If you are trying to build strong study habits, choosing the best places to study is the right start. Your study location can have a huge impact on your ability to focus and remember the material.
Many people underemphasize the importance of their study space.
Luckily, researchers have determined what an ideal study location looks like. You’d be surprised how many scientists have researched study locations.
Here are my top 3 (science backed) recommendations when choosing places to study:
1.Beware the Bedroom
I know the bedroom is most likely your first choice for a study location. Many students tell me they study in their bedroom. This is the first place I tell students not to study.
It’s one of the least effective places. The bedroom is distracting, especially if someone is already easily distracted.
To begin with, most students have a television in their bedroom. When you are studying, a TV is like the Sirens singing their sweetest song to Odysseus. It sounds great at first, but the outcome is devastating.
I guarantee that whatever is on TV will be more interesting to your brain than the material you are studying. It will be practically impossible to focus on your text if the TV is on. Additionally, many students also have their computers, video games, phones, and music all within reach in the bedroom.
These devices make it all too tempting to focus on anything but your studies.
On top of that, the human brain associates this room with sleep. This is a big part of the reason you find yourself fighting to keep your eyelids open when studying.
Studying on your bed is one of the worst places to work.
Using your bed as a study location will have a negative impact on both your quality of sleep and your efficient study time.
So where would I recommend?
- Dining room
- Kitchen counter
- Home office
Any one of these would be more conducive to focusing. If the room isn’t being used for t.v. or other distracting activities, it can be a great place to train your mind to prepare for “work mode.”
You might want to keep a desk caddy or drawer caddy organized. Stock it with sharpened pencils and other tools for studying. Then you will have everything you need to use your time efficiently and stay focused.
Another prime location is the library, whenever possible of course.
Most libraries offer study areas that minimize distractions. I realize that getting to the library may be difficult for many students. I know several students who started going to their local libraries on the weekends. They’ve found this to be a very productive routine. Libraries are quiet places and often have chairs and desks that are similar to a classroom environment.
Which brings me to my next tip…
2. Make Your Study Environment Similar to Your Testing Environment
Research shows having a study environment similar to your classroom helps your brain remember the material better.
The way scientists discovered this is really interesting!
One study involved having divers study a list of words under water and on dry land. Then, they were tested on their memory of these words in both conditions. They discovered that when the divers studied underwater, they did better when tested underwater too. But if they studied on dry land, they did better when they took the test on dry land.
Basically, whichever environment they studied in is where they scored a higher grade on the test. There have been many other experiments that have found similar results.
This tells us that our brains use information in the environment (called cues) to help build memory. Our brain associates our study material with the sights and sounds around us when we study. When we take a test in a room that is similar to the room we studied in, it makes it easier for our brain to access the information we studied. Since you probably can’t choose where you will be taking the test, study in an environment that is similar to the one you will be testing in.
- Sitting in a hard, sturdy chair
- Writing on a hard surface such as a desk, table, or counter top
- Limiting noise such as television and music
- Studying in a room with lighting that is similar to your classroom
- Sitting with the same body posture you will have during the exam.
Some schools will even let you study in the actual classroom after-hours. If possible, take advantage of this space.
I have even known one student who wore a specific type of perfume only when she studied for a major test. Then she wore it again on the day of the test. There are many methods of creating a study environment to improve your memory. Try some out and see what works for you.
3. Create a Distraction-Free Zone
Many people think they can listen to music or watch TV as they study. Research from neuroscience has shown that the brain is less efficient when there is music playing or a television on. This is because our brains are not wired to multitask effectively. No matter how much we think we are focused on our study material, part of our brain is still focused on our surroundings.
If you study with a television on or music playing in the background, I highly recommend changing this habit immediately.
By minimizing distractions, you are helping your brain to be able to study efficiently.
If you must listen to music, I recommend baroque style classical music. Researchers have found that it creates a state of mental alertness for the brain.
If possible, I recommend setting aside in your schedule at least an hour block per night to be technology-free. Turn off the phone, the TV, and even the computer. If you must use the computer, don’t log in to any social networking sites.
It will help you to resist the temptation to be distracted. Trust me, anything and everything will be more interesting to your brain than the AP World History text you are reading. If you can set aside just one hour to be technology-free, it will probably be your most productive hour of the day.
Remember, the more you are able to focus, the less time you will need to spend studying. This will allow you to have more free-time to do other things that are more enjoyable than studying.
Having a space that sets you up for productive study time is essential for building good study habits. Limiting distractions and creating an environment that is similar to your classroom testing environment will help you to study more efficiently.
There are many places to study that can become good study environments. Libraries, dining rooms, home offices, and kitchen counters can all be good options. My advice would be to beware of your bedroom as a study space, but for some people that may be their only option. The most essential feature in a good study environment is your ability to focus. A distraction-free space will help you study efficiently. This will save you time and frustration later on.