Studying with your Senses

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2017 – 2018 Scholarship Entry – Test Preparation Essay
Test Preparation Inc. Scholarship

Raegan Reiter
Calgary, Alberta

Over the years that I have been in school, I have realized that studying is like an art. Truly effective studying takes practice, commitment and a willingness to change what you are used to. There is no “one-size-fits-all”, but with a little experimentation, anyone can find the perfect method for themselves. A great studying strategy requires a combination of efforts that will be different for every individual. But the universal key that most of us do not know or utilize, is that you must study with all of your senses. Yes you read right, all of your senses, and I will tell you why.

Our brains love to remember things, it is what they do best (usually). The more complex something is to remember, the more our brains like to remember it! However, complex to you and complex to your brain can be very different. Recalling that really long mathematical formula or the list of bones found in your foot might seem hard to you, but in reality your brain is just too bored to be interested! Your brain likes complex memories, with multiple layers of stimulation. No matter how amazing a picture is, looking at it just cannot compare to watching a 2-hour long movie with surround sound and numerous snack options. The more stimulating an environment is for your brain, the harder it will work to remember everything for you. And you can create these layers for your brain while studying by using your senses!

Sight is the easiest, the first and often the only sense we tend to use. While reading your course material is super important, this cannot be your only attempt to remember. Incorporate some verbal element as well, such as reading aloud to a family member or using flash cards with a friend. (Flash cards – the complete guide) This ensures that you see and hear the information, which increases the likelihood of remembering. Smell, taste and touch are where we can get more creative. A specific candle, perfume or deodorant can get you in the mindset for studying. Choose a drink or gum flavour you normally would not for while you read your books. Or wear a special bracelet or use a special pen chosen uniquely for writing notes in that situation. Use whatever suites you, every time that you study, and make sure it is something you can also bring with you into your test. This way, when you can smell or taste or feel something during an exam that you also smelt or tasted or felt while studying, it can cue your brain to remember more detail! Better yet, try multiple of these or pick different cues for different subjects. It is all about finding what works best for you and interests your brain!

While on the subject of studying, it should go without saying, but you cannot study for several hours straight or skip sleep to “catch up”. We just put in all this effort to create a stimulating environment for our brains, and that is completely tossed out the window when you chose to study like that. If your brain is bored or tired, it will not remember much anyway. Do yourself a favour and take a break, have a nap, and study again when your brain is ready and interested! And remember that studying with your senses just makes sense!

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