by: Yashvi Patel, Kennedy College of Sciences Well-being Leader
In this post, I will give you some tips on how to study effectively that I have learned and practiced throughout my time in college. Being a pre-dental student who has to fulfill classes for my degree pathway as well as take prerequisites for dental school, I can assure you it is not easy. I hope these study tips I learned in one of my wonderful cognitive psychology classes can alleviate exam-induced stress.
The first study tip is to participate in class even if you don’t get credit for it. There were two studies performed to back up the effectiveness of this study tip. Intro-psych students came into a lab and sat down in front of a computer screen. They were presented with pairs of items, in which they read pairs and had pairs for which they had to generate the second word. It was found that if you generated the second word over reading the pair, you were more likely to remember the pair (the generation effect). In another study, the effect of generation is magnified if words were read aloud compared to silently (production effect). That being said, you should participate in class. I used to be afraid of saying the wrong answer, but I’ve noticed most professors at UML help guide you in the right direction without outrightly telling you are wrong, which is why some people don’t speak up.
The next tip would be to take notes by hand instead of the laptop. A study was conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of note taking. Participants watched videos and were asked to either take notes on laptops or notebooks, take a distractor task, and a test, thereafter. The test consisted of factual and application questions. It was found that for factual questions, the recall performance was consistent. However, handwritten notes were better for conceptual memory. I know a lot of people take notes on their laptop because its faster, but I suggest transitioning to handwritten notes because the bulk of evidence leads to the advantages of taking notes by hand. I started taking handwritten notes on my iPad this semester and I can attest to these claims as I feel like I understand and remember the content better. This might have also impacted my grades, which are better so far than the semester before.
Another tip is to study often and as early as possible, so you are able to space study. There was a study performed to test the two types of learning: massed and distributed. A group of people were learning a second language. Half the participants performed massed study, while the other half spaced studied. Both groups were tested a day later or a week later. It was found that massed studying was effective for memory performance if the test was a day later. However, distributed studying was better if they had to remember information a week later. This is called the spacing effect. Essentially, if you want to remember something for the long run, do distributed study.
The next tip is to study before sleep or rest. There were pairs of words that were studied, either unrelated or related to each other. Half the group studied at 9 am and were awake the rest of the day, whereas the other half studied at 9 pm and then slept. The study found that when you study at night, sleep, and take the test the next morning, you recall more information for unrelated and related content. The benefit of studying at night is especially prominent for unrelated content. The likely reason for the finding was that if you sleep, your memory processing system consolidates the information and there’s no interference when you sleep.
All in all, studying effectively can save a lot of time that can be expended towards other things like relaxation or career-oriented endeavors. It is also beneficial in reducing stress as effective study habits allow one to manage time better and score higher.
Geraci, Lisa, D. (2022, May 2). Learning Tips [PowerPoint slides]. Psychology Department, University of Lowell Massachusetts.