Ten scientifically proven ways to help you retain knowledge

PUBLISHED18 October 2021

Studying for exams can be a painful, time consuming task. There’s nothing worse than going to that exam and immediately forgetting everything you spent hours trying to learn. If this happens to you, fear not, we have found ten scientifically proven ways to help you retain knowledge.

1] Study before you sleep. A surprising fact of your brain is that during sleep, the brain strengthens new memories. You are more likely to remember something you’ve just learned if you review it just before going to sleep.

2] Avoid the ‘curve of forgetting.’ When you go to a lecture or study something new, make sure that you review that same information within 24 hours. That way, you avoid the ‘curve of forgetting’ and prevent yourself from forgetting 80 per cent of what you just learnt.

3] Write it out. When you learn something new, take the time to put the information to paper. Research shows that we store information more securely when we write it out by hand rather than typing it.

4] Up your Omega-3 intake. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their brain-boosting potential and can be found in certain fish, nuts and olive oil. Studies have also shown that a combination of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids can reduce pre-exam anxiety.

5] Exercise. There are many proven benefits to your brain of exercise. Exercise gets your blood flowing to your brain and can make you more alert. Just half an hour of exercise can improve brain-processing speed and other important cognitive abilities.

6] Meditation. Research shows that meditation can reduce anxiety and boost your attention span. The studies are based on regular meditation, but you can also use a few minutes of meditation before an exam to calm your nerves. Stress hinders learning, so it is important to make sure you are relaxed before you study.

7] Test yourself. Self testing is one of the best ways to prepare for an exam. You may be able to access exams from past years to practice on. Studies prove that students who test themselves after learning something retain 50 per cent more of the material a week later than those who don’t test themselves.

8] Don’t cram! It has been proven that it is more effective to review material immediately after you learn it, rather than right before an exam. The optimal timing is 10 per cent of the time between learning and testing. So, if you learn something on a Monday and the quiz is the next Monday, review your work no later than the Wednesday.

9] Find your most effective learning style. Some people are night owls and some are morning people. You may prefer to study with a friend or you might need to be alone. Perhaps you study best with some light music in the background or maybe you need total silence. Find what works for you.

10] Get some sleep. The worst thing you can do for your studies is pull an all-nighter to study for an exam the next day. All-nighters have been linked to impaired cognitive performance and a greater sensitivity to stress. Make sure you get the recommended seven to nine hours sleep per night.

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