7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Improve Your Studying

From standardized tests in grade school to pulling all nighters for final exams, as an engineer, you’re no stranger to studying. Just when you thought you’d broken the shackles of long-form studying, along comes the PE exam. The PE exam is a whole different ball of wax, consisting of 80 questions over an eight-hour period. For specific exam information on each engineering discipline, click here. By taking and passing the PE exam, you can take your career to new heights and explore your options for New Jersey engineering memberships. Follow these study tips to ensure you ace the test!

Seven ways to improve your study sessions:

  1. Get your cardio on. Exercise is always good for your body, but when it comes to studying, exercise is extremely beneficial for memory, attention, information processing, and problem solving. Exercise increases the levels of an important brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which aids in the growth of brain cells, mood, and learning. It also releases hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Getting your heart rate up for just 20 minutes a day can be beneficial.
  2. Try some classical music. University of Dayton researchers found that fast-tempo background music increased cognitive performance. In the study, participants listened to clips of Mozart pieces. Results determined that the background music increased speed of spatial processing and the accuracy of linguistic processing. This study only experimented with instrumental music, so try something without lyrics!
  3. Write down/print your study material. Research suggests traditional print materials have the upper hand when it comes to studying. A psychology lecturer found that students required more repetition to learn new material if they were reading on a computer screen versus reading printed material. Plus, as you’re writing a study guide or flashcards, you’re processing the information better!
  4. Take breaks to destress. Stress is never good, especially when it comes to learning. UC Irvine researchers found that stress lasting even just a few hours can engage hormones that disrupt the process of creating and storing memories. Study breaks are always beneficial, and during these breaks, it’s a good idea to exercise or take a few deep breaths to lower your stress level. Study breaks are recommended after every hour of learning for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Review before bed. Studying while you’re tired can actually help your brain retain higher concentrations of new skills. The term for it is sleep-learning. The memory-consolidation process does its best work during slow-wave sleep, so reviewing study materials before bed can help your brain learn while you’re sleeping!
  6. Practice teaching the material. Research has shown that students have better memory and recall abilities when they learn new information with the expectation of having to teach it to someone else. Learning material with the intent to teach ensures the material is actively understood and stored away in memory. Plus, the act of reviewing your studying materials out loud, as if you’re teaching someone, aids in understanding by working out problems in real time.
  7. Prevent the “curve of forgetting” with interval studying. The “curve of forgetting” is essentially this: the first time you hear a lecture or study something new, you retain up to 80 percent of it – if you review the material within 24 hours. After a week, you may retain 100 percent of the same information after only five minutes of review. Scientists agree this type of interval studying (as opposed to cramming) is best. Rather than waiting a week before the PE exam to review that new topic you learned three weeks ago, try reviewing it closer to when you learned it.

The next PE exam date is October 26, so try out these tips for creating a study schedule to help you stay on track, and get the most out of your exam materials to ace the test.

A PE license opens many doors to new opportunities, and when these opportunities start popping up, having a New Jersey engineering membership at NJSPE can help. By following these study tips, you’ll have the upperhand and will crush the PE exam. Happy studying!

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