Study Tips

Science-backed study tips


The following is a list of Science-Backed Study tips in an article written in USA Today. The article was originally written for college students studying for final exams. We have picked our Top Tips that are applicable to middle school students!



  • Space it out. A relatively new learning technique called “spaced repetition” involves breaking up information into small chunks and reviewing them consistently over a long period of time. So don’t try to memorize the entire periodic table in one sitting — instead, learn a few rows every day and review each lesson before starting anything new.
  • Tell a tale. Turning the details you need to remember into a crazy story helps make the information more meaningful. For example, remember the order of mathematic operations PEMDAS this way: Philip (P) wanted to eat (E) his friend Mary (M) but he died (D) from arsenic (AS) poisoning.
  • Put yourself to the test. Quizzing ourselves may be one of the best ways to prepare for the real deal. And don’t worry about breaking a sweat while trying to remember the name of the 37th U.S. president (fyi, it’s Nixon): The harder it is to remember a piece of information in practice mode, the more likely we are to remember it in the future.
  • Write it out. Put those third-grade penmanship lessons to good use. Research suggests we store information more securely when we write it out by hand than when we type it. Start by recopying the most important notes from the semester onto a new sheet of paper.
  • Make me wanna shout. Reading information out loud means mentally storing it in two ways: seeing it and hearing it. We just can’t guarantee you won’t get thrown out of the library


  • Come together (right now). Group work doesn’t fly with everyone, but for those who benefit from a little team effort, a study group’s the way to go. Pick a few studious pals and get together every few days to review the material. Put one person in charge of delegating tasks (snack duty, music selection) and keeping the group on target with its goals.
  • Treat yo’ self! A treat, snack, a walk around the block, five minutes of tweet-time: whatever floats your boat. Knowing there’s a little reward waiting for us at the end of just a few pages makes it easier to beat procrastination while slogging through a semester’s worth of notes.
  • Take a time out. Taking time to plan is one of the most important skills a student can have. Don’t just start the week with the vague goal of studying for a history exam — instead, break up that goal into smaller tasks. Pencil it in on the calendar like a regular class: For example, allot every day from 1 to 3 p.m. to review 50 years’ worth of info.
  • Gimme a break. The KitKat guys said it, and so does science: Taking regular breaks can boost productivity and improve our ability to focus on a single task. For a real productivity boost, step away from the screen and break a sweat during a midday gym sesh.
  • Work it out. Get stronger and brainier at the same time. Research has found just half an hour of aerobic exercise can improve our brain-processing speed and other important cognitive abilities. Jog a few laps around the block and see if you don’t come back with a few more IQ points.
  • Dance to the music. As anyone who’s ever relied on Rihanna to make it through an all-night study session knows, music can help beat stress. And while everyone’s got a different tune preference, classical music in particular has been shown to reduce anxiety and tension. So give those biology notes a soundtrack and feel at least some of the stress slide away.
  • Nix the ’net. We’ve all been there, facing the siren call of a friend’s Facebook wall on the eve of a giant exam. If a computer’s necessary for studying, try an app (such as this one) that blocks the Internet for a short period of time and see how much more you get done.
  • Say om. Just before staring at a piece of paper for three hours, stare at a wall for three minutes. Research suggests meditation can reduce anxiety and boost attention span. While those studies focus mostly on regular meditation, there’s no harm in trying it out for a few minutes to calm pre-test jitters.
  • Doze off. When there’s a textbook full of equations to memorize, it can be tempting to stay up all night committing them to memory (or trying to). But all-nighters rarely lead to an automatic A — in fact, they’ve been linked to impaired cognitive performance and greater sensitivity to stress. In the days leading up to a big exam, aim to get those seven to nine hours a night so sleep deprivation doesn’t undo all the hard work you’ve put in


Homework Contract and Incentive System


Incentive Systems 
Many teens are motivated by the high grade they hope to earn as a result of doing a quality job.  For teens who are not motivated by grades, look for other rewards to help them get through their nightly homework.


WORD TO THE WISE:  Any incentive system should be TEMPORARY, and teens should know this in advance.  The only exception to this is parental praise, which should always be used for a teens’ efforts.  Incentives can be dropped once the teen is in the habit of being responsible for completing their homework.


The simplest incentive system is reminding the teen of a privilege they earn when homework is done.  This system of withholding fun things until the drudgery is over is sometimes called Grandma’s Law (“First take out the trash, then you can have chocolate chip cookies.”).  Having something to look forward to can be a powerful incentive to get the hard work done.


The easiest and most effective incentives are the privileges that your teen wants most after school, such as watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet or talking on the phone.  These are usually effective because most kids want them and most parents can control access to the TV, PC and phone.


If your teen is in their homework place on time and puts effort into completing their work, then they earn the right to whatever privilege you agreed upon.  If they resist getting to work when they are supposed to start, or they just sit there for an hour without putting forth effort, then they do not earn that privilege for the evening.  Some experimentation may need to take place until you find the combination of privileges that your teen responds to.


More elaborate incentive systems involve more planning and more work on the part of parents but in some cases are necessary to address more significant homework problems.  More complex incentives systems include a structure for earning points that could be used to “purchase” privileges or rewards or a system that provides greater reward for accomplishing more difficult homework tasks.  These systems work best when parents and teens develop them together.  Giving teens input gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed.