What is an ideal study environment? Each individual is different with regards to what is ideal for them. ‘Ideal’ in this context would mean what fits the student best and discovering how they should study to maximise their intake of information.
Sometimes, where you study is just as important as what you study. It’s difficult to always create the perfect environment to study, as our surroundings are not always in our control. Numerous studies have found that the place—or “context’—in which you study affects how you’ll remember that information. Of course every student knows this, since we’ve all tried to study during family functions and in the library with distracted friends.
(Smith, S.M. Memory & Cognition, 1984).
Here are 5 tips to create a study environment suitable to you:
1. Pick one place, and like it
If you designate one room or area as your study space, over time your brain will catch on. You’ll enter into ‘study-mode’ sooner upon entering the space, which is especially valuable before tests or whenever you’re crunched for time. Moving between libraries and coffee shops and friends’ homes can be mentally jolting, since you’ll always have new distractions to process and overcome. The place you pick should be near you (ideally somewhere in your home) so it’s accessible, but it should also be a place you like. Studying can be stressful, so it’s best done in a place that appeals to you.
2. Recreate your environment
“Context-dependent” learning means that that you’ll remember something more in the place where you first learned it. So try recreate the exam environment and do a past exam, where you pack away all your notes and time yourself.
3. Develop a study routine
You can’t always control where you study, but you can develop a routine that tells your brain it’s time to get to work no matter what environment you find yourself in. “When jumping from task to task, our bodies and minds have a hard time adjusting. To facilitate faster transitions to get the most out of your time, create a routine that helps you concentrate,” advises Elizabeth Malson, president of the Amslee Institute. It is also very important to include breaks into your routine, as these breaks help maintain top study performance and can actually increase focus, reduce stress, and help students better retain information they learn. Remember to also eat healthily and stay hydrated. A healthy body = a healthy mind.
4. Try a change of scenery
It might be convenient to study at home, but there are many distractions. A change of scenery could be all it takes to get you back into study mode. Going to your local library or a friend’s house to study together may help.
5. Keep it positive
Studying has a lot of negative associations, but it shouldn’t. Studying is just another word for learning. You can bring this positivity into your study space too, by putting up pictures of family, or quotes from your favourite book. You should also remember to reward yourself, because as good as studying is, it’s work, and you’ve earned it.