Build a “memory palace” and other genius study hacks

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Looking for some new ways to study? Tired of the typical “Reward yourself!” and “Get a good night’s rest!” advice you regularly get? We are too. Everyone knows that you should eat well and keep yourself healthy during exams, but did you know about these methods to make studying less painful and more effective?

1. Write things out longhand.

By writing, you use your hand to form letters, which engages the brain in the process. With typing, you’re just pressing on identical keys. Writing may take longer than typing, but the extra time you put in will help the material stick better.

2. Imitate your idol.

Who inspires you? Think about how they go about their daily lives, or what habits they keep. This could be as serious as taking several walks a day to refresh your mind like Charles Darwin, or as silly as listening to the Harry Potter soundtrack on repeat while sitting in the North Reading Room because it makes you feel like Hermione Granger.

3. Build a “memory palace.”

Humans have spatial memories, which means that you’re more likely to remember a path you take every day or a specific room than a random object or idea. The technique is to imagine a space you know well – this could be your home growing up, or the route you take to class every morning. Assign things in this space as “pegs” and remember the order they are in. Then, put each idea you need to remember on a “peg.”  Each association needs to be as wild and silly as possible for you to remember it – for example, to remember that the first item on your grocery list is cheese, imagine your door (the first “peg”) made of cheese. Read about this method in more detail here.

4. Talk it out.

You’ve probably already heard that you should teach someone the material, but you’ll probably be hard pressed to find someone who is willing to be a student for a day, when everyone has finals of their own to worry about. Instead, ask someone to listen to you talk about the material you just learned for just 3-5 minutes (they can even just pretend to listen). As you speak, you’ll notice where you fumble, and where you have to pause to remember facts. This will help you recognize which material you need to review again.

5. Engage your senses.

Spray a new smell, listen to lectures, draw mind maps or change your location. Changing up the way you study will help you remember things – any time you do something different, it forces your brain to make new associations with the same materials, making the memory stronger.

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Contact Shruti Koti at [email protected].