Can smells help you study?

Photo by Charity Burggaaf

This is article #3 in Launch Pakistan’s Lift Off series — a 30 day countdown to Cambridge International Examinations. We bring you tried and tested study techniques for the final push.

Olfactory memory

When you’re trying to remember things — and really remember, not just recognise —it’s worth thinking back to all those times someone told you you had a bloodhound’s sense of smell, or really sharp vision, or the ability to detect sonar frequencies. This may turn out to be your superpower. Use it in your final examinations. Wisely.

Try this.

Pick three smells, one for each subject. Every time you switch subject, keep that smell handy.

Say you’re doing math, physics, and english literature. It’s two weeks to the exam, and you have to remember

  • your formulas
  • quotes from the play you just read
  • facts about physical properties

Your notes — flashcards, sticky notes, the works — are in place. You can develop a routine that looks something like this

  • Chocolate for Math — a cheeky Nutella sandwich before every Math past paper you attempt
  • Orange for Physics — a keenu, and the accompanying after-smell on your fingertips, for all that Physics you’re about to do
  • Coffee for Literature — this one’s tricky, because you might be drinking coffee otherwise, too. It’s important that you choose a smell that you reserve only for a single subject. If you’re drinking coffee otherwise, pick something else.

Make sure you strictly follow your olfactory routine. Don’t mix smells. For inspiration, check out some über productive smells, here.

Before your Literature exam, have a coffee — you’re much more likely to remember all those notes you’ve been cramming dedicatedly in the preceding weeks.