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Alternative and effective study mechanisms


Bippity boppity boo this tomato has now turned into a coup

Studying. Stu-DYING. One of the activities that students hate the most, yet also one of the most useful for academic success. However, we all know how incredibly hard it is to start studying or in any case to study effectively. We have probably all tried those cut out flash cards and those well elaborated notes just to find out that they were an epic waste of time. So how do we find study mechanisms that actually work for us? Not to stress, because I have compiled a concise list of different study strategies you could try if you are struggling to find a style that works for you.



Pomodoro:

You read right, Pomodoro, like the fruit. In a nutshell the Pomodoro study technique is one where you study for 25 minutes, then take a rest of 5 and repeat this four times with the last rest being 15 minutes long. It is meant to be uninterrupted, highly concentrated studying. These shorter lapses of study and plentiful breaks in between stimulate your brain capacity and allow you to do much more in less time. Moreover, the breaks give you motivation to keep working because you know that eventually you are going to be rewarded. The shorter time periods of study also make it feel as though it is more doable as it tricks your brain into thinking you are doing less work. The Pomodoro technique is named after the tomato shaped timer that is used in kitchens for cooking that has a 25 minute mark as can be seen in the photograph above. Another way to go about the 2hr long Pomodoro is to do it in 2 lapses of 45 minutes with 15 minutes break each. This mainly depends on your motivation and energy. It is scientifically proven that we can retain our attention for 35 minutes max. Of course this varies from person to person but it is best to try not to push yourself too far past that limit. The most important aspect of this mechanism is that there is a valid ratio between the break and the study period. Either 1:5, 1:4, or 1:3. For example, in the 45 minutes study and 15 minute break ratio there is a 1:3 ratio because you study three times more than the time you rest. This rule simply ensures that you are staying productive whilst still giving yourself the necessary breaks.



The Feynman:

As can be seen in the photograph below The Feynman Technique is a simple four step studying strategy that was created by the American Physicist named Richard Feyman. As highlighted in the diagram the first step of the process is picking a topic to study. In the case of school it could be summed up to picking a unit of a subject for an upcoming test. The next step is to explain the topic to someone in the most oversimplified and understandable way possible. It is even better if you lay it out in layman terms. In this manner you yourself get to learn what you are teaching. This is active learning since you have to synthesize and convert the knowledge you have gathered. They say that teaching is the best way of learning and if this is manifestly the case then this technique is highly effective. Another important step in this process is identifying any gaps that are in your understanding and revising them. Lastly you have to return to whatever material(s) you are basing your studies on and check that you have gotten everything right.



Loci:

The Loci study technique is based on the bases that we can remember places that we are familiar with. Hence the name Loci which means places in Latin because within this memorization technique you are supposed to associate specific places with concepts or objects. It helps if the place that you choose is one that you are in often or know well. This could be for example your school, your home, your favorite coffee place, etc. Because of the fact that you have to physically walk around this space in a specific order it will help you mentally remember concepts in the same order. This is specifically helpful if you are studying something that requires a step process like for example, studying translation in biology.



Concluding remarks:

Well, we’ve gone through study mechanisms named after a tomato, an old white man and a word in Latin, but what is most important is that you find a study mechanism with YOUR name on it. Something that works for you and feels natural. Here are just a couple of ideas if you feel like you’ve tried everything in the book and want to try something new. In the end, effective study is all about the retribution and rest concept. You work hard and you get something in return. You work hard, you get to rest. From here on out I trust that every single person reading this article will become a master at tricking their own minds into studying and more importantly, into actually learning.



Further resources:

Pomodoro timer:

The Feynman Technique explained:

Method of Loci explained:

Top 10 studying techniques:



References:

Motivation, Suresh Babu R in. “The Pomodoro Technique to Boost Your Study and Work.” Motivational Blog, 23 Oct. 2017, https://name-fame.com/motivation/pomodoro-technique-boost-study-work/.

“7 Techniques to Increase Memory: Loci and Chunking.” Learning Tribes, 1 Aug. 2019, https://learning-tribes.com/en/memory-techniques-loci-chunking/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CLoci%E2%80%9D%20.

“Normal Attention Span Expectations by Age.” Brain Balance Achievement Centers, https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/normal-attention-span-expectations-by-age.

“Pomodoro Study Session.” Hacklab, 20 Aug. 2020, https://pasifika-jeo.hacklab.com.br/type/news/2020/08/19/pomodoro-study-session/.

Sousa, Ana Elisa, et al. “A Feasibility Study on the Use of the Method of Loci for Improving Episodic Memory Performance in Schizophrenia and Non-Clinical Subjects.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 1 Jan. 1AD, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.612681/full.



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