How to learn effectively for mcat

Learn effectively: 14 tips from science

What is the best way to learn? Strategies from fellow students or supposed insider tips can be helpful, but they can also make everything a lot more complicated. Even supposed truisms such as "the more material the longer the learning time" you should urgently put to the test if you really want to learn effectively. Not everything that seems logical has really been researched and proven, and not everything that sounds totally absurd - such as B. Successful learning through showering - is nonsense. Read ‘here what really matters so that you can learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.

1. Learn effectively with mock exams

Sure, nobody really wants to take exams, it seems too exhausting at first to take tests in advance. But especially when you are faced with the question "how do I learn?" A lot depends on whether you need to recall content from memory in the short term or in the long term. Mock exams are particularly suitable for the latter. A current study by the University of Erfurt brought the following findings to various known learning strategies:

  • Repeated reading: Simply reading through a text several times in a row brought the worst results in terms of memory performance.
  • Taking notes: If you summarize your learning content again for yourself, you can use it to learn effectively, especially if you want to retrieve the knowledge within hours or a few days.
  • Mock exams: Testing and evaluating your knowledge on a trial basis has the most long-term effect on memory. Possible explanation of the researchers: Testing trains the retrieval of information and lets you remember less material but in more detail.

2. Make up stories

You can still remember what the fairy tales of your childhood were about, even though it was decades ago that they were read to you. But how can you please learn better with fairy tales? By making your own. Link your important facts with invented content and summarize them in a little story. In order to learn particularly effectively, it should be as imaginative as possible. So-called "thought palaces", in which each content builds on the other, also work. The more connections and images your brain has to create, the more deeply associated information and numbers are memorized.

3. Avoid wrong food

Of course, you won't immediately become an A candidate just because you eat certain foods. In principle, however, omitting the wrong foods can contribute to learning more quickly and with greater concentration. Studies have shown that highly processed products with many additives are counterproductive for optimal brain function. This also applies to anything that contains a lot of sugar, fat or simple carbohydrates, such as white bread or sweets. And of course you should make sure that you always drink enough water, but avoid soft drinks and sweet fruit juices.

4. What is the best way to learn? With variety!

Of course there are different types of learners who, depending on their predisposition, learn best through different sensory impressions. Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from varying the ways in which they absorb learning content, as this stimulates memory and concentration over and over again. If you read, read your learning material out loud, draw mind maps, give a mini-presentation in front of others, etc., you will learn particularly effectively. The content is stored in different areas of the brain for these sensory perceptions and so more networks are created. This makes it easier to call up the knowledge again.

5. Stop brooding

The constant question "how can I learn better?" While important, it shouldn't lead to false ambition. If you can't think of something you've already learned, do you think about it forever instead of looking it up? Big mistake. A US study found that the longer you force yourself to remember something, the more likely it is that it will not remember again in the future. The reason: This type of "error message" is then stored much more strongly in the memory than the actual information. So you better have a look again!

6. Talk to yourself

How do you learn and understand best? If you convince yourself of your solution. It may sound strange at first, but if you explain to yourself while learning how you see connections and come up with solutions, the material will stay in your mind better. Research at the University of Granada has shown this. Reason: If you repeat your findings aloud to yourself over and over again and convince yourself practically, you automatically become more concerned with the content.

7. Make handwritten summaries

Sure, digitization has also brought huge advantages in the university world. In order to learn effectively, however, it is not always optimal. If everything is only typed on the computer or learned from the screen, an important component is lost: handwriting. A Princeton University benchmark test found that students who took handwritten notes were clearly superior to the laptop group on tests for comprehension issues. The theory of the scientists: Due to the higher typing speed on the laptop, you do not worry so much about what you hear and summarize it less in your own words.

8. Avoid stress

Some need a little pressure in the exam phase to motivate themselves to study. However, there is a fine line to walk, as stress has a very negative impact on your memory and receptiveness. So what is the best way to learn if stress factors cannot be completely eliminated? It is absolutely crucial that you calm down BEFORE you start studying. Therefore, you should find a relaxation technique that reliably brings you down, whether sport, meditation, etc. - whatever is effective for you. Learning also means learning about yourself.

9. Focus better when studying with music

It is often assumed that the best time to concentrate is in complete silence. However, several international studies have come to the conclusion that the right music can significantly improve concentration and receptivity. It was found that those students who heard classical music in the background during a lecture did better in tests. Not that much is known about other music genres, in general it can be said that you can learn faster and better with quiet music than with heavy metal.

10. Laugh yourself smart

"How do I learn correctly?" shouldn't be the only important question, but also: "How can I learn better and have fun doing it?" Researchers found that laughter can be much more than a distraction. Students whose lecturer included a few jokes (related to the topic) in a statistics lecture were better able to recall memories. So you can also gossip and laugh with fellow students about the subject matter.

11. Avoid multitasking

When there is a lot going on, it is of course tempting to jump from one to the other, possibly on different devices. Stop! In a study by the University of California, students were given a memory task with and without distractions. Result: Even with distraction, they were able to remember the content correctly immediately afterwards. However, after more time it became apparent that significantly more of the session without distraction remained in the brain. If you want to learn effectively in the long term, you have to display your cell phone, tablet and everything that has nothing to do with the material and concentrate on one topic at a time.

12. Learn better with biorhythm

The early bird catches the worm, etc. You know all this wisdom that it is best to start early when there is a lot to do. The question "when and how do I learn correctly?" but cannot be answered for everyone with the same daily exam preparation schedule. Chronobiology shows that people can be roughly divided into owls and larks in terms of their productivity and sleeping habits. Some find it easier to get up early and learn effectively in the morning, others prefer to sleep longer and can learn particularly quickly in the evening. Do not press yourself into a scheme! No matter what type you are, adequate and healthy sleep is decisive for how much you can remember. During sleep, our brain sorts the previously recorded information and transfers the important information to long-term memory.

13. Get moving

How can you learn better AND relax? With sport. Breaks are generally important so that you maintain your optimal receptivity and protect your nerves. However, those who then still do sport will be able to remember a lot. This was shown by a study from the Netherlands in which three test groups either learned and then sweated straight away on the ergometer, trained after a four-hour break, or did not do any sports at all. Amazingly, the group that had taken the break and then exercised retained more learning material. So if you add a little workout to your study break, your memory and your mood are well taken care of.

14. Shower yourself smart

It may sound like a bogus at first, but mundane activities like showering, driving a car or shopping can really help the brain on the jumps. Neuroscientists are constantly researching what helps us to be creative and solve problems. It turns out that the "incubation phase" is crucial. After having dealt extensively with complex questions, the brain needs a break from this conscious discussion. When a mundane activity comes up, the subconscious can take over and find solutions. You can also use this to learn effectively. So if you ponder the solution to a task all day, go to the shower or to the supermarket and the flash of inspiration is probably suddenly there.