How to Actually Study Better & Remember More

Exam season: the most stressful time of the year. Trying to prep for a cumulative final worth 85 per cent of your grade might seem daunting, but with these psychology-based tips, you can improve how much of the content you’ll remember when you’re staring at the test.

1. Maximize your visual memory

If you feel like you identify with the visual learning style and you need to see something in order to truly understand it, develop a study strategy that plays to your strengths. Visual learners are extra aware of colour, tone, brightness and contrast, so bust out that pack of highlighters and go to town on your notes. Whenever possible, make tables or graphs to explain the content in a visual manner.

2. Read your notes aloud

According to a study from the University of Waterloo, reading your notes aloud is a more effective way of committing the content to memory than reading it silently. Furthermore, if you record yourself reading the notes aloud than you can plug in your headphones and listen to the notes while you’re walking around campus or doing some chores.

3. Track your coffee…and other substances

There’s a belief among stoners that if you study while high, you should also take the test while high…and they’re not actually wrong about that. Essentially, no matter the substance, you should have the same amount in your system when you’re taking the test as you did when you were studying for it. This is known as “state-dependent learning” where memory retrieval is most effective when you’re in the same state of consciousness as you were when you learned the content. Studies have shown that even a consistent amount of caffeine in your system will improve your recall.

4. Think deeper

When you’re studying for a test, there’s both shallow and deep thought processing. Shallow thought processing would include just re-writing the notes as they are, or just thinking about what content you need to know, instead of what the content means. Deep thought processing involves thinking about the content as a whole and what it really means, and studies have shown that deep thought processing is much more effective to embed things in your memory. So, paraphrase notes in your own words, and make note if you can find personal connections to the content.

5. Catch those ZZZ’s

As much as you feel like you NEED to stay up all night or there’s no way you’ll pass that test, you’re wrong. Memory consolidation occurs while you’re asleep, and it strengthens the neural connections that form our memories. Beyond simply remembering content, you’re more likely misinterpret what a question is asking if you’re sleep-deprived.

This exam season, study smarter, not harder.