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3 Tips on How to Study Effectively

My Personal Experiment

By Ndeloh Desmond Published 5 months ago 3 min read
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3 Tips on How to Study Effectively
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Throughout their training, residents in medicine learn many methods, operations, and practices that they’ll subsequently employ to save lives. Being able to retain these abilities may very literally be an issue of life and death. With such in consideration, a 2006 investigation took a class of surgical trainees learning to stitch arteries and separated them into two groups.

Each got the identical study materials, but one group adopted a slight adjustment in how they studied them. When evaluated one month later, this group completed the surgery considerably better than the other residents.

We’ll explain the key to that group’s success, along with two additional very successful study approaches that can be employed both in and out of the classroom.

But to figure out why these strategies work, let's first examine how the human brain learns and remembers information. Say you're attempting to learn the anatomy of the heart. When you’re exposed to a new notion, the memory is temporarily recorded in groupings of neurons in a brain location called the hippocampus.

As you proceed to learn about the functions of the heart in class or analyze the chambers for a test, you reawaken these same neurons. This continual firing strengthens the bonds between the cells, solidifying the memory.

Over time, the knowledge of heart architecture is stored long-term, which includes another brain region known as the neocortex. How knowledge gets passed from short-term to long-term storage is still not entirely understood, although it’s assumed to happen in between study periods and probably most significantly during sleep.

Here the new information is merged with other relevant ideas you already know, such as how to calculate heart rate or the architecture of other organs. And the process doesn’t stop there.

Each time you memorize cardiac anatomy, you awaken the long-term memory, which makes it sensitive to change. The knowledge may be updated, enhanced, and reintegrated with other bits of information. This is where our first study method comes in.

Testing yourself using flashcards and quizzes requires you to actively recall information, which refreshes and enhances the memory. Students typically prefer different study techniques, such as rereading textbooks, and underlining notes. But these behaviors might provide a false impression of expertise, as the knowledge is there in front of you.

Testing oneself, however, helps you to more properly measure what you truly know. But what if, while doing this, you can’t recall the answers? Not to worry— making errors may increase learning in the long run. It’s hypothesized that while you rack your brain for the solution, you activate pertinent areas of information.

Then, when the right answer is eventually provided, the brain can better integrate this knowledge with what you already know. Our second method builds on the previous.

When using flashcards to study, it's essential to mix the deck with various topics. Interleaving, or combining the topics you concentrate on in a single session, may lead to higher memory than practicing a single skill or subject at a time.

One explanation of why this works is because, similar to testing, cycling through diverse topics pushes your brain to briefly forget, and then recall knowledge, further reinforcing the memory. You may also identify links between the subjects, and better grasp their variances.

Now that you know how and what to study, our last method concerns when.

Spacing your review over numerous days provides you with recuperation and sleep between sessions. While “offline,” the brain is actively at work, accumulating and integrating information in the neocortex.

So although studying the night before the test may seem logical— after all, won’t the material be fresh in your mind?— the knowledge won’t remain around for the long term. This takes us back to our medical residents.

Both groups researched the operation for the same period. Yet one group’s instruction was compressed into a single day, while the other more effective group’s training was spaced over four weeks.

The reason all three of these study strategies succeed is that they’re created with the brain in mind. They complement and reinforce the extraordinary way the brain works, sifting through and retaining the plethora of information it’s given day after day.

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Ndeloh Desmond

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