Knowing how your brain learns can help you create the best environments for learning new information. When you are preparing for an exam or learning new material, being aware of how your brain functions can help you learn new information faster and retain it longer. Here are 3 things you should know about how your brain works in order to make the most of your studying.
1) Stress Hinders the Brain
Stress has multiple negative effects on the body, among them is the decreased ability of the brain to learn and store new material. An article from edudemic.com discuses that cortisol, a hormone released by the body when stressed, can reduce the ability of the brain to turn short-term memory into long-term memory. The hippocampus is an area of the brain responsible for consolidating short-term memory into long-term memories. Stress “degrades dendritic spines”in the hippocampus according to edudemic.com, which prevents the brain from retaining new information.
Try to reduce stress as much as possible when preparing for the SAT or ACT. Find environments to study that are calming, relaxing and encouraging. Exercising is also an excellent way to relieve stress, as well as to prevent it. If you find yourself overwhelmed and constantly stressed, talk to a parent or guidance counselor to get help. Being stressed can leave you feeling frustrated that you are having difficulty retaining information, which will lead to more stress. Don’t get caught in a cycle of stress. Work to eliminate stress so you can learn well and retain information over the long term.
2) Learning Requires Sleep
It may be tempting to sacrifice sleep for study time when you are preparing for an important exam. However, skimping on sleep may hinder your performance. An article from Harvard suggests that the importance of sleep in relation to learning is twofold. First sleep is required to consolidate new material in the brain. Once you have learned new material, it is through processes that occur during sleep that allows the brain to retain the information. Without sleep you will be unable to recall information that you have learned in the past.
Lack of sleep also hinders your ability to focus. Studying can become nearly impossible when you have not had enough sleep. Sleeping well can also improve your efficiency as you study. Being drowsy can cause you to stumble through the material, forget what you already know and prevent you from learning important details.
Everyone requires different amounts of sleep to function optimally. Most people need around 8 hours of sleep during the night. If you have difficulty focusing or concentrating when you study, try to get more sleep.
3) Neural System Fatigue
An article from Scholastic informs that similarly to when you lift weights and your muscles get tired, your brain can also get tired when you are learning. Simply learning facts wears out your brain very quickly and learning facts can only be done successfully for a few minutes at a time. The article from Scholastic recommends that instead of working on memorizing facts, you should make more connections that require different types of cognitive function. Relate the facts to broader understanding of the material. When you think critically about material and make connections you use many different cognitive functions. Using a variety of cognitive functions will help prevent neural system fatigue.
When you study for a major exam, don’t be afraid to take breaks when you have to focus on memorizing facts. Try to make connections and draw meaning from the facts rather then simply using memorization. The more you can use the facts in your mind, the easier they will be to memorize and recall. Don’t wear your brain out.
Using Your Whole Body to Learn
Learning is a complicated process that can involve your whole body. Be aware of how your brain functions so that you can make the most of your studying. When your brain is functioning its best, you will be able to perform your best.
Mr. Test Prep strives to prepare students with his Mountain View SAT Prep program. When students engage in his Mountain View SAT Prep program their scores reflect the hard work and dedication put forth. Call Mr. Test Prep today and be prepared!