13 December 2023

10 Ways to Boost Your Brainpower for School

By Ronald Smith

Ugh, tests. Scratch that – ugh, studying for tests. It’s the worst, am I right? When you’re trying to prove that you actually paid attention all semester (or year) and cram it all in for that last final exam, sometimes everything just goes haywire.

Blanking out, only remembering parts of what you studied, having the info right on the tip of your tongue but not being able to spit it out – these are the nightmares of every student. If you can relate to any of this, trust me, you’re not alone. We could all use a little boost.

Luckily, I’ve got some awesome study hacks that will help turbocharge your brain for academic success. Now, I know school isn’t everything, but as long as there are tests, it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Hey, keep an open mind about these techniques, and who knows, you might stumble upon a mighty tool to help sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

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1. VARK Learning Styles

VARK learning styles, a brainchild of Neil Fleming, is a model that suggests we all have a preferred learning mode. Embracing this mode can unleash our maximum learning potential.

The VARK model reveals that there are four different learning styles:

Check out the infographic below for a visual guide.

Once you figure out how you learn best, you can adjust your studying to match. But here’s the thing: most people don’t have just one preferred learning style. They’re usually a mix of different styles, like visual and aural.

How to Make the Most of Your Style

There are questionnaires you can take to find out your learning style. A lot of these can be done online for free. You should try Vark-Learn. Once you know how you learn, you can take notes, study for exams, and take tests in ways that work best for you.

For example, if you’re a visual learner, you can highlight important parts of the text or draw pictures or symbols to help you understand the material better.

If you’re someone who learns best by listening, you should try incorporating discussions with fellow students into your learning strategies. This can involve talking about the topics covered in lectures or simply paying more attention in class. It’s important to find ways to match your learning strategies to your VARK profile. To help with this, here’s a guide that explains how you can do just that.

One effective learning strategy for visual learners is mind mapping or concept mapping. This technique, popularized by Tony Buzan in the 1970s, involves creating visually appealing diagrams that connect ideas, words, and concepts to one another. The basic idea behind mind mapping is that people learn by associating one idea with another.

To optimize your learning experience using mind maps, try the following tips:

When it comes to creating a mind map, it’s actually a pretty instinctive process. You start by putting down one main topic or idea right smack in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Then, you build upon that by adding subtopics and sub-subtopics, making sure to connect each one back to the center.

Now, here’s a cool little trick. Instead of using regular old boring colors, you can use different colors to represent different categories or levels of categories. This way, it’s way easier to keep track of and organize all the information into neat little clusters. And believe me, it makes understanding the information a whole lot easier too.

10 Ways to Boost Your Brainpower for School

In order to make your learning experience more interesting and enjoyable, I encourage you to explore the use of images and colors. By incorporating these elements, you can engage both the analytical and creative parts of your brain, making the learning process more effective.

Mind maps are a versatile tool that can be utilized in various ways. Whether you’re setting goals, brainstorming ideas, or making revision notes, mind maps can help you organize your thoughts and visualize connections between different concepts.

Now, let me guide you through the process of creating mind maps. If you feel like mind mapping takes too much time, don’t worry! I have some tips on how to speed up the process and make it more efficient.

3. Practice Testing with Flashcards

Flashcards are not only useful for presentations during tutorial classes, but they can also greatly enhance your learning experience. They are particularly effective for memorization and active recall of information. You can use one side of the flashcard to write a question and the other side to write the corresponding answer.

Learning a new language becomes much easier with this effective technique. You simply place the new word on one side of the card and the translation on the other side.

When prompted, you’ll be asked to provide the translation of the word in the new language or vice versa.

How to Make This Technique Even Better

How often should you be tested? The key is to embrace the spaced repetition principle, which takes advantage of the spacing effect. This means that you’ll remember more if you study items over a longer period of time.

One strategy is to increase the time between reviews when you successfully recall the cards. There are dedicated systems that utilize spaced repetition, like the popular Leitner system.

