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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Studying effectively: Achieving A’s inside school and inside your body

Published: September 17, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

With almost a month of school under our belts, the work is beginning to pile up, papers are due, and tests and quizzes are creeping up on us and knocking at our doors. The problem is that with all our breaks and vacations, most of our minds are off laying in the sun on the Great Lawn and our bodies are longing for our beds (or the brisket we had this past weekend)—hardly the mindset for hard-core studying. So, how do we get ourselves back into the full swing of things while maintaining our physical health? Luckily, I have some answers for you.

We all know the cliché study tips; study in a quiet place, sleep on your textbook, use flash cards, explain concepts to others, try to take caffeine intravenously. Then why don’t we all have 4.0’s? Apparently, the Louie test guru has been hiding some hidden study secrets from us. First, it is always important to change the area in which you are studying, Dartmouth college research shows that studying the same material in at least two different places can increase your retention of the material and enhance your performance during crunch time.

Second, studying is like a workout for your brain—it’s hungry and needs breaks! By studying no later than 45-60 minutes after a meal, your brain can work more at its maximum potential by having nutrients to run on. If you do need a snack, foods that contain omega three fatty acids can help improve communication between brain cells and are found in C-Store foods like flax seeds, black raspberries, tuna, walnuts, eggs, kangaroo meat and cheese. These foods are all healthier for your body than energy drinks and candy and can boost your brain power without sending you into a sugar crash later.

In terms of taking breaks, never study for more than 45 minutes without getting up and doing a lap around wherever you are studying while thinking about your weekend plans or something not related to your study materials. Most people retain more by studying for short bursts of time; this break ensures your brain is internalizing the materials while re-energizing your body for the next study hour. In terms of long-term rest, the worst thing you could do is sleep fewer hours than the number your body needs. Getting a set number of hours of sleep is silly as every body is different, so whatever you know makes you well-rested normally is the amount you should be sleeping at least two consecutive days before your exam.

Your brain is set, you have the material down cold, you’re ready for any question thrown your way, but you feel like a hippopotamus for just sitting and studying for a week straight. Was there something you could have done to make your body have felt better too? Alas there was! Below are some illustrations of in-library exercises you can do during study breaks that burn calories, tone muscles and make you feel even more like a lean, mean, studying machine.

You are now the Rocky of the test arena and ready to mentally and physically kick any test’s butt. Go get ’em Tiger! Tune in next week for more health tips and, as always, please send me an e-mail me at with any health-related questions you may have.