Train Your Brain to Learn Like a Pro

School is back in session, but your brain may still need time to catch up. The transition back to school is tricky after summer break. Thankfully, we know some professional tips to help you focus, study, and learn like a pro. Check out these proven learning strategies.  

Start Studying Early

If you know you have an exam coming up, don’t wait until the last minute to study. You’re probably thinking, “But I do best under pressure!” No, you don’t. You’re just used to the habit of last-minute.

It’s time to change the way you approach studying. Instead of trying to learn all the information the night before the test, spread your studying out over several days or weeks. Focus on small sets of information that you disperse over that timeframe. Then, revisit everything the night before as a refresh. The goal is to get this information into your long-term memory so you can use it well into the future.

Avoid Cram Sessions – Spread Learning out in Small Chunks

Your brain is like a sponge, and it can only absorb so much in one sitting. If you break the information into small, digestible chunks, your brain can soak it in and make room for new information. The scholars at Rhodes College recommend studying for 40-60 minutes at a time with ample breaks in between.

Research also shows that taking a nap after you study may help you retain information better. Your brain uses the time you’re sleeping to sort through information from the day. Thus, it makes sense that you’d hold on to information better if you take a nap after learning it. Study naps were shown to be more effective for long-term fact retention than intense cram sessions.

Test Your Knowledge after a Study Break

If you test your knowledge right after studying, you may develop a false sense of confidence about how much you actually know. Try quizzing yourself after your study break to see what your mind held onto. If you planned ahead with extra study time, wait until the following morning to quiz yourself. That will paint a clear picture of what you need to work harder on.

Practice Retrieving Facts from Your Mind

Have you ever read through a whole page in a book only to feel like you don’t remember anything? Or perhaps you’ve felt confident before a test, only to blank on every answer once the test begins. You can combat these frustrations by practicing fact retrieval.

Example: Let’s say you’re studying architectural history. Close your book, and try to remember significant architects from different styles, time periods, regions, etc. If you find yourself drawing a blank on certain names, you know you need to focus more on those facts. If you double-check your answers and breeze right through it, you can move on to new information that you’re not retaining as well.

Check out Psychology Today’s guide to the Retrieval Practice for more information.

Use Rhymes, Synonyms, and Imagery to Overcome Memorization Hurdles

Sometimes, you have to get creative to maintain information. You might need to come up with a song, rhyme, or word association to help you remember certain facts. Someone studying for their real estate license may use the word “DUST” to remember the four economic characteristics of real estate: demand, utility, scarcity, and transferability. Play around with different mind tricks to see what resonates with your learning style.

Set Reminders to Eat and Sleep

When you’re deep in studying, self-care is the last thing on your mind. Eating and sleeping restore your energy levels to help your brain thrive. Set alarms on your phone for meal breaks, naps, bedtime, and other important tasks. Take pause as needed to give your brain the best chance at learning.

Value Progress over Perfection

You may not get 100% on the test. You might not remember every fact you study, and you may not get every answer right. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Learning is an ongoing process. Your progress has value, regardless of the income. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to be perfect. It’s not worth the stress. Use the proven learning tips above, and you’ll be one step closer to reaching your goals!