Improving study skills is one of the most useful and pertinent tools in college. But even before that, high school and middle school are times for students to prepare and train the brain for the high volumes of reading and accumulation awaiting them. Instead of studying longer and harder, scientific research has proven ways on how the brain can process and learn information smarter and within shorter time spans.

9 Science-Backed Study Do’s And Don’ts

1. Cap Study Sessions At 30 Minutes

Studying is most effective in small spurts of 20- to 30-minute sessions over a period of a few weeks. The synapses in the brain process less information more efficiently than giant chucks of information in one sitting.

2. Avoid Pulling All-Nighters

Prolonged nocturnal study sessions do more harm than good when it comes to cramming for a test. It’s closely linked to poor grades, lower reasoning skills, and a poorer memory. Just one all-nighter could negatively affect the brain for up to four days. Schedule study sessions for yourself at the same time day after day to train the brain to respond better on a regular basis.

3. Throw Out The Highlighter

Reading, highlighting, and re-reading a textbook doesn’t improve the brain’s ability to absorb information or link key concepts together. Flashcards serve as better memory reinforcement tools to spotlight the information that’s most important while making sure the brain doesn’t become distracted by superfluous facts.

4. Construct Goals

Instead of trying to study all of the information as it’s taught, focus on specific goals. For example, memorize how to use a specific chemical equation or how a certain country was established. Crossing off study goals helps to create a reliable and organized process of studying to help tackle the bigger key concepts.

5. If You Can Teach It, You Know It

Tutors have a certain advantage over their peers. When the brain needs to turn its gears and teach, it formats information in a more logical way in order to convey it back to an audience. Meanwhile, students who have to learn and process information for themselves receive it and don’t force themselves to enforce logic into the learning.

6. Practice With Practice Tests

By practicing the situation of test taking it helps the student acclimate to the situation of test taking, and more importantly, helps them identify gaps in their knowledge. Practice tests also make the testing situation more relaxing and boost confidence levels for the students, so when the time comes for the real deal they’re less intimidated.

7. Find Sacred Space

Designating a space exclusively for studying improves study performance. Also, collect all of the tools necessary for studying beforehand to remove any hurdles or distractions. The sacred space will prime the brain and rev it into study mode in a similar way as designated study times will.

8. Cut The Music

Those who study without music absorb information better than those who study with music. It may depend on what music they’re studying with because although rhythmic music such as rap disrupts the study process, other research has shown classical music helps people study.

9. Turn Off The Phone

From social media to text messages, the cell phone is riddled with distractions and has the potential to taint your sacred study ground. It’s difficult to focus when a phone is ringing, let alone when a phone is notifying you throughout a study session.