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Author: Mike and Matty

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If you’re like me, then you’ve probably tried to make as many tweaks as possible in your daily habits to study smarter and more productively. Sleep, exercise, diet… but what about music?

There are a few theories as to how music can enhance our learning:

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Spaced repetition is an evidence-based study method that we have been using on a regular basis throughout college and medical school. The concept of spacing can be quite complicated, and students often have trouble applying it to their studies. Nowadays, we have spaced repetition algorithms that make this technique a little easier to apply.

I like to think about the spacing effect in 3 different tiers. The higher tiers yield more benefits but are also more complex to apply.

Tier 1

In this tier, we have to understand that spacing is the opposite of cramming. I used to…

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

The Real Value of a Review Book

I recently tried studying for a standardized test using a review book, and I learned that you can’t substitute a review book for understanding the information. I was reading it like a textbook (and making RemNote flashcards during the process) and it made me feel like I was learning everything I needed. But I was only scratching the surface.

After taking practice tests, I discovered that I was just trying to memorize facts, but didn’t understand the concepts. …

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Active recall is the best evidence-based study method. It involves you testing yourself and trying to recall information without aid from notes. You can find countless resources on the internet diving in-depth on the science behind why active recall works so well, so I will spare you that lecture and jump straight to the good stuff: 12 ways to use active recall to learn anything more effectively.

1. Pretesting

You can start using active recall before you even start learning. Get a hold of some old papers or practice problems and gauge how much you already know about…

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Beazy on Unsplash

I used to think that sleeping was a complete waste of time. Your eyes are closed and your body is motionless. You are literally doing nothing. How could sleeping be productive?

But the more all-nighters I pulled (to study or keep productive) the more I started to notice the effects of poor sleep. This motivated me to learn more about how the brain works while we sleep.

I’m sure you already know that getting enough sleep helps you recover energy for the next day, so I’m not going to bore you with that discussion. But if…

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

When I was a freshman in high school, I was a total bookworm. Sure, I spent most of my after-school hours studying, but I was getting the grades I wanted. But when I became a sophomore, life became more interesting. I suddenly had to make room for sports, make time for my new girlfriend, and find time to practice music. I had to make a change because I was definitely spending way too much time studying. …

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

In high school and college, my teachers often told me what to study, but not how to study. So I did what most students do: I copied what my friends were doing. The problem was, my friends weren’t taught how to study either. When I asked my teachers why we learn the way we do, I was told “that’s how everyone does it,” or “that’s how it’s always been done.”

Unfortunately, the strategies that got me through university began failing me when I got into medical school. At that point, I had to make a change…

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash

This is a simple 5 step framework on how I approach reading a textbook for class.

Step 1: Skim

Step 2: Key Points

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

To ensure that I get the most out of the book I’m reading, I always ask myself why I’m reading it in the first place. There are generally 2 reasons:

When I read for enjoyment, I just do what feels right and comfortable to me at the moment. Everyone finds happiness in different ways.

But when I’m reading to understand something, I want to be clear about a specific question I’m trying to find the answer to. Because WHY you are reading determines HOW you will read!

With that in…

Author: Mike and Matty

Photo by Danylo Suprun on Unsplash

If you want to be an effective learner, the most important idea to understand is that learning needs to be difficult. It needs to be effortful. It needs to challenge you.

Just like how we train our muscles when we exercise, we are training our brains when we learn. You can spend hours lifting light weights at the gym, but you won’t see results. If you want to build muscle, you have to lift weights that are heavy enough to challenge you.

Research on effective learning strategies compared two groups of students. Group 1 was given…


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