The Science Behind Learning Faster
The world that we live in moves fast.
Every bit of technology and information seems to be old news by the time we get our hands on it. There are a lot of quick fixes and things that are made to make your life easier, but one thing that nobody seems to get right is how to learn faster and smarter.
Not everyone is a quick learner by nature so you may be one of the many people who need a little help to gain an advantage.
Whether you are a student or studying for a work qualification or presentation, sometimes skimming over the information you want to learn is an uphill struggle.
There are many ways that we can absorb information, and here are some of the quickest that we have come across.
1) Learn in Short Bursts
Everyone needs a break from long study sessions, but how about studying for periods that you don’t need to step away from?
Ellen Dunn from Louisiana State University suggests that concerning minutes, ‘’anything less than 30 is just not enough, but anything more than 50 is too much information for your brain at any one time.”
After each session make sure you take a minimum of 10 minutes break before restarting another study session.
2) Use More Than One Approach
There are many ways of learning information, and everyone absorbs information in different ways.
If you are struggling to take the information in with one approach, try a few to make it stick. You could try reading the data in a textbook to start, then back it up with one of the following:
- Use another online resource.
- Write out your notes.
- See if there is a video on the subject online.
- Listen to the lecture if available.
- Present what you know to a friend.
3) Practice What You Know As a Presentation
Practice can be to an actual willing participant or an empty room, but presenting the information is a good way of memorizing it.
If you are preparing for a presentation, then this is essential, but even if you are not, it remains a proven method of remembering information.
One study by Washington University in St.Louis found that if you are expecting to teach what you know, it helps you to recall information at a later date better. The better recall was correct for those who do not even end up teaching the material.
4) Don’t Multitask
If you are trying to do too much at one time, then you are diluting your chances of actually learning the information.
If for example, you have two exams coming up in math and science, then you should study for each of them at different sittings to enhance your ability to absorb the information for each subject.
5) Minimize Distractions
We already mentioned this, but times have changed.
Twenty years ago we didn’t have smartphones with so many distractions in our pocket. Our biggest distraction then was probably a friend knocking on our door.
For some people, it might be difficult to go 15 minutes without glancing at their phone. Whether it is an email or social media that stops you from building much-needed momentum, keep your phone in a separate room or turn it off completely.
If social media distract you, then you might want to consider Freedom, an app and website blocker that can be set to keep you out of the sites that distract you the most for between 15 minutes to 8 hours at a time.
This blocking gives you the chance to reclaim your time and do some smart studying.
Otherwise, the following tips might help you to focus:
- Turn notifications off.
- Log out of all social media and instant-messaging apps.
- Work in a tidy space.
- Tell your housemates you are studying, so you don’t get disturbed.
6) Take a Power Nap To Refuel
Can a siesta make you smarter? Well if you want to know how to study effectively, then taking a nap to break it up might be what you need.
Short naps in the afternoon can boost your brain power. A study by a professor of neuroscience and psychology, Matthew Walker, showed that ‘’at a cognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap.”
The study looked at two groups, one of which took an afternoon nap and the other that did not. They were then asked to take a test later in the day, and the group that took a nap showed much better results.
By refueling your brain with a nap, it is clear that you can learn faster and smarter, and sleeping between study sessions helps you to learn faster as well.
7) Test Yourself
Those who self-test are more likely to get better results than those who do not.
So, if you want to give yourself as much of an advantage as possible, testing yourself is one of the best methods.
It helps you to absorb information and means you don’t have to keep re-reading the same pages again and again. When you test yourself, you pick out the most significant pieces of information that you think you will need to remember.
A study by Vered Halamish and Robert Bjork (2011) found that it is more beneficial to use testing as a form of review for harder tests. Testing, they found, enhances subsequent recall.
Test yourself, but also try and find study questions related to the topic, even ask your teacher if they can help in this area.
8) Stay Hydrated
The theory of drinking eight glasses of water a day is generalistic, but it is a good guideline.
