Memory Retention and the Forgetting Curve Infographic

The importance of reviewing what you learn…
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For more tips on studying, memory, and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

How to Succeed in School and Still Have Time for Fun (Guest Post)

By Jessica Socheski

After the pressure of SATs, advanced placement classes and university applications, many students are excited to start a new life in college and experience living in a dorm. But for college freshmen who want to do well in school, maintaining an active social life on campus might seem next to impossible.

How to Succeed in School and Still Have a Little Fun

Maintain your grades and your social life!

Fortunately, there are a few steps to college success that might just allow you to hang out with friends on Friday night instead of holing up in your room with your chemistry text.  For students who care about their grades but are still hoping to enjoy the typical college experience, here’s how to succeed in college academically without giving up on your social life.

Plan Ahead

One of the most common failings of college students is neglecting to set up a plan. In what is often dismissed as harmless procrastination, a surprising number of students tend to do readings at the last minute or wait until the night before to complete an assignment.

But if you want to be free to go out with your friends, it is imperative that you do your work ahead of time! For example, if you have a break after class, pull out the textbook and finish the reading for the next class, right there and then. Being efficient is key to freeing up time to socialize.

Actively review deadlines and make certain you know when your assignments are due. When a project is on the syllabus, break the large tasks down into smaller pieces. Don’t be afraid to start work on your final assignment after the very first class session!

You can also look for ways to streamline and multitask whenever possible. For example, bring your laptop to the laundry room and keep typing that paper between loads.

Be Present in Class

A letter to future college students which appeared in the NY Times blog warns, “when you realize that there’s no detention or punishment for missing classes, when you discover that the professor’s lecture notes are online,” it will become much easier to habitually skip class.

Many students choose to cut classes on a regular basis because they need to study for an exam, want to hang out with friends or simply can’t hear the alarm telling them that their 8 a.m. starts in 15 minutes.

But class time is really some of the most important hours you will spend during college. Professors are experts in their fields, and the time you have to learn from them is valuable. Studying for the test later is much easier if you’re already familiar with the subject from lectures. Finally, you are probably paying thousands of dollars to be in this class – so you might as well get your money’s worth!

Engage in Homework Time

In addition to using the classroom to succeed and planning ahead rather than studying later, find an optimal place to work – and then get cracking! If you are studying at a school with a tempting campus, such as South University Palm Beach, you should probably do your reading at the library instead of a sandy beach. Your studying will be much quicker and more effective without a distracting environment. And when you’re finished, you can hop over to the oceanfront to enjoy a well-deserved break.

With these strategies for effective and more efficient study time, you can get the most out of your college experience both academically and socially!

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For more tips on how to rule in school, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

What’s the Best Music to Help You Study? (Guest Post)

While a lot of people work best in complete silence, there are many who prefer some form of background noise or stimulation in order to concentrate.

If you’re a college or graduate student who puts in long hours of studying, listening to music that you enjoy can help pass the time and allow you to concentrate on your work without getting bored.

Depending on your personality and the way your brain functions, there’s a high probability that certain types of music will help you pay attention and improve your study sessions.

The question is: What type of music will do that?


It’s obvious that certain musical genres are just plain distracting, emotionally charged, and not designed for concentration or relaxing. But there’s also a lot of music that can help you relax, focus, and be great accompaniment to a long study session.

While everyone’s different, here’s what I recommend for studying and concentration:

1. Lite jazz — Any kind of jazz will do, but vocal artists like Ella Fitzgerald or Sammy Davis Jr. are great for relaxing and focusing on your work. If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat, jazz fusion will have more of a pop sound and syncopated rhythm.

2. Classical — Classical music of any kind is a fantastic study companion. Not only does it sharpen your brain, but it’s easy to listen to and doesn’t distract you from other thoughts. If you were hoping for something a little more interesting than the average classical recording, try something like Perpetual Motion by Bela Fleck. He does a bunch of classical numbers on that album with a banjo.

