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study smarter tips

Study Smarter: 20 Expert Learning Tips!

We know getting through your course quickly and successfully is important, so we asked three learning experts to share their advice on enhancing study sessions for better outcomes.

Rik Schnabel, of Life Beyond Limits, is an internationally recognised and nationally accredited Australian life coach and author with over 20,000 training and clinical coaching hours. As a teacher, he has a special interest in the study of learning.

Reasons Get Results. Find your reason to learn. If you don’t have a reason to learn you won’t – or you’ll do the bare minimum. Consider what learning this new information will do for you. Create your own personal reason to learn. Studies have shown, if we don’t know ‘why’ we are listening, then 35 per cent of people will shut off their attention.

See Yourself Getting Results. The picture we hold of ourselves in our mind is the one we aim to maintain every day. Create a picture of yourself that witnesses the new you after gaining the benefits of what you are learning. This will cause your learning ability to spike.

Calm Your Brain. As a brain teacher, specifically of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), my students quickly learn that stress stifles learning. So, we teach in a calm environment. Typically, when you are learning, you will be looking at something; a book, a teacher, a screen, and this extreme focus can create stress.

Here is a quick way to calm your brain and as a result take in much more information. Look directly at the source of information and while doing so, take in your peripheral vision as well. This will have your brain waves move from beta (12.5 to 30 hertz) to alpha (8 to 13 hertz) causing you to calm down. In a calm state, you will remember more and time will seem to move more quickly.

Pay Attention and Sit Up Straight. You cannot remember what you have not learned. Many people wrongly accuse their memory for their lack of recall, when at the time they were not paying attention. Sitting up straight tells your brain that what you are learning is interesting and puts you on full alert.

Stay Positive. Continual negativity sends a ‘hopeless signal’ to your brain. It tells you that aspirational ways of being or thinking are not worth it. So, if you are looking to learn to become successful in your life stop being, listening to or surrounding yourself with negative people. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”

Cherish Your Brain. Eat well. Sugary packaged foods cause spikes in your energy which means that your concentration will peak and quickly fall.

Keep Your Brain Hydrated. Research suggests that it isn’t just what you eat that affects your memory, it is also due to how much water you drink. Your brain is estimated to contain over 70 per cent water and it takes only a 2 per cent dehydration to diminish your ability to memorise.

Utilise all Your Senses. The reason we can recall a traumatic event, even decades later is due to the senses we engaged. Typically, the more senses you use, the more enhanced your recall. Try this; read a page of text only with your eyes and then read another page of text using all your senses; your eyes, ears and even imagine smells, tastes and feelings. Now test to compare how much more you recalled from the second page. You will be astounded by how much more you can recall.

Stop and Recall. People who claim to have a poor memory, also crow about not having enough time. If you take short breaks after a session of learning to recall what you have just learned, your ability to memorise improves.

Learn Another Language. Adults who speak more than one language are likely to have a better working memory.

Learn to Play an Instrument. Research has shown that children who learn to play an instrument develop better memories and much higher IQs than children without musical training. Music engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

Become a Sponge to Learning. Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” This is very true when it comes to your brain. When you stop learning, parts of your brain start to atrophy and unused neural connections wither away. It is why we can no longer recall past experiences and memories.

Keep Fit. Physical exercise not only stimulates your brain for increased learning and memory capacity, it actually grows your brain. Exercise increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that stimulates the formation of new brain cells and neural connections. Exercise also increases the number of cells in your brain’s memory centre, the hippocampus.

Recall and Learning an Emotional State. To recall information, it’s important to be in the same state as when we learned it. This makes a great deal of sense why students that learned in a calm environment in class, cannot recall data when they are stressed in an exam.

Stories an Effective Way to Recall Data. Many studies have proven that adding a story to data will improve recall by up to 65 per cent. Conversely, if we have no reason to recall, we don’t. Stories give us reasons to remember.


Learning expert and author of The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success, Daniel Wong, shares his tips on learning.

Review Material Within 24 to 48 hours. If you wait any longer than 24 to 48 hours to review new information you’ve learned you’ll need to invest a lot more time and effort in the long run to fully understand the topic. Plus, when you do the review within 24 to 48 hours of learning the new information, you’ll be able to clarify your doubts immediately. This will help you learn the topic more thoroughly.

Set a Specific End Time for Study. So, let’s say you decide to stop studying at 8:30pm each night. When you set this specific end time you’ll force yourself to be more productive and focused overall. If you don’t have a fixed end time, you may take more breaks and have lower levels of concentration.


Martin Marszal of  Frontrunner Learning Centres  shares his learning techniques.

Let Yourself Forget so You Can Remember. Slow, steady, regular study works. Study isn’t about learning what you remember – it’s about relearning what you’ve forgotten. So, don’t go home and study what you’ve learnt that day, as you already remember it. Wait a few weeks and then go back to what you’ve learned. This ‘drip-feed’ learning works.

Use Different Methods of Learning. This requires taking the data in front of you and changing it into something else. You start by highlighting, follow with point form summaries and finish with graphic summaries.

That means you learn it, you remind yourself by highlighting relevant points from your notes after a couple of weeks, you rewrite them in a structured, organised way a couple of weeks later and then, after a couple of more weeks, you create a visual representation (like a pyramid or other structure).

The brain remembers picture far better than words. This is a way to manipulate the data to use more complex areas of the brain to store it as information.

Simply put, there are levels of difficulty in the types of questions with which we deal; the simplest form asks what, the next asks how, all the way through to questions that ask us to change one form of text into another.

That’s why teachers ask students to turn a chapter from a novel and turn it into a script or newspaper article – it is a complex form of learning and is far more in-depth than merely remembering what happened.

Being Engaged is More Important Than Being Interested. You don’t need to be interested in your study subject to learn – you need to be engaged. Being engaged is, ultimately, about motivation and that requires discipline.

To be engaged – set goals. Break the goal down into small, digestible packages and work towards fulfilling each package, individually. When it’s completed, don’t look at the mountain of work ahead, look at the success of the work completed. If you work at those packages one at a time, you’ll get through the work.

To sum up, successful learning is the same world over: forget, remind, restructure.