Top Study Tips & Blockers


Smartphones can be a major distraction, but 84% of people worldwide claim they cannot go a single day without a mobile electronic smart device.


Fast learning with flash cards and cramming often results in fast forgetting.

Zuku's Top Study Tips and Blockers To Know For Boards Success:

  1. Best bets for learning:

    Hand-writing notes may seem old-fashioned, but recall is superior with typing notes into a laptop

    study group Telling another person about something recently learned can greatly improve one's memory

    Swap practice questions with classmates

    • Textbooks and notes:
      • Before starting a chapter:
        • Read all of the headings
        • Review vocabulary definitions (if given)
        • Read summary and any questions at the end of the chapter
      • While reading:
        • Underline the three most important points on the page
        • Close the book and write down the three points from memory
        • Once you are able to recall the three points go on the next page
        • After finishing the chapter/section, close the book and scribble down all of the important points
        • Put yourself in the mind of the examiner and make up three potential questions from each page
    • Before starting a course, get a "grade-school" book on the subject and read it (or at least read something about it on the internet)
    • Lectures and laptops:
      • Hand-writing notes rather than typing into a laptop results in better conceptual recall
      • People who type on a laptop tend to transcribe rather than process the information into their own words
      • It is difficult to resist web surfing if you are taking notes on a laptop
    • Tell a friend:
      • When you learn something new, relay it immediately to someone else - you will have better and longer ability to recall details
      • Requires effort
      • Simply re-reading text or notes is too passive
      • (Not sure if it will work if you tell your dog instead of a friend)
    • Get interested in the subject:
      • Become the class expert on a small topic in the subject
      • Reward yourself after learning a topic:
        • Ice cream or nice coffee drink
        • Watch a TV show
        • Call or visit a friend
        • Check email or Facebook
        • Play a short video game
        • Shoot hoops or other fun exercise
      • Give yourself a big reward if you get a good score
        • Dinner at a favorite restaurant
        • Go to the movies
        • Buy yourself something that you've had your eye on for a while
        • Go to a concert
    • Retrieval practice/self-test:
    • Take breaks:
      • Study no longer than an hour at a time (longer than that will be less effective in learning the topic)
      • Do something pleasant during the break, but keep it short

  2. The forgetting curve:

    Representation of the forgetting curve showing the loss of memory over a few days without repetition of the material (red curve) and increased ability to remember by reviewing material (green curves)

    • Once you learn something 100%, you will start forgetting it...
      • After three days, most people will remember 50% of it
        • Learn it 100% again
        • You'll do it much quicker than the first time
      • After 10 days you'll remember 50% of it
        • Relearn it 100%
        • It won't take long at all this time
    • Months and months later you'll still remember about 80% of it and years later about 50%. Even more if you've used it occasionally
    • Bottom line, do this EACH day:
      • Learn that day's material
      • Learn the material from three days ago
      • Learn the material from 10 days ago
      • You will own it!

  3. Distractions:

    Smart phones are a big distraction in this digital age

    No task gets adequate attention when multitasking

    • Smart phones:
      • Constant alerts from emails, tweets, and text messages are very distracting
      • Turn your phone off or mute it while studying (be sure to turn off vibration alerts as well)
      • Some phones have settings to silence all but important emails and phone calls (depending on the iOS, iPhones have a "Do Not Disturb" setting)
    • Multitasking:
      • Although most people feel that they are good at multitasking, studies have shown that really no one is good at it
      • Example: Study, Facebook, listen to music, text message, and Twitter simultaneously
      • Definitely don't do this while studying
      • Causes chronic distraction
      • No task will get adequate attention
      • Will make a person more prone to errors
      • Actually makes a person more easily distracted and decreases ability to perform cognitive tasks
      • Two task limit
      • 20-minute rule:
        • Don't switch tasks minute to minute
        • Spend 20 minutes on a single task, then switch
    • Auditory stimuli:
      • If you are easily distracted by sounds:
        • Play quiet music with no lyrics (e.g., Vivaldi's Four Seasons)
        • Quiet music or white noise will help keep you from getting distracted by minor sounds such as closing doors or a distant lawnmower
    • Web surfing:
      • Exam scores are lower in even the brightest students who web surf
      • Web surfing is more engaging than other distractions
    • Email:
      • Constantly checking email is not only a big distraction, but increases stress levels
      • A person can focus on one task for longer periods if not switching windows often
      • Check email at scheduled times 2-3 times daily
      • Turn off email notifications

Images courtesy of (iPhone), Barcelona En Comú (multitasking), Bayshoremods (checking email on the beach), Tim1965 (anatomy lab), Icez (forgetting curve), National Archives and Records Administration (taking notes), Shimer College (student and teacher)