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The best times and places to study

Unless you’re a natural bookworm, sitting down to study –- then trying to remember all you’ve read -– can be hard. Make the process easier by following some of these handy tips on where and when to carve out your studying time.

College girl studying outside

When to study

Recent research on when our brains best absorb and retain information has some interesting insights into when you should (and shouldn’t) study.

If you’re a morning studier:

If you’re the kind of person who bounds out of bed with massive amounts of energy, hitting the books bright and early may be for you. The only condition: Give your brain some time to wake up before doing any hardcore studying, because the brain is less responsive to learning new skills first thing in the morning than later. What’s more, if you hit the books too early, you may do more damage than good; studies show cortisol (a stress hormone) levels spike as soon as we wake up, meaning you may not be able to remember as much. Always study one to two hours after your alarm goes off.

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If you’re an evening studier:

Good news! Some studies on memory have shown that if you try a new activity or learn something new right before you hit the hay, your brain is more likely to retain the information because it subconsciously processes it while you sleep. The only thing to look out for is sluggishness. If you’re feeling tired after a long day, take a brief nap to restore some of your brain’s alertness before studying. Another caveat: Never swap sleep for hitting the books. Your brain needs the rest to process all that you’ve read.

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Where to study

Where you study usually matters less than how you study, but there are a few things you should keep in mind.

In your door dorm room open: No

Distractions are everywhere in a college dorm — from friends walking through the hall to the radio next to you.

In the cafeteria: No

Studying in the mess hall may seem like a good idea at the time (you’re killing two birds with one stone), but trying to do two tasks at once divides the amount of energy your brain can give to each task. That means it’s less likely to retain what you read.

In the library: Yes

Studying at the library can be comforting (the silence, the space), but some people need a bit of noise to keep their brains alert. If that’s the case, carry an iPod with you to blast some classical tunes; studies show it improves brain cognition.

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How to study

Researchers believe all students could do a few things to boost their brain power.

Create a schedule

Our bodies function best when working with some sort of routine, and studying is no different. Allot a certain time each day to study — the same time — and your brain will get used to the “thinking” groove.

Take regular breaks. Studying for hours on end without a break is counter-productive. Schedule a five- to 10-minute break every hour. Stand up and move around for a few minutes before getting back to work.

Make every hour count

You don’t want to spend time sitting around studying when you could be out having fun with your friends, so turn off all distractions (for example, Twitter, Facebook etc.) when you sit down to study. Focusing will help you get more done and will ensure your brain remembers what you’ve read.

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