Basking in this uncharacteristically sunny springtime, exams and revision are probably the last thing you want to think about. Unfortunately, as Manchester weather often does, here I am to rain on your parade.
Over the past 2 years, the rise of online exams has spread worldwide.
If you too escape to TikTok to procrastinate your revision (yet somehow the TikTok algorithm still thought you a dedicated student) you’re probably familiar with a whole host of self proclaimed study hacks.
I’ve gathered a few and tested them out, I’ll give you my verdict to see if you want to give some of them a try yourself!
So I went into this method thinking it was nothing more than a TikTok gimmick… and I was right.
Essentially, all the videos I’ve watched use the following method:
- When studying a topic, spray perfume or another strong scent around yourself
- Repeat this every time you study that particular piece of information
- Eventually, just the association of the scent will remind you of the information
Rating: 1 /5 perfume bottles
I couldn’t even begin to list the number of logical failings in this technique. Admittedly, I did use scented hand sanitiser rather than perfume so this could be my painful eczema flare up clouding my judgement, but I can categorically say this does not work. You would presumably have to use a different perfume for every topic which is just impractical at best, nauseating at worst. The only research into odur cueing involved SLEEPING participants, and deep REM sleep at that.
It’s easy to hide behind complex terminology but ultimately, if you don’t understand the basic concepts behind the five syllable latin words then you aren’t really assimilating the information.
The Feynman technique is about breaking your knowledge down to basics, by imagining you’re explaining the concept to a child.
- Write a detailed explanation of a chosen topic, however imagine you’re explaining this to a child, assume no knowledge on their part and break every concept down into simple language
- Get stuck? Revisit your study materials until you can complete the explanation
Rating: 3 /5 five syllable latin words
As a medical student, it’s easy to get caught up in medical jargon and terminology, but at the end of the day, if a patient can’t understand what you’re trying to tell them then you aren’t getting the job done.
However I found this technique time consuming and to be completely honest we DO have to know technical terminology sometimes so I think bypassing it altogether is somewhat of a detriment.
Build a virtual forest by focusing! The concept behind flora is simple, aesthetically pleasing and encourages a little friendly competition . Sounds too good to be true? Flora works in 2 simple steps:
- Set a time to focus, maybe 20 minutes, the app then starts to grow a tree for you on screen
- If you leave the application at any time, the tree dies
Rating: 4 /5 trees
First of all, I have to commend this app for making me feel guilty for killing virtual trees. How did I become attached so quickly? It’s so satisfying building a little forest on your phone. I also liked that you can challenge friends to build trees together. Warning, it gets super competitive. HOWEVER, I did drain my phone battery extensively, the only reason this isn’t a 5.
The Pomodoro Method
If you speak Italian, you’re probably wondering what tomatoes have to do with studying, answer? Not much, but I’ll come back to that later
The Pomodoro method was invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo and works on the basis of working in focussed intervals followed by a short break. Shorter periods of focused work minimise external distractions and allow you to always work at peak productivity.
Let’s break down the technique!
- Pick a task or set of tasks to accomplish
- Choose a “pomodoro”, this is an internal of intense focused work, usually around 25 minutes
- After you complete one “pomodoro” take a 5-10 minute break and repeat the cycle!
- After 3 “pomodoros” take a longer break for 30 minutes
Rating: 5/5 tomatoes
Who would have thought TikTok, the epitome of reduced attention spans could actually provide a useful technique! I found it so much easier to stay focussed for 25 minutes, knowing I would have a break soon after and my productivity never waned once! Plenty of downloadable apps feature an interval timer, so you don’t even need to set it up yourself!
The big winner was definitely the Pomodoro method, I felt it was a realistic adjustment to my current study routine and I saw quick results. Not that the other methods didn’t really work (except odour cueing) but as a university student, I value efficiency over everything!
However, everyone learns in different ways, maybe you’ll try a method and find it more useful than I did. Use this pre-exam season time to experiment a little and share your thoughts!
P.S. The Pomodoro method was named after Francesco Cirillo’s tomato kitchen timer he used as a university student!