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Things You Should Stop Doing While Studying

For most of us college students, studying is not the highlight of our day. It’s a mundane task, but it’s something that has to be done. To get through those long hours of studying, many of us try and make the time enjoyable by “setting the vibes.” A lot of times, this may include lighting a candle, munching on some snacks, playing background music, or even grabbing a glass of wine to calm our nerves…but what if I told you that adding some of these things to your studying routine could actually be hindering you from remembering all of that precious study material?

A while back in one of my psych classes, I learned about “state or context dependent memory,” which basically says that in order to recall information (remember something), you have to be in the same state you were in when you first learned the information…

For example, if I study with a candle on, that study material will be tied to the scent of the candle, and will be stored in my brain in relation to the scent. Later when I go to take my test, that candle will obviously not be there so it may be harder (or even impossible) to remember some of the information that I studied because I don’t have that scent as an environmental cue to help me retrieve the information.

Being in college, a lot of people may be tempted to have a glass of wine or a hard seltzer while studying…but if you lock in that information while you are under the influence of alcohol, it will be harder to retrieve that information when you’re (hopefully) sober during testing time.

The same concept holds true for other factors like listening to music, watching tv, eating snacks, chewing gum, etc.

My professor recommended that you try and keep your studying and testing environments as similar as possible; remove as many distractions and extra variables as you can. He said that in a perfect world, you would study in the same room you’re testing in…but since that is unrealistic, it’s helpful to study in multiple locations so that all of the information you have learned is not just tied to one location.

For me, this looks like studying at different places on campus and switching up my study spots at home. I put away my phone, turn off all music, leave the candles/essential oils alone, and try to block out as much extra noise as possible. I do still drink water, and may occasionally eat a mint, which is okay because I can do both of those things during my actual test to mimic the same environmental states.

If you want to learn more about state dependent memory, check out these sources:

Until next time,



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