Preparation leads to top marks

Here's a pop quiz: What foods are best before an exam?

When should you tackle the toughest material?

Most students are capable of achieving top marks if they do the right things, but why are so many students still failing?

A growing body of research on the best study techniques outlines important tips during this exam season.

First things first, when it is time to study, make sure you are actually studying!

Too many students try to study with Jay-Z music pouring from an iPod.

But distractions do not help study.

According to Clifford Nass, a Stanford University professor, song lyrics are processed in the same part of the human brain that does its word processing.

Background television, texting or calling friends has the same effect.

Something has to give and, more often than not, it is the not-so-interesting study that gets pushed out of the way.

When trying to put as much information as possible into your head, repetition is the mother of all learning.

Without repetition, we are only likely to remember about 20 per cent of the information we receive, even if we understood everything at the time.

But are all types of repetition equal?

According to a recent study by Kramar et al, at the University of Southern California, the answer is no.

Learning is at a maximum when repetition is spaced out.

Typically, repeating information within one hour, then a day later, then a week later has the greatest effect on enhancing the connections between regions of the brain that are devoted to memory.

When spaced repetition is practised, participants retain 90 to 95 per cent of the information received.

This means that it is better to study often for shorter periods of time, rather than save up your study for one big cram session.

Finally, use good resources to help you.

Resources are designed to make study simpler., for example, is a free website that uses video tutorials to teach you how to achieve highly in your NCEA exams.

There are video tutorials that show you specific knowledge for Level 1 Maths and Science, summaries of relevant information and practice questions.

It would be crazy to struggle alone when there is good help freely available!

The Mirror