Naturally, every student is different, so each of you would do best to create your own study regimen. The advice that follows is based on experience and common sense, and I’m sure it’s hardly unique. If you Google “how to study,” you should find other techniques, along with ones that are similar to these.
This might sound obvious, but an appalling number of high school and college students cheat on their sleep. When I tell my own sons that they’ll learn more efficiently on a full night’s sleep, they protest that they feel fine.
Yet numerous studies have demonstrated that students learn less efficiently if they miss even an hour of sleep. Most adults should sleep for at least seven hours; some need as much as nine. Cheating on your sleep can have other (medical) consequences as well. Don’t mistreat your body for some extra time – it’s just not worth it.
2) Take Breaks
We tend to remember what we learn at the beginning and end of a study period the most. And breaks “recharge your mental batteries.” Just don’t overdo it (study at least 80% of the time you lay out).
3) No Music
…or other distractions. Even professionals disagree on this point. “Music can relax you,” they point out. But again, studies have shown that we are poor multi-taskers, and we retain more when we study in a quiet environment. Don’t wear an iPod just because “it’s cooler.”
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with having something to drink handy. Some students reward themselves with a piece of candy after they’ve worked for awhile. Such comforts are often worth the small distractions they carry.
4) Don’t waste time studying what you already know
That sounds quite obvious, yet I find that most students don’t follow this advice. If you need to know the material in a chapter for a test, and you read it over and over, you’re not learning efficiently. Go over the chapter once, and write down what you don’t know as you go. Then do the same with the notes you just made. You’ll end up with a few facts, and be finished in time for dinner.
The same applies to vocabulary, geometry, or almost anything you need to learn. Don’t study hard – study smart, and you’ll feel better about yourself, have more free time, and become a better student.
5) Use Mnemonic Devices to aid retention
Mnemonics are like (legal) steroids for the brain. Suppose you’re trying to remember that “gregarious” means “sociable.” You could repeat that several times and still forget it. But think of a friendly guy named Greg, and you’ll probably remember the word for life.
6) Study soon after class – don’t procrastinate
I was a “last minute crammer” in school, and I thought I was in the minority. Then I learned that nearly all of us tend to put things off. “Deadlines motivate me!” my students protest. But if you study (memorize, solve problems, take practice tests, etc.) shortly after class, you will naturally do it better.
I know most of you will read this, think “good idea,” and put off studying anyway. Be strong! Make a resolution to study early.
7) Write stuff down
I was going to use another word in place of “stuff,” but this is a family-friendly blog. You’re more likely to memorize a fact if you write it down yourself. An you’ll become more proficient at a technique if you work though it on your own, rather than only watching your teacher.
I’m not saying you should copy an entire chapter out of a textbook in order to learn it. Instead, follow the procedure in Tip #4.
8 ) To group or not to group
Study groups can be productive, if each member is serious about learning, and if other members’ insights will help you understand the material. But all too often, study groups are merely excuses for social interaction, and actually hurt learning. It’s up to you to make the call.
9) Set up a proper Study Area
If you like to study at the library, that’s fine. But you’ll probably do most of your studying at home (perhaps at a dorm room when you’re in college). You want a distraction-free workplace, with good lighting, a comfortable chair in which you can sit upright (and stay awake!), and ample desk space. The comfy couch does not qualify.
Parents – why not help setting up your child’s study area? It’s a win-win.
10) Sometimes you shouldn’t study
Obviously, you won’t learn very well when you’re tired, angry, depressed, sad, etc. Since you’re resolved not to be a procrastinator, you can wait until you’re well rested and good to go.
If you take your studying seriously, and become better at it, you’ll actually find you enjoy it more. And your scores will love you for it.