3. Varied instrumental — Hearing other words can compete for your thoughts and make it harder for you to read or think through your own words. That means that instrumental tunes of most varieties are going to be better options for your study time.

Even heavier guitar stuff from Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson can make great studying tracks. Something more subtle, like an instrumental jazz or blues record, is also great for relaxing and concentrating.

4. Funk — Again, lots of instrumental options here, and a little more upbeat. Perhaps it’s not the most calm and soothing style of music, but it is smooth and can be a relaxing sound, even when you’re trying to concentrate on something else.

Helping you Relax

Music is helpful during a study session because it can help you relax, and while some people’s minds perform better with silence, music can be used as a tool to increase the length of time you’re able to focus on something.

If you want to try the music mentioned above, here are some sites where you can stream songs without having to pay for them.

1. Grooveshark — A form of social media for music lovers, Grooveshark allows you to search for music, create playlists, save them and then listen to them whenever you want. They’ve got just about every artist on the planet to choose from.

2. Arena — It’s similar to Grooveshark, but Arena puts more emphasis on the news and community aspect of streaming music. Arena also boosts the highest payout to artists per stream. You can search for music and make playlists.

3. Pandora — Pandora is designed to help you find new music that you’re more likely to enjoy, by letting you create stations based on artists that you already like. Once you select an artist, Pandora will play music similar to that artist. It’s not as “selective” as your other two options, but it will run on its own without the need to create a playlist; just select the initial band and you’re good to go.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional in the Los Angeles area. When she is trying to power through a long day at work, she enjoys creating a playlist to get her through. Follow her on Twitter today!

For more tips on how to study and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Do’s and Don’ts for How to Focus While Studying (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Katherine Laramie.
Katherine is a freelance writer who lives in Orlando, Florida.

Your textbook is open, your notes are out and a highlighter rests in your hand. You have an upcoming exam and the best of intentions to prepare for it. After reading one paragraph, your mind starts to wander and somewhere between understanding “fundamental visual development principles” and “thematic and design ideas using visual media,” you’re on Facebook, and it’s not where you should be. It hasn’t even been 20 minutes, and you’re shutting that book thinking, “I’ll study tomorrow.”

In David Glenn’s essay “Procrastination in College Students is a Marker for Unhealthy Behaviors” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, procrastination is referred to as “anxiety avoidance” and “self-defeating behavior.” The article suggests that procrastinators are less worried about future success or failure, and says they experience high anxiety because of the negative feelings associated with committing to a night of doing schoolwork. If you’re guilty of postponing your studies, “wishful thinking” and “rationalizations,” then the following tips may help you improve your performance for a class or achieve that online art degree.

photo by xb3

Disassociating Anxiety from Studying & Test-Taking

Your future depends on graduating from school. Graduation depends on passing classes. Passing classes depends on high exam scores. Scoring highly on an exam depends on excellent studying skills. Ah, the anxiety sets in. Physiological stress follows. Failed attempts at studying are the end result. By eliminating the anxiety that’s associated with school work, you can eliminate subsequent negative, self-defeating feelings that disrupt your academic focus and obligations.

As you blindly stare at a power point on your laptop or gaze at a textbook, create positive associations with studying. Combat procrastination with the following tips:

  • Free your mind from external stressors, agendas and obligations.
  • Remind yourself that you’re nurturing your brain and acquiring knowledge. Embrace that you’re educating yourself. You actually want to improve your mind with this subject matter.
  • Focus less on the exam. By putting less emphasis on scoring highly, you’re alleviating yourself of pressure — and thus anxiety that pushes you to delay your studies for another day.
  • Replace rationalizations and wishful thinking. To handle the negative feelings associated with studying, you may respond by making excuses. Take accountability for your responsibilities and self-defeating behavior. Replace rationalizations, such as “I’m really tired tonight and not even retaining any information anyway,” with “I’m going to maximize my time this evening. There’s no better time than now to prepare for my upcoming exam. Cramming only stresses me out.”

