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The more memory cues you have, the more likely it is that you will be able to recall material when needed-like during exam time.

When it comes to increasing how much you learn from studying, it seems it’s the simple techniques that matter most. For instance, in recent years cognitive scientists have shown that alternating study locations, as opposed to sticking to the one place, improves retention.

From your go-to study nook at the local library or the spare room at home, studying in a single designated space has long been the norm for many students. But when it comes to long-term retention of material and information recall, research shows that the key to better results is studying in different places.


Environmental context and human memory

One experiment found that students who studied 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms performed far better on a test than students who studied the same words in one room. Another study put four groups of students with no statistics background, through an 8-hour course:

  1. Group 1 completed four lessons in one day, one classroom
  2. Group 2 completed four lessons in one day, four different classrooms
  3. Group 3 completed four lessons over four days, one classroom
  4. Group 4 completed four lessons over four days, four different classrooms.

Five days later, the students were tested in numerous ways, including free recall and working problems. The students in group 4 performed best. This led the researchers to conclude that not only is diversifying your location better for learning, so too is spacing out your study sessions, as opposed to cramming content in over a short period of time.


What is going on?

The authors of the two-room experiment believe that the brain makes subtle associations between what is being studied and background sensations. So if you are studying Maslow’s Hierarchy in your bedroom with a view of the sun on your back verandah – you build one association. If you then study that same material on a park bench – you build another.

Studying in different locations forces the brain to make multiple associations with the same content. This creates stronger neural scaffolding, giving your brain more memory cues to store information and draw it out when required. The more memory cues you have, the more likely it is that you will be able to recall material when needed, like during exam time.


Studying in different locations forces the brain to make multiple associations with the same content.


Get creative - study anywhere!

Study on the train on the way to uni, at your local café with coffee and cake, on the golden sandy beaches of Hawaii…or wherever else life happens to take you. You never have to feel guilty about restless legs during SWOTVAC again. You should, however, try to choose places that are reasonably quiet (noise cancelling headphones are handy!) warm, and filled with natural light. Libraries, empty classrooms, parks, coffee shops, and bookstores are popular locations.

If you have a favourite nook you keep coming back to, then try changing where you sit so that you’re facing a different direction each time you study. This simple technique can also help you build more memory cues.


Digital times, digital tools.

The thing is, studying in one place is convenient. Everything you need is at arm’s length – and you never have to worry about remembering a pen or lugging around heavy textbooks.

But what if we told you that there’s an equally convenient way to study anywhere and anytime that doesn’t involve carrying a heavy backpack around? That allows you to study and revise in the uni cafeteria over a toasted Panini, minus the pens. That all you need to get the job done fits snugly in your hands? In fact, if you are holding a mobile device, you already have it!

Digital learning tools give you the freedom to take your learning to the next level. If you are lucky enough to have these set in your course; find out how Revel, MyLab, and Mastering can open to the door to new learning possibilities and a more exciting university experience.

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