Does anyone actually know how to study? Seriously though, how effective are your study habits? Whether you’re a freshman in high school or senior in college, following a few simple tricks to establish good study habits can make a huge difference.
1. Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin studying. Not only will your performance on the test suffer, you’re less likely to remember the information when finals roll around. Save yourself the stress and just start studying earlier.
2. Review every day. Make studying a daily habit. Create a review sheet, study guide or flash card deck for each class and make sure to look at it every day. Use your phone to flip through flashcards on the bus, while waiting in line, or even in bed right before going to sleep.
3. Make a schedule and stick to it. Especially when finals are coming up, plan out your time to make sure you can cover all the material that will be on the test. Don’t stress if you fall a little behind, but if you find yourself lagging significantly behind the pace you have set for yourself, do your best to get yourself back on track. Block out time each day for studying, but be realistic; don’t schedule a power-study session on a Saturday night if you know you won’t follow through.
4. Test yourself. Studies show that self testing is the best way to study and retain information. Quiz yourself regularly and take practice tests to prepare for an exam.
5. Try handwriting notes. Yes, it takes longer than typing and yes, it means that you won’t have your laptop available for checking Buzzfeed in class, but that’s probably a good thing. The act of transcribing notes by hand is shown to significantly help memory retention. Try handwriting notes in class (to minimize distractions) and then retyping them afterwards as a study method.
6. Get enough rest. Staying up late (or all night) the night before a big test might seem like a good way to cram as much information into your head as possible, but this habit can actually be detrimental. Researchers believe that sleep is required for encoding, or consolidating, memories. This means that without adequate sleep, you’re less likely to remember what you studied the day before.
7. Prioritize. There’s never enough time to do everything. Even if you study 24/7, there would still be more you could do. When you’re making a study plan, allocate the most time to topics that you think (or your professor has told you) will be most important on the test. If you have a few midterms in a short amount of time, spend the most time studying for the test that has the most bearing on your final grade.
8. Get to know your professors and T.A.s. Seriously, they’re there to help you. Go to office hours whenever you can. Not only can you get your questions answered and glean valuable hints for the exam, many teachers will reward students who they know have worked hard by “bumping up” their final grade if they fall on the borderline. Even going to a few office hours a month might be the difference between a B+ and an A-.
9. Go to class. Seriously, don’t skip class. Not only is it a waste of money (if you look at the cost of your tuition and do the math, classes tend to cost anywhere from $50-$400 per lecture), it’s also a huge missed opportunity. You might tell yourself you’ll review the lecture slides on your own, but it isn’t the same as attending class and learning the material from the professor herself.
10. Take breaks. Studying non-stop is exhausting and, eventually, you get to a point where you’re no longer being productive. Now is the time to TAKE A BREAK. Grab a snack, visit a friend, or go for a walk. A brief change of pace is often all you need to get back on track.
11. Don’t watch Netflix while you study. You can’t – trust me. This applies to any TV/movie watching. It’s distracting and it’s not productive. Just don’t do it, okay?
12. Stay off social media too. You don’t need to refresh your Twitter every five minutes. If you must check what your friends are up to, make it an hourly reward and limit your time online to a few minutes. Programs like SelfControl or StayFocusd allow you to make a list of sites that you want to keep yourself from visiting (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Buzzfeed…you know the ones) when it’s crunch time and will prevent your browser from opening them.
13. Celebrate! Treat. Yo. Self. If you’ve just finished all your midterms, turned in a final paper, or taken an especially hard exam, make time (even if it’s just 20 minutes to grab some fro-yo) to celebrate your accomplishments.