Become a More Effective & Confident Learner With 4 Neuroscience-Backed Studying Tips

By Reniel

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Last Updated: January 27, 2022

Learning, studying for exams, or studying, in general, is not only about memorizing and retaining information.

You also don't have to be in school to be learning or studying something! Many people take on new languages, workshops, challenging booklists, or simply want to immerse themselves in new and interesting subjects such as history, yoga, psychology, marketing, starting a website, etc. 

To become a better learner, we have to understand how our brain works. Learning what happens inside our brain during active learning can help overcome many obstacles. With that said, here are some neuroscience-based study tips that can help you become a more effective and confident learner.

Is your brain feeling a little fuzzy lately? Maybe this will help: Feeling Lost? Top 5 Easy Ways to Improve Mental Clarity

 

4 Ways to Improve Your Learning Skills

1. Divide the task of learning into smaller chunks

One of the most brilliant discoveries ever made was an idea called "chunking".

The idea is that you don't try to learn everything in one sitting. Instead of trying to remember all the information at once, break down what you're learning into smaller pieces and then put them back together again later on when it's due.

This way, you can focus on what matters most instead of being overwhelmed by too much information and not remembering anything unless you practice a lot or memorize something over time through repetition (which can be very tiring).

Allowing your brain to focus on smaller learning goals can be beneficial.

 

2. Gain control of your learning environment

When you are learning something new, you typically go through a period of confusion and uncertainty.

Learners have trouble processing the knowledge because it does not match what they already know about that subject. This is often called the "mismatch" effect.

The mismatch effect is

"...what takes place when students with academic credentials noticeably lower than their peers learn less as a consequence of that intellectual estrangement."

This can be particularly problematic for some fields, such as medicine, where many facts must be remembered from unrelated areas to perform their jobs properly within this field. 

You can get really good at memorizing a large amount of information if you set up a system where the only thing allowed to enter your memory is what you explicitly choose to hold onto.

This can be done using mnemonics and other techniques, such as self-tests (i.e., doing it yourself instead of asking someone else to do it for you).

3. Use your senses to learn

You can increase the likelihood of memorizing information using other methods besides just looking at things.

Suppose you could use other senses besides your eyes to learn. In that case, you'd have a greater chance of learning faster and retaining more information as well. You can do this by using flashcards (i.e., visual/auditory/tactile) or mnemonics (i.e., pictures that remind you of words - this is called kinaesthesia).

But whatever you do, don't just learn things by rote memorization alone. Experts have observed that the best way to remember things is by using your senses.

4. Use spaced-repetition to retain information

One of the ways that we can increase our retention of information is by using a study method called spaced repetition (SPR), also known as multi-learning or "flooding". 

Our brains are constantly being bombarded by information from all five senses, at times more than once in one minute. Our eyes see things, and our ears hear sounds. We can also smell something, and our skin feels the touch.

This means that instead of studying once per week before an exam, it’s better to study regularly and create a study schedule every other day instead to learn new information better.

 

Neuroplasticity

From the point of biology, learning includes changing the brain.

This is called neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to change in response to experience. Researchers have long observed that the brain can adapt to new experiences, and new information to aid learning.

One of the ways that you can increase your learning capacity through neuroplasticity is by making it a habit (e.g., developing new habits). Over time, whenever you study, your brain will adapt to further information, making it easier for you to retain and process information.

Neuroplasticity can be seen by observing a person learning something not common knowledge (i.e., someone who has just learned about an obscure subject).

It might take them a while before they memorize the content on their own but eventually, over time, they'll learn how to do it much quicker once they start doing it on their own.

 

You Can Improve Your Learning Skills! 

There you have it.

May these neuroscience-backed tips help you become a more effective and confident learner. Here’s to absorbing, retaining and recalling more information faster this year 2022 and onwards! 

Photo by ICSA from Pexels

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