Refocusing: It’s Never Too Late

Losing focus and succumbing to distractions is natural and to be expected while studying. Don’t be defeated by these moments of weakness, which can manifest into negative thoughts and abandoned studying. Take a small break, breathe and get back in the game.

Re-focus by:

  • Changing your scenery and location. If you’re at home, move to a different room. If you’re at the library, change floors and desks.
  • Drinking water. Hydrate and refresh your mind and body.
  • Playing music. The soothing and calming music of cellist Yo-Yo Ma can provide new sensory that re-energizes your studying.

Editor’s Note: My new book, The Secrets of Top Students, contains lots of advice on how to study for exams and avoid procrastination. Order it now on Amazon!

For more tips on studying and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

The Survival Guide — 3 Tips for AP Test Takers (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Robert Boyd
Rob is the guy you want on your Trivial Pursuit team: He knows a little bit about a lot of things.

You can ace the AP!

You can ace the AP!

Heading north toward the mountains, I packed my bags and piled into a bus with many of my closest friends. We would be spending the weekend at a campsite complete with fire pits, eight-inch-high ping- pong tables and a large mess hall, but this wasn’t a typical camping trip. This was calculus camp: a two-and-a-half day cram session filled with derivatives, functions and integrals and our final review before taking the AP test.

Math never came easy to me, but I passed the calculus AP test, largely because of that marathon study weekend. Maybe it was the mountain air, but more likely the collaborative spirit and valuable practice led to success. You don’t have to get out of town to pass AP tests. Keep these three resources in mind to achieve high scores.

Prep Courses & Apps

A growing number of students are taking AP tests, and test prep providers have responded with an array of courses. In 2011, 903,630 graduates had taken at least one AP exam, compared to 431,573 graduates ten years earlier, according to Students have few excuses to be unprepared. A variety of online and in-person prep courses accommodate students of all levels., for example, offers subject-specific virtual courses that offer hundreds of test questions, dozens of flashcards and multiple mini-tests. Best of all, these courses are available on both computer and mobile platforms, so test prep can take place anytime, anywhere. Some additional test prep apps are available here.

No matter how convenient, however, digital courses can’t compete with live, in-person training. Personal tutoring with a teacher or experienced tutor is invaluable when it comes to tackling difficult concepts.

Study Groups

Long study sessions can get monotonous and frustrating, especially when you’re trying to unpack a new concept. One of the easiest ways to avoid academic burnout and learn efficiently is to study in groups. By learning AP material with other test takers, you’ll be able use each other’s strengths. For some great tips on how to study efficiently in groups, check out and

In a nutshell, here are some rules to follow when working in groups:

  • Don’t let the group get too large. Aim for no more than five or six people.
  • Have an agenda for each meeting and stick to it!
  • Designate someone to be the leader for each meeting.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s why you’re there.

Practice Tests

Knowing the concepts is one thing, but conditioning yourself for the pressures of an actual exam is an entirely separate battle. The best way to prepare for test conditions is by putting yourself under the gun with a practice test. Find some free test prep material at, or buy previous versions of AP tests for $25. Stay within the time guidelines, use the right pencil and of course, no peeking at your notes.

Taking timed tests will push your ability to think under pressure. With all this preparation, you’ll have college credit in the bag. Still feeling unprepared? Try a camping trip instead. It worked for me.

Want to improve your grades?   Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Hey all you teenage girls out there!

My study tips article “Get smart! Six ways to rock the end of the semester” is in the new issue of Girl’s Life Magazine! This is the first time I was able to walk into a Barnes & Noble and buy something with my name in it – and it’s a pretty cool feeling.

See where it says “Rock Finals!” on the right? That’s me!

In this article, I talk about easy things you can do to get better grades – things like taking naps, snacking during exams (if your teacher lets you, of course), and answering test questions out of order. In case you were wondering, I’ve used all the techniques I wrote about – and I wouldn’t have been a top student without them!

Happy studying, everyone!

Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!