We say this because everyone’s body is different, but the main point is staying hydrated benefits your mental power.
Drinking the right amount of water helps your brain in the following ways:
- Reduces stress
- Boosts concentration levels
- Enhances cognition
- Increases memory
- Prevents headaches
It is no secret that when we are thirsty, we find it more difficult to concentrate. When it comes to studying, this is the opposite of what we want.
It is always good to study with a glass of water at your side. The same rule applies to your exams.
Want to know how to study effectively? Start by staying hydrated.
9) Sit In the Front Row
Studies find that sitting at the front of the class directly correlates to better results.
This finding was part of a study by Giles, 1982, where the teacher chose where each student sat. This study dispels any theory that the results could be influenced by students who are more keen to learn so they sit closer to the front.
The study showed that those sitting in the front achieved higher average scores when tested than those in the middle and back. Students in the middle also performed better than those in the back.
Some will find that sitting in the front means you can concentrate more and there are fewer distractions in front of you.
10) Use Paper and Pen
If your laptop is just as distracting as your phone, you might want to consider removing another element of procrastination.
Sometimes it is easier to absorb information written by hand. If your teacher is speaking, you will have to think a bit more about how you are writing when using pen and paper. Students who take notes by hand score higher in tests.
11) Read It Out Loud
Reading out loud works two senses at once, the visual and audible experience will be beneficial for many people.
Everyone is different, and some people soak up information better when they hear it read out loud. The University of Waterloo (2017) found that reading something out loud makes you more likely to remember it.
Science Daily quotes Colin M. MacLeod a professor of Psychology at the University as he says, ‘’The study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement.”
Instead of reading every word out loud, it is good to find the most relevant and useful excerpts and make a note of them. If they are typed up, you can put these in a folder. If you print the excerpts, then highlight them.
Once you have done this, read what you have found to be most useful out loud. See if it is easier to memorize by continually repeating each point or reading a set of paragraphs in a row.
Do this for as long as you think is necessary.
Exercise benefits the body in more ways than you might think, it also improves your mental fitness.
By staying active for a minimum of 20 minutes at a time, you are boosting your memory functioning and helping it to be capable of learning faster.
By increasing your heart rate, exercise pumps more oxygen to the brain and even helps to create new neural connections.
It boosts just about everything you would want it to regarding brainpower, including your alertness. If you are feeling sluggish, lazy or unmotivated, it just might be that you need to move your body more.
13) Get Eight Hours of Sleep
For some people, this might be easier said than done, but you should be doing everything you can to get around eight hours a night.
After a good night sleep, you should feel fresh and alert. Even something like learning a new piece of information is a lot easier after a good night’s rest.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep helps you to memorize information. Studies have shown that the more the mind is asked to memorize information, the longer the period of REM sleep you need.
Also, there have been experiments that show how animals who do not get as much REM sleep are not able to learn new pieces of information as well.
14) Eat The Right Foods
Smart studying often starts with intelligent eating.
The right diet can give your brain the power it needs to make learning a lot easier. Too many carbs can allow brain fog to form, which will hamper your studies and how well you memorize information.
Surprisingly, dark chocolate is one of the better foods you can consume because of the flavonoids that improve blood flow to the brain. The dopamine produced when you eat dark chocolate is also beneficial for better memory.
For these benefits, dark chocolate needs to be around 80 percent cocoa, and it has even been found to alleviate stress.
Foods high in choline are also good for your brain because it helps to produce acetylcholine, which is necessary for how you learn as well as focus.
There are plenty of foods available that can give you the level you need and these include:
- Beef Liver
- Split peas
So there you have our thorough list.
It shows that you can study smarter not harder, but also that lifestyle affects how well you can absorb information.
The above tips are mutually beneficial, but if for example, your body is dehydrated, you will find it hard to apply any of them. It all starts with treating your body in the way that it deserves. If you look after yourself, you will find that everything else in life comes more naturally.
You can give yourself the edge and the comfort of knowing that you did everything you could to memorize the material and learn as much as you can.