Practical Tips to Make Studying More Effective
If you’re like most people, you never took a class on how to study effectively in school. Many of us just had to figure it out on our own and do the best we could. Studying for an exam can seem frightening or overwhelming at times. Often, the discomfort associated with studying leads to procrastination, and sometimes to feeling like just giving up to avoid the pain of it all. There are, however, some very helpful tips on how to improve your study habits, and we’re happy to share those with you.
1. Space Out Your Studying – “Space out” does not mean completely forgetting to study. What we’re saying is don’t try to cram all of your studying into one or two short sessions. Your study sessions should begin as soon as you start taking a class or training program. Many courses are cumulative, which means the second lesson builds on the first one, the third lesson builds on the second, and so on. If you start your studying immediately, then add information gradually, you’ll create a solid foundation that you can build on. Instead of trying to remember big chunks of content, you’ll be reinforcing ideas that came first and adding on smaller amounts of content as you go.
2. Total Recall – Once you’ve learned a concept or skill, put it into practice. At random times during the day, practice what you’ve learned by reciting the steps or performing the task. Each day, pick a few times to practice what you’ve learned or to quiz yourself about the information. Studies have shown that by practicing periodically with breaks in between allowed students to have better recall of information than those students who relied on long study sessions once a day.
3. Don’t Just Reread Texts and Notes – Simply rereading your text or your notes is not only really boring, it’s ineffective. Try rewriting your notes in a different way. Use different colored pens or pencils (or crayons, if that’s what you’ve got!) Make some flash cards for key terms or concepts, create quizzes that someone can read to you for you to answer. Of course, reviewing notes and texts is helpful, but don’t make it your only form of study.
4. Shake It Up – For many of us, studying for school meant sitting down, picking the class or subject to study, reading a book or notes, then moving on to the next class or subject. The same old routine probably got pretty dull and hard to stick to. The idea of shaking it up is getting out of the routine. Try studying while you walk on a treadmill. Try posting flash cards around your house and then moving them around (or have your friends or family help you out with that). Try quizzing yourself on your commute to or from work. Create mock questions and sing your answers to your favorite song. There’s no wrong way to shake it up as long as it gets you away from doing what’s routine and boring.
5. Add Visuals – University students in Germany were studying philosophers. One group of students received text about each philosopher along with a silly cartoon demonstrating key points about that philosopher. Other students only received the text. Guess who did better on the test. You don’t have to be a visual learner to benefit from adding visual information to your studying. Create your own pictures, find images on Google, or use another creative method of creating a visual component to your studies you’ll improve your recall of the subject.
6. Use Incentives – It might sound silly, but bribing yourself can be an effective means of helping you study. If you’re aching to get on that new video game, make a deal with yourself. For every 25 minutes you study, you can take a 10 minute game break. The important thing is to stick by the deal. You have to do the studying to earn the reward. It’s good to take breaks while you’re studying, but don’t let the breaks take over your study time. Make sure you’re creating good guidelines for yourself and following them.
7. Make a Plan and Stick to It – You’ve heard the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” There is a lot of truth to that concept. Creating a plan gives you a road map that you can follow all the way to your success. Sure, things will come up that will interfere, but when you have a plan, it’s easier to handle those interferences. Your plan should include scheduling your study time, identifying possible interruptions and how you’ll contend with those, knowing your deadlines, and planning your celebration for when you succeed.
Following these study tricks doesn’t guarantee you’ll ace an exam, but they can help you learn the material more easily and give you confidence as you prepare to tackle whatever your next hurdle may be.