Many students think about how to best spend their time while studying. But what comes before study sessions can be important too – especially if you want to improve your memory of what you have learned.
In today’s Education Tips, we will explore different ways that you can improve your memory and learning. We will examine some useful, no-cost things you can do before you study.
Three important ideas to think about before studying include exercise, study location and pre-study tests. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Before you study, doing cardiovascular exercise may help you better remember what you learn. High-intensity exercise may be especially helpful.
In a 2018 study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers found that a group of young people who did 15 minutes of high-intensity training on a treadmill remembered more words.
Some studies have also shown high-intensity exercise to help improve the memories of older people.
Other studies suggest the importance of different kinds of exercise. It seems that both long, slow cardiovascular exercise and high-intensity exercise have different effects on memory. Researchers have suggested combining the two to get the best effects for your memory.
The important idea is this: exercise is good for your memory. Even if you cannot exercise right before a study session, it is still probably a good idea to be active in general.
Location is also important for improving your learning. While it is good to have a desk or a special study area, some research suggests that changing where you study could help you remember more of what you study.
Our memories sometimes depend on things in our environment. For example, a book might remind you of something interesting or strange you learned while reading it.
“Environmental Context and Human Memory,” a famous study on memory, dealt with the question of memory and our surroundings. Researchers Smith, Glenberg and Bjork found that environmental context played a big part in how well people remembered words. The researchers noted that subjects who learned from a list remembered an average of 15.9 words, while subjects who learned in two different contexts remembered an average of 24.4 words.
Be sure to plan your location before you start to study. You might want to try studying in different places. Perhaps one day you could study in your room, and then the next day you could study in the kitchen, or outside. You do not have to change locations every day, but try to at least sometimes.
We have talked about exercise and location. Now let’s talk about a third way you can improve your study session: taking a pre-study test.
Students often study with a test in mind. They consider the test the final step to show how much they have learned.
But, students need to test themselves often. Testing is one of the best ways to make yourself remember new information.
In 2018, researchers found that students who took a test before learning new material did much better after studying the material. The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
The students failed on the tests, but they were better able to remember the material than students who were only asked to read the information.
“The testing effect appears to be attributable, in part, to the role unsuccessful tests play in enhancing future learning,” the researchers wrote.
So, try to take a pre-study test. If you are using a textbook, you might want to look to the end of the chapter and do a few practice questions before you read it.
You could look at some important words at the end of a chapter of an English book, for example. And you could ask yourself what they mean, or how they are used. While you might not know the answer, you will probably be better able to learn and remember the answer when you study it!
In today’s report, we have explored three things you can do to improve your learning. Try them out and let us know about your results.
In future education tips stories, we will explore things you can do during and after your study sessions to improve your learning.
I’m John Russell.
session – n. period of time that is used to do a particular activity
location –n. a place or position
cardiovascular exercise –n. exercise that raises your heart rate and pushes blood through the body
context – n. the situation in which something happens : the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens
attributable – adj. not used before a noun: caused by a particular thing
enhance – v. to increase or improve (something)