Every student wants to do well in college, but many students go to college without really knowing how to study. While everyone studies and learns differently, here are some ways that have been proven to help students study more effectively.
1. Don’t cram
Too many students cram the night, or even the hour, before their exams. Unfortunately, this is not a good way to study! Students should constantly review material during the week leading up to the test. This helps students remember more of what they learn, and keep stress levels down.
2. Make connections between materials
While studying try to make connections. Don’t just memorize notes, key terms, or sections from the textbook. Put key concepts together to understand the bigger picture. Tackle the hard topics that you may not understand well, rather than avoiding them and hoping to cram some memorization the night before. Draw diagrams if needed to see how everything fits together.
3. Stick to printed materials
Although technology is great, and many textbooks are now available in an online format, try sticking to printed materials like notes and paper copies of the textbook. Avoid pulling notes up on a tablet or laptop. Reading on an iPad or Kindle actually causes you to read up to 10 percent slower.
4. Listen to music
Certain kinds of music can help you study more effectively. It helps elevate mood and may sharpen focus. Perhaps you shouldn’t turn on heavy metal, but try some classical music instead. Music engages different parts of the brain which help you pay attention and make more connections.
5. Don’t multitask
When studying, study. Don’t try and do multiple things at once. Put away the cell phone, and get off instant messaging. Multitasking allows for interruptions in the processing of information. There will be time for you to text later.
6. Get a good night’s sleep
Don’t stay up late the night before an exam, whether you were studying or not. Being well rested will help you concentration and focus when taking the test. Pulling an all-nighter could impair your test-taking skills, and cause extra anxiety or stress.
7. Teach the material
Teaching other students, friends, or roommates is one way to test yourself to see if you have truly mastered the material. If you can’t explain a subject to someone else, you probably don’t understand it very well yourself. Verbalizing thoughts also helps to break down big ideas and concepts.
8. Be prepared
Make sure that all of the materials you need are readily available before you study: pencils, paper, calculator, snacks, books, etc. If you are missing something, you may become distracted when you go looking for it. Avoid potential interruptions to study time, and get everything ready before starting.
9. Reward yourself
As an incentive to study, plan a reward. When you finish studying, or after the test, take yourself out for froyo or go to that movie you’ve been dying to see. A reward will help motivate you to study, and after all of that hard work, you earned it!
10. Speak out loud
If you reread notes or class materials as part of studying, consider reading sections out loud. At first it may seem a little weird, but it may be easier to recall facts and information that you have repeated out loud. In fact, a student is 50 percent more likely to remember something he or she said aloud than just read over.
11. Take a break
Don’t study for hours at a time. Take breaks in between subjects or categories. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed, improve productivity, and increase focus. After about an hour and a half, the brain doesn’t assimilate information as efficiently, and you will be less likely to remember things again later, so take a short break of five to ten minutes before delving in again. Don’t get too distracted, though, be ready to get back to studying after just a few minutes.
12. Vary material
Don’t read the same page of notes over and over. Vary the topic of study. This will help the brain make more connections. Changing up the material will also help to avoid falling into routines, and will promote critical thinking. For example, after solving 20 problems of addition, you will probably solve the 21st the exact same way. If you switch it up and include subtraction or division problems, you will have to use analysis skills to figure out the best strategy to solve the problem.
13. Move around
Having a designated study spot may seem to help improve studying, but research has shown that studying the same material in different places helps us retain the information better. Moving around not only breaks up study time, but it stimulates the brain as new connections with the material are formed. Maintaining a study spot can help improve concentration for students who are easily distracted, but they should still take breaks and get a change of scenery.
14. Space out studying
Instead of trying to tackle studying all at once, break it up. Study smaller sections over a longer period of time instead of cramming a lot of material into a short amount of time. Constantly reviewing small sections instead of memorizing everything at a time will help students learn more effectively and retain information better.
15. Practice the test
Take every practice test available to get familiar with the style and format. Go over study guides if they are provided. Another strategy to study better is to make up test questions and answer them. Especially after taking the first test, it is easier to predict what kinds of questions a teachers might ask. Thinking of potential test questions will help you master the material, and you may even ask yourself some of the actual test questions.
16. Write it out
Studies show that actually writing out what you learn will help you remember it better. Try recopying notes, definitions, or dates that were important in class. The physical action of writing out the information then helps the brain remember more easily, plus the practice may improve your penmanship.
17. Schedule time to study
If it is hard to find time to study in a busy schedule, consider setting aside a specific time in the day to study. Taking time to devote wholly to studies will help you to be less distracted and avoid procrastination. Whether your study time is designated to be in the morning, between classes, or after work, set aside study time, and stick to it.
18. Exercise before
Before studying, consider exercising. Exercise has proven to help the brain by increasing blood flow which also keeps you more alert throughout the study session. Exercising before studying improves the speed of the brain and cognitive functions. Check out this article from the New York Times on other benefits of exercise for the brain.
19. Quiz yourself
Simply reading material and memorizing notes is not the best way to study. Quizzing yourself is a very effective method of studying because it forces the brain to recall information instead. If you miss some questions, don’t stress. Information that is harder to remember while you are quizzing yourself, tend to be pieces of information that you are more likely to remember when it comes time to take the test.
20. Find what works best for you
One of the most important tips we can offer is discovering what works best for you. Everyone learns differently and retains information in different ways. Maybe exercising before studying is a great way to focus your mind, but others just get too tired to study. Find out which of these techniques works best for you and put them into practice.