Here’s Why “Study Hacks” Are A Myth

Humberto Mendez Prince/Staff Writer

As students, we tend to deal with high levels of stress on a daily basis. We have exams to study for and presentations to put together, as well as any number of assignments, and this is not counting other social factors that could also cause stress, from bill payments to family related problems and conflicts within groups of friends. 

Naturally, when these problems get to students, they tend to have a negative effect on our grades and it’s up to us to revert this situation before the failing grades will keep coming in.

Because of this many students recur to “study hacks”, which is a school of thought that claims that doing certain activities while studying helps your productivity levels and results in great test scores.

Mind you, I’ve never been a believer of study hacks. I think that good test grades depend exclusively on your knowledge and, in some cases, how good your memory is. However, after I started failing one test after another almost routinely, I began to have my doubts. 

I may not be the most accomplished student, but I’m quite average, so my methods of studying don’t differ from the rest. I would study the day before the test and highlight “key definitions.” Of course, by “key definitions,” I meant highlighting two-thirds of the information the professor sent. The next day, I would “review” the same information, reassured that it would at least get me a B. Then I would go to class confidently, knowing that nothing could go wrong. Of course, this was never the case.

The fact was, I needed to make a change. One of my friends suggested that I try this study hack he read about online, which consisted of listening to classical music while studying. That way, I would better remember the answers, he said. It had to do with the stimulation of dopamine and its eventual release into our bodies, which decreased stress levels at the time of remembering answers for a test—and apparently, it had worked for him.

From a scientific point of view, it makes sense. The less stressed out you are, the more likely you are to pass your tests. I proposed myself to try this hack, since it was crucial that I pass my class. So I made plans to study for an upcoming test. I went to Café Bustelo at the Graham Center and got a “cortadito,” which is two equal parts espresso and milk, and afterwards, I went to the Green Library to plug in my charger and study at one of the computers.

This routine was the same I applied every time I studied prior to a test or worked on an assignment. The only difference was that this time I was listening to two classical music composers: Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. 

Towards the end of the hour, the experience felt like any other study session, except that I’d felt drowsy at moments, which I attribute to the long and repetitive violin and piano solos. This, of course, resulted in me forgetting crucial parts of the study guide. In the end, I managed to fail my third assignment in a row. And to make matters worse, I had another test the following week. 

The thought of a fourth failed assignment was already looming over my head, so unbothered, hopeless and with a more than negative outlook towards the future, I decided to go back to my old routine, but this time I listened to one of my favorite bands—Queen—in the background.

To my surprise, I passed the test with flying colors. Not only that, but I got an A, which was even more unexpected.

After this experience, my opinion on study hacks hasn’t changed. What I think helped me pass the test was, perhaps, the lack of pressure I felt at the time of taking it. Rather than being overly confident, I had been focused on not failing.

Whether it’s Rock or Classical Music, as long as you find a way to study without pressure, in a comfortable environment and with the right test taking approach, you have a good chance of passing.

Featured photo from FIU Flickr.



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