by objects in our environment. For example, coming across a book which you have read, might remind you of something interesting or strange you learned while reading it.
“Environmental Context and Human Memory,” a famous study on memory, dealt with the question of memory and environmental context. Researchers Smith, Glenberg and Bjork found that environmental context played a big part in how well people remembered a list of words. The researchers noted that subjects who learned a list of words while remaining in the same environment remembered an average of 15.9 words, whereas subjects who learned in two different environments remembered an average of 24.4 words.
Be sure to plan your location before you start to study. You might want to try studying in different places. Perhaps one day you could study in your room, and then the next day you could study in the kitchen, or outside. You do not have to change locations every day, but try to at least sometimes.
We have talked about exercise and location. Now let’s talk about the third way you can improve your study session: Taking a pre-study test.
Students often study with a test in mind. They consider the test the final step to show how much they have learned. But, students need to test themselves often. Testing is one of the best ways to help you remember new information. In 2018, researchers found that students who took a test before learning new material did much better after studying the material. The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Although the students failed on the tests, they were better able to remember the material than students who were only asked to read the information. According to the researchers, “The testing effect appears to be attributable, in part, to the role, unsuccessful tests play in enhancing future learning”.
So, try to take a pre-study test. If you are using an online test prep such as Pass the OT, you might want to take a few practice questions in the topic test before you read the worksheets. You could look at some important highlighted terms at the end of each worksheet. For example, you could ask yourself what each topic means or how they are used before moving on. While you might not know the answer, you will probably be better able to learn and remember the answer when you study it!
In closing, we have explored three proven strategies you can use to improve your learning. Try them out and let us know if these tips helped you with your learning.