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5 Study Habits You Should Be Practicing

5 Study Habits You Should Be Practicing

With exams, quizzes, essays, projects, and myriad deadlines for different things, effective study habits are critical for keeping stress at bay during college. Having these great study habits can make things easier and alleviate some of the stress looming overhead. If you are in need of a bit of an improvement, or just want to get some new ideas, keep reading for the top five study habits that you should be practicing.

1. Make and use flashcards.

Flashcards are designed to promote active memory recall of information. By using flashcards with a question or term on one side and the answer or definition on the other, you will force your brain to recall the necessary information. Even if you struggle a bit with a card, you will still be actively reviewing the necessary material.

One of the other reasons why flashcards are effective is that they utilize spaced repetition learning techniques. Spaced repetition has been proven time and time again to be one of the most effective ways of building up memory and increasing recall of information. By studying the information again and again, at spaced intervals, you will be able to recall the information faster and far more easily.

2. Revise, revise, revise!

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    Many students put off studying until just before the exam, with the more diligent students giving themselves a week or two prior to a test. While this may sound effective and like a good manner of planning, it’s actually an ineffective method of preparing and studying. It’s best to revise the information a little bit every day, so that you are not overwhelmed when a test (or pop quiz!) comes around.

    One method of revising is to make a mind-map. This is a bit like a flowchart, in that you start with one core concept in the center, and then branch off into connected sections. This will help you to connect everything together and associate the terms with one another. When it comes time to take the exam, you will be better prepared and the key terms will jump out at you.

    Read aloud to yourself and, as silly as it may seem, pretend you are teaching a student. Read your notes aloud, pretend you are lecturing. Do this over and over, until you no longer have to look at your notes. Once you have accomplished that, do it again.

    Take one of the main concepts and turn it into a little story. Make sure you are able to explain this concept, no matter how complex it actually is, to someone who has never heard of it before. For example, if you are studying the industrial revolution, write a story that is written in such a way that it would explain that concept and events to someone who has never heard of it before. While this may sound silly and tedious, it’s an incredibly effective means of going over the information and looking at it in a new light. This, in turn, creates new associations and gives your brain a visual representation of the information, thereby making it easier to remember and recall.

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    Finally, come up with a keywords list. Take each of the main concepts for the subject you are studying, and reduce it into a ONE-word sub-topic. Study this list and memorize it. Incorporate it into the above methods, especially when using your flashcards. When it comes time for the exam, write down your list of keywords the moment you have that test in front of you. This will ensure you easily remember each topic and sub-topic, as well as providing a frame of reference if you get a blank during the test.

    3. Watch related lectures and videos.

    light apple books desk large

      One of the most effective—and the most fun—methods of studying is to watch related lectures and videos in order to supplement the material. Watch documentaries or videos on YouTube and educational websites. You may be surprised at how much you can learn from videos, and just how much information is available online.

      On a related note, you may also be able to download or stream podcasts that cover a large range of topics. Depending on what you are studying, you may find this to be very useful and entertaining.

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      4. Create practice tests based off previous tests.

      You should save all of the graded papers, quizzes, tests, assignments, and handouts that your teacher hands back to you. This will not only show you how well you did, but it will also highlight what you need to work on and where your strengths lie in that particular subject. You will also be able to learn the format of the tests, the structure of the questions, and whether or not to predict the inclusion of tricky True/False questions.

      Use these graded tests to create a new practice test. Include the questions you got correct, for some variety, but mainly focus on the questions you answered incorrectly. By focusing solely on these parts of the required material, you will turn your weaknesses around and even out the dents in your recall. Come test time, you will be far less stressed and feel more prepared.

      5. Re-write your notes.

      Studies have shown that writing information out by hand increases your ability to recall the material. This makes the recall go hand-in-hand with muscle memory, and you will be able to picture your written notes when you are taking the exam.

      One of the best ways to do this is to prepare for each class far ahead of time. Before the lecture begins, stake out your spot and go back over the assigned reading, your notes from the last class, and any homework you completed the night before. Right before the lecture starts, scan through the notes from the previous lecture as a means of gaining a sense of context that you will be able to build the new material on. This way, you will be able to focus on the lecture in order to get the information you will not be able to just look up in the book later on after the class has ended.

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      When you take the notes, write the information in your words rather than just blindly writing down what the professor says. This will help you to better grasp and retain the information. After class, re-write your notes in a more organized manner. This will help you to go over the information, as well as to ensure you have a sold set of notes for studying later on. As you go through the notes, summarize each section. This will sum it all up in your own vernacular, and show that you truly do understand the concepts. It will also show where any gaps in your understanding of the material may be.

      coffee desk notes studying

        Using outline formats with bullets, indentations, and numbering in order to make the hierarchical relationship between different points even more obvious will further solidify the information in your mind. Leaving space between the lines will also makes your notes easier to scan and study later on.

        The Cornell method is also extremely effective, especially if you do the summary at the end of the page. Fold your paper to have a large section on the right, and a smaller section on the left. On the right, jot down the pertinent information, points, or definitions during class. On the left, write questions for the information on the right, as you would read on a test. The left section is also the place for terms that are defined by the information on the right. At the very bottom of each page, add a summary of the above information. Later, when you go to study the notes, you can cover up the right column and make your notes a great means of preparing for exams.

        These are the five most effective study habits, and something all successful students do. Make sure you are on top of your game by following these study methods!

        Featured photo credit: pexels via static.pexels.com

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        Last Updated on July 17, 2019

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        What happens in our heads when we set goals?

        Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

        Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

        According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

        Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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        Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

        Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

        The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

        Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

        So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

        Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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        One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

        Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

        Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

        The Neurology of Ownership

        Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

        In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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        But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

        This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

        Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

        The Upshot for Goal-Setters

        So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

        On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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        It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

        On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

        But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

        More About Goals Setting

        Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

        Reference

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