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More ways to concentrate on studying


Last week, we looked at eight practical ways to focus on studies. Here are more ways to help you study better.

9. Do not cram. Cramming forces too much information into short-term memory and, with the attendant panic and anxiety, you will not learn as effectively or as much. Space out study time to help bring what you learn into long-term memory.

Research shows that spaced trials are a lot more effective than a single study session, no matter how long. If a test is two weeks away and involves a 50-page chapter, study 10 pages a day, take notes and focus on understanding the lesson.

Instead of studying for 10 hours the night before the test, study for an hour each day for two weeks, then go over the important points the day before the test.

10. Involve more than one sensory process. Most students simply read. While reading is important, you should not just rely on it. Create visuals (like diagrams) or orally summarize what you have read.

For elementary school students, singing or rhyming can help with tasks like learning multiplication tables.  Involving multiple intelligences can help you focus and retain what you learn.

Most teachers, especially those with huge classes, cannot engage more than a couple of  intelligences (usually visual and linguistic or mathematical) at a time. But you can use multiple intelligences in studying your lessons.

One of my students, who is artistically inclined, uses diagrams and concept maps to help her understand a lengthy and complex chapter. Another student does mnemonics to music. She says the strategy helps her focus and retain more of what she has learned.

11. Set goals.  Write down in detail what you want to accomplish, including the time frame and action plan. Seeing things in black and white, rather than the vague wish that you get an A, will help you focus on your tasks.

12. Sit in a chair, at a table or desk while you study. Do not study in bed. Reading a required novel while lying on your stomach is too distracting—you will be tempted to roll over and go to sleep.

If your bedroom makes you feel too relaxed or sleepy, study in the living room or the kitchen (but limit your snacking).


13. If you need peer motivation, study with others. A good strategy is to have a friend quiz you. By answering possible questions, you will have an idea how much you know and how much you still need to learn.

But ensure that study groups do not devolve into chat sessions or this strategy will backfire. The aim of study groups is to learn together, not to socialize.

14. Reward yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back when you complete a task. Looking forward to rewards will increase your motivation and your focus. Rewards include stretching and dancing around the room or chatting with siblings (face to face, not through electronic means) or reading a nonrequired book (for pleasure) for 10 to 15 minutes.


15. Take breaks from continuous study. One of the best rewards is exercise. Walk around and stretch after an hour or so—this also helps minimize leg and muscle cramps. Or take a break after a particularly complex topic.

Do not take long breaks  though. Ten minutes will do.  Remember to get back on track after each rest period.

16. Exercise before or in between study sessions. Research has shown that physical exercise clears the mind. A half hour at the gym can work wonders before tackling assignments. If you expect a particularly long study period ahead (say, five or six hours), it is a good idea to take a break by exercising.

Study for a couple of hours, then run around the block. Your mind will again be ready for the second bout of studying.

Swimming does wonders for me. After 30 minutes in the pool, I get a second wind and can concentrate on challenging tasks for another stretch.

Eat and sleep right

17.  Eat the right foods, such as lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Chicken on whole wheat bread is fine and so is almond or cashew or tuna salad.

Research shows that empty carbohydrates, such as white bread, French fries, pizza tend to make you sleepy. The sugar rush can cause a crash during study time. Greasy foods such as hamburgers, doughnuts, chips may have similar effects and can even cause indigestion.

Many students swear by caffeine or energy drinks, but too much of these can overstimulate your body. They even make some people hyperactive.

A former student of mine used to down three cups of coffee during study sessions until one day, his heart started palpitating and his hands shaking. He stopped taking caffeine of any sort (even soft drinks and tea) and decided to go jogging instead to clear his mind before doing homework.

18. Get enough sleep. Students claim they can manage on five or fewer hours of sleep a night, but they are inevitably not in top form. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you will not remember as much.

What is the use of cramming for 10 hours only to forget most of it the next day?

Avoid caffeine at dinner and, a couple of hours before bedtime, computer gaming or a stressful or overstimulating show or video. Listen to music if it relaxes you but turn the volume down. Limit party-going to weekends.

Sleep early, at a regular time, ideally at 10 p.m., so you wake up refreshed. Most students need to be up by 5 a.m. or even 4:30 a.m. because classes in the Philippines usually start very early and travel time is unpredictable.

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

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Tags: column , concentration , Learning , queena n. lee-chua , studying

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