7 Study Tips for the Time-Poor Student

As exam times approach and everything else coming to fruition, whether you have kids to take care of, projects to finish, or holidays to plan, this is a busy time of the year and we especially don’t want to drop the ball on our study efforts. So here are some handy tips to get that extra boost you need!

#1 Do not spend too much time planning

For the OCDs and perfectionists out there, I know personally how difficult it is to make sure you cover ALL bases in a systematic manner, but at the end of the day, planning is not studying. You will not be assessed on the three timetables you created, the five lists that you made, or how you separated each notebook for a specific topic. Just get started somewhere, but DO time yourself and see whether you are going through the material fast enough to finish all topics. You may have to then adjust your speed or even make sacrifices. For example, histology is always the first thing I leave out, simply because it takes so much longer to get it right when I can score easier marks elsewhere.

#2 Exercise

It is not frontline science that, for normal people, exercise energises you. This however can slip to the bottom of the list when you’ve got a million things to do in two seconds. Don’t. Remember efficiency is the key and exercise drastically improves it. Do a couple of hill sprints, go to a familiar gym class, or play a social sport — just don’t go run a marathon or train for the Ninja Warrior show.

Can’t find time? See tip #7 on Breaks & Rewards.

#3 Get comfortable, but not too comfortable

We all know a comfy bed makes us go to sleep; it is easy to relax in an extremely comfortable environment and become complacent. As much as I enjoy learning, I want to get it done asap because, well, I am time-poor and I have other responsibilities. Cold has shown to be invigorating, so you want to be slightly cold but not too chilled that you can’t move your fingers. When you have an urge to go to the toilet, use it as motivation to get that section done quickly. I often study in a standing position as well, not only because it helps me stay alert but also creates a certain discomfort reminding me that I need a break (and therefore finish off the section quickly).

Regulating your emotions are also important, as different emotions has different effects on the width of your attention. Being slightly depressed narrows the attention, making you less easily distracted and therefore more likely to focus, which is good for rote learning and repetitions. Being happy widens your attention and thought patterns, helping you come up with new ways to organise materials or find out solutions to those difficult/advanced questions.

#4 Use all senses

Read it. Draw it. Listen to it. Talk to yourself about it. Talk to others about it. Talk around it. Watch a video of it. Make a video out of it. Draw in a notebook. Draw on a piece of butchers paper. Draw on the bathroom mirror. Paint it in a nightclub cubicle. Walk around the room and tell a story on it using sign language. Sing it. Create an act about it. Explain it to your dog. Explain it to a random stranger. Explain it to the telemarketer. Make sand art on it. Rearrange your food on a plate to resemble it. Lick it. Make crop circles on it (that’s a good one, they’ll never find out). Make a meme of it and share with your friends.

Doing things differently activates different parts of the brain, creating more pathways to the same memory and make it easier for retrieval.

#5 Link to something that’s interesting, disgusting or even offensive to you

Studies show that putting emotions into learning materials makes memory lasts much longer, because the adult brain generate new neurons — yes you heard right, new neurons — at the hippocampus, the emotion centre of the brain. This is why acronyms such as OOOTTAFVGVAH can be easily remembered forever as long as we are in our reproductive years. If you are struggling what is of interest for you, look at your fb likes, think of what you’d rather be doing instead of study, or the things you can talk at length about.

#6 Familiarise yourself with the material before going to study groups

You might have an awesome time with friends, but that doesn’t necessarily give you the marks you want/need. Study groups should be about revision and work best when you get a chance to teach and to learn. What you want to learn the majority of the time is HOW to memorise the material, not actually learn the material (that should mostly be done during the semester). For example, Sarah might have a better way of remembering where all the mesenteries are and what they connect to, so you could adopt similar methods in your study.

If you really don’t have a clue or are feeling overwhelmed, pick something you understand, and become really good at it. That way you will have a chance at teaching others HOW you got good at that one thing and build your confidence up for the rest of the topics. It is amazing how a bit of confidence goes a long way.

#7 Breaks & Rewards

Breaks should be about taking your mind and body away from the material, so that you can ‘make room’ for more. Apart from the usual methods (walking around, go to the loo, make & eat food), you can also try incorporating some exercises such as push ups, sit ups, a quick run, etc. Use exercises as rewards, or do something else you love and you’ll start to like studying.

Now go! And enjoy your holidays when it comes.

-Freak

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