If you’d rather learn on-the-go with your smartphone or tablet, there are plenty of apps available to meet your flashcard needs.

4. Imagine and Picture

Studies have proven that students who visualize the information in science text outperform those who simply read it. Images are more concrete than words, making them easier to remember.

Our brain naturally stores memories in visual formats, without us even realizing it. This suggests that our brain tends to learn through images. The only challenge with using mental imagery in your learning materials is that they need to be image-friendly.

Mental imagery is especially useful when learning vocabulary or a new language.

How to Make This Style Better

The secret to visualization or mental imagery is to make it bigger and more detailed. The image should be so vivid, memorable, and filled with emotions that it sticks in your memory.

This technique can even help you remember names or scientific terms. There are no strict rules for how the images should look in your mind; what matters is that you shift your mindset and use your imagination.

Let your imagination run wild!

5. Remembering Keywords

When you’re learning foreign words or new vocabulary, you can use keyword mnemonic to help you remember. By associating words with mental images, you’ll improve your memory of them.

So here’s the deal: when you come across a new word, think of other words that sound similar to it and make a little mental picture that connects them. It’s like giving your brain a special code to remember the new word.

How to Make This Style Work for You

Let’s say you come across the word ‘pain’ which means ‘bread’ or ‘loaf’ in French. Picture a loaf of bread in terrible pain, knowing it’s about to become toast. This mental image connects the word ‘pain’ with ‘bread’. When you need to remember the new word, that picture will pop into your mind more easily.

If you’re struggling with your French or Spanish classes and you want some help, check out these handy tips.

6. Speed Reading

When you have a lot to read, speed reading becomes incredibly valuable. Most people tend to read at a rate of 125 to 250 words per minute because we naturally read each word in our minds, which ironically slows down our understanding of the text.

The concept behind speed reading is to break free from the traditional way of reading and allow our eyes to swiftly move across the words, sentences, and paragraphs in order to grasp the main idea.

How to Make This Method Work for You

One technique to optimize your speed reading is to vocalize the sounds ‘aeiou’ or ‘123’ as you read, preventing you from pronouncing the words in your mind. This forces your eyes to quickly skim over the words.

Want to boost your reading speed and comprehension? I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve that can help you out!

One technique is to grab a pen and use it to guide your eyes as you read. Start by moving the pen from left to right along each line of text, following along with your eyes.

Once you get the hang of it, you can try out different movements like going from right to left, crisscrossing the page, or even moving the pen down the center. Eventually, you’ll get so good that you won’t even need the pen anymore!

With enough practice, you’ll be able to read at a lightning-fast speed of 500 to 1000 words per minute!

7. The Method of Loci

Also known as the Memory Palace, the Journey Method, or the Roman Room technique, the Method of Loci can be a game-changer for your presentations.

Hey there! Did you know that the ancient Romans had a clever trick for giving long speeches without any notes? It was a memory strategy called the Romans used.

It’s all about visualization and using your spatial memory. You take the things you want to remember and connect them to places or objects that you’re familiar with.

Imagine yourself walking through your favorite places and picturing the key words or ideas popping up along the way. By doing this, you create a strong link between the things you want to remember and the familiar landmarks you encounter.

How to Make This Work for You

Here’s a tip: make a list of the important points for each slide in your presentation, and then connect each point to a specific item in your home or a landmark on your way to class. This way, you can easily jog your memory by visualizing those familiar things.

When you’re rehearsing your presentation, picture yourself strolling through these familiar spots and let the points come to you in a logical order, just like your slides. They effortlessly flow into your mind as you mentally navigate the environment during the actual presentation.

This technique can also be helpful during exam reviews when you need to remember key points and ideas before starting your essays. The more imaginative your visualization, the more memorable it becomes.

8. Rhymes & Songs

Music is a powerful tool for memory, and I bet you can still remember songs, jingles, and radio ads you heard years ago, even if you haven’t heard them recently.

