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4 unusual but effective academic hacks

Are you in a studying rut? Here are a few out-of-the-box ideas to try that might re-energize you to get back to the books:

1. List your worries

Researchers have found that jotting down worries immediately before an exam not only eased test anxiety, but also improved students’ performance on the exam. Pressure-filled situations, like taking tests, can actually deplete a part of the brain’s working memory, an important processing power in performing everyday tasks. By writing down their worries, students acknowledged their test-taking fears and managed distracting emotions necessary to excel on the exam.

2. Chew gum

Quick, grab a stick of minty freshness. Chomping on gum before taking an exam can lead to better performance, according to researchers. Participants in a study who chewed gum significantly outperformed the non-gum chewers in five out of six demanding cognitive tests like solving difficult logic puzzles. Though researchers aren’t entirely sure why this happens, they speculate that the act of chewing gum awakens the brain and better prepares it for performance on things like mental tasks. However, it’s important to note that the gum chewing benefits eventually wore off. In fact, after about 20 minutes, gum chewers began to perform on par with their gum-less peers.

Your best bet: chew gum before your exam and toss it after the first few minutes so your brain can concentrate better.


3. Doodle

It may seem counterintuitive, but scribbling while listening to a lecture or learning a lesson online can help your brain retain information. Researchers have found that doodlers recalled 29 percent more information on a surprise memory test than non-doodlers. Why? They hypothesize that simply doodling may help limit daydreaming.


4. Try aromatherapy with rosemary

Besides the documented advantages to having greenery in your workspace (researchers found that an office with plants boosted productivity by 15 percent), it turns out rosemary — specifically, its aroma — can improve your memory.

A study on the subject found that participants performed significantly better on cognitive tasks when exposed to the scent of rosemary. Those in the rosemary-scented room showed better memory skills overall. The possible reason is eucalyptol. Found in rosemary oil, the compound is linked to memory formation in animal and human studies. Bonus: You don’t need an actual rosemary plant. Just purchase a vial of rosemary essential oil at a health food store, add a few drops to a small spray bottle filled with water, and spritz your workspace (or your clothes!) before digging into schoolwork.