The human mind learns through repetition, and repetition can, in turn, be a powerful study aid. By repeating certain patterns of behaviour, these patterns of behaviour become habits. And, by exerting our willpower, we can determine which habits to keep and which to discard.
The period leading up to exams is one of the best opportunities you’ll have to find out just how much control you have over your habits. As such, here are seven ways that students can turn the power of habit to their advantage.
It’s important to establish regular study patterns and stick to them, whether you work better in the early hours of the morning or late at night. Regular behaviour is the best way to enforce habits. Studying at specific times each day will gradually build up the momentum that can carry you to the finish line.
This doesn’t just apply to your studying, but also to everything else you need to incorporate into the schedule, such as regular exercise. This is not only important to health but assists your studies as well. Which brings us to the next point.
It’s essential that instead of skipping exercise so you can make room for more studying, you actually make a greater effort to incorporate regular exercise into your schedule. After all, a healthy body means a healthy mind.
Furthermore, exercise has been shown to provide a boost to learning and retention. In one example, researchers divided test subjects into three study groups and found that the group which engaged in 30 minutes of light exercise prior to studying was better able to memorize information, as opposed to the group which performed a more intense workout, or the one that did no exercise at all.
The rush of blood leads to greater energy production and increases the supply of nutrients to the brain. Exercise releases tension which makes it easier to remain focused. Regular exercise will also help you cope with the stress of exam periods.
3) Food for thought
Going hand-in-hand with the need for exercise is the need for correct nutrition, which ensures your body and brain have adequate fuel. A healthy breakfast, regular portions of fruit and vegetables (bananas and blueberries are especially recommended), and eating small meals frequently rather than big meals that slow you down are all handy nutritional tips to bear in mind.
Setting time aside for studying is one thing, actually sticking to the plan another. Maintaining focus requires you to avoid distractions, or ensure that distractions don’t happen in the first place. This means studying in a place where no one is likely to disturb you, and telling family and friends not to attempt to contact you during specific times unless it’s urgent.
It’s also best to close email and social media programs and to set specific goals for the study period and work towards them. For example, how many chapters (or pages) you intend to get through in the session.
5) Pace yourself
Attempting to process too much material in one session can hurt you as much as if you hadn’t studied at all. Just as athletes become rusty through inactivity, but at the same time suffers the risk of burnout if they exert themselves too much within a short space of time, so can students burn themselves out and hinder their study process by pushing themselves beyond their limits.
It’s important to find a balance between studying and other activities and to keep your workload at a manageable level. How-to-study.com also recommends starting with the most difficult material first and working your way downwards from there. That way you’ll have higher energy levels for the tasks that require greater focus.
6) Develop your mind
Don’t rely solely on the study material you’ve been provided. Attend lectures, communicate with peers, and pose questions to your professors or teachers. Get hold of additional material on the subject if you can, whether from the internet or your local library. Attempting to understand the subject on a deeper level will not only garner additional marks, but it may also inspire a deeper interest in the subject matter, which is the greatest aid to studies.
7) Breaking bad habits
The time leading up the exam period is the chance to develop skills that help you make a habit out of breaking bad habits, which is the best habit of all. Training yourself to resist the distractions that can get in the way of your studies is a good place to start.
Read our guide to TAFE courses in Australia.