The secret is that it also encodes the things you need to remember in a way that you can hear and feel the rhythm. It taps into your ability to remember things through sound and music.

This method isn’t just for people who are good with music. It works for all of us, even if we learned our ABCs by singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.

It’s true that this method is especially helpful for people who learn best by listening (like those who have an auditory learning style), but it can benefit anyone who has ever learned a song just by listening to it over and over.

How to Make the Most of This Technique

When it comes to studying, I find that it’s especially helpful to have some tricks up my sleeve for memorizing all those facts, figures, formulas, and dates. One technique that works like a charm is using nursery rhymes. You know, those classic little ditties like “Jack and Jill,” “Humpty-Dumpty,” and “Mary had a Little Lamb”? Well, here’s the twist: I take the lyrics of these rhymes and fit them to the details I need to cram into my brain. Trust me, it’s a game-changer.

Now, here’s where things get really fun. I let my imagination run wild and come up with completely wacky and hilarious lyrics. I go nuts with it! And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even try rapping and adding some cool dance moves into the mix. It’s like taking memory encoding to a whole new level, you know?

When test day comes around and I need to retrieve all those details, it’s as simple as singing the song in my head. It’s like magic, I tell you. The information just flows effortlessly.

9. Acronym / Acrostic Mnemonic

When I was a kid, I loved singing along to nursery rhymes. But you know what else was a big part of my early learning? Using acrostic mnemonics. It’s all about remembering the first letters of words.

Remember when our teachers used to teach us those acronyms like Roy G. Biv for the colors of a rainbow or HOMES for the Great Lakes in North America? Good times.

How to Make This Style Even Better

The best thing about acronyms is how simple they are. We see them everywhere, like VARK in #1. They help us turn long words into single letters, making them easier to remember.

And here’s the best part: each letter in the acronym acts as a clue for the whole word, so it’s easier for our brains to remember. It’s like a memory shortcut!

Let me tell you how to make a choice between an acronym or an acrostic phrase or sentence.

If the first letters of the words you need to remember don’t make up a meaningful or easy-to-pronounce acronym, like “EADGBE” for the strings on a guitar, then you should use an acrostic phrase instead. An acrostic phrase is a sentence where each word starts with a letter you need to remember, and it actually makes sense. For example, instead of “EADGBE,” you could use the sentence “Eat all dead gophers before Easter.”

Tip #10: Chunking & Grouping

In most parts of the world, local telephone numbers have around 7 digits. Do you know why? It’s because most people can only remember up to 9 things at once in their short-term memory. But don’t worry, there’s a way to overcome this limitation. It’s called chunking or grouping information. Instead of trying to remember each individual digit, you can group them together and remember them as a whole, like a single chunk of information.

I know that our brains can only hold about 5 to 9 pieces of information at a time. It’s like a magic number! So what can we do to make it easier to remember a long list of things? Well, we can break it down into smaller chunks.

Let’s take a phone number as an example. If we have a number like 2398741, it can be hard to remember all those digits. But if we break it up into smaller groups, like 239-8741 or 23-98-741, it becomes much easier to recall. It’s like our brains work better when we have three chunks of numbers instead of trying to memorize each individual digit.

How to Make This Method Even Better

The trick is to organize the information you need to remember into no more than 9 main ideas. You can write down all the important terms and key concepts on a piece of paper. This way, you can easily see and remember the most crucial information.

First, you can define each term before gathering them into five to nine concepts (usually grouped by chapters) that are covered in the exam or test.

Then, you can break down each term or idea into five or more subcategories (and even more subcategories within those). The final result will be 9 concepts by 9 subcategories by 9 sub-subcategories, and so on up to the ninth level! (This reminds me of the mind-map technique, doesn’t it?)

This is similar to a super efficient filing system. Want more tips on how to break down and organize information? Check out this page.

Wrapping Up

These methods aren’t just useful for studying, but also for discussions or presentations at work. They help you tap into your memory power and allow you to organize your thoughts in a more systematic way.