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CNS TEST PREP: SCIENCE-BACKED STUDY TIPS WITH CAITLIN SELF

Updated: Mar 15, 2023



There are many different ways to learn new material, and the most important thing is to know how you learn and retain information. If you’re not sure what works for you, we’ve got a few science-backed study tips that you can try!


The Basics: It’s important to start with the basics, and if you’re in the field of nutrition, you know that means eating food, drinking water, and getting plenty of sleep. Sleep is especially important as it has been shown to help turn information into memories!


In this video we will review the following science-backed study tips.


  1. Limit Memorization to 7 Items (“Magic Number 7”)

  2. Recall frequently

  3. Mix topics (“interleaving”)

  4. Use music for brainwaves

  5. Add context

  6. Teach it


And just in case you don’t have time for the full video, I’m highlighting my top two tips below!


Tip #1: Limit Memorization to 7 Items


In undergrad, I took a course where the professor started by teaching us how to study - and boy did I need it! The most interesting thing I learned was that the brain can only hold so much new information at a time. A very famous study found that we can typically process 5-9 items of new information.


He demonstrated this on the first day by having the entire lecture hall try to memorize 10-digit phone numbers in just a few seconds. Nearly everyone was able to get 7 accurate numbers, but only a couple of people were able to recall the full number. And how did they do it? By treating the area code as one number (nine-oh-eight)! So in the end, they were still sort of following the 7-number-recall as the rest of the class.


Of course, we’ve had more data on this topic since this was first published in the 1950’s, but this tip has served me well, so give it a try!


To implement this information when studying, I apply it to memorization. I will review about 7 note cards at a time until I feel confident in the answers, then I’ll move on to 7 new cards. Then, I’ll mix them together to work on recalling the 14 new pieces of information.


This leads us to:


Tip #2: Recall Frequently


We often think of studying as: study study study, and then test. When really, study / test / study / test provides the brain the opportunity to utilize recall, which is a more powerful way to strengthen that memory.


What does this look like? In my CNS experience, I might read through content and make notecards as I go, then test myself on those notecards after I’ve made 10-20 of them. This way I’m reaching into my short-term memory to recall this information, which strengthens the memory. Utilizing notecards in general is a helpful way to practice recall.


Another option is to quiz yourself by either creating your own fill-in-the-blank questions or taking sections of a practice test intermittently in your process.


Check out the video for the remaining tips!


Studying for the CNS, in my experience, is one of the most stressful parts of becoming a CNS. I’m so glad The Nutrition & Herbal Collective has a course to help candidates navigate this material and stay on track - I certainly wish it had been around back when I was preparing for the exam!




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