How to Study

Fine-tuning your study habits

Once you’ve picked out the perfect study place, the next step is to develop a consistent set of study habits. No two students study exactly the same way. The strategies that work for one person may create confusion for another. However, there are a few basic study techniques that have been proven to produce good results for almost everyone.

The Basics

Try to do as much studying as you can during the daytime. Your mind is less alert in the evening, which means that retention of information will be lower and it will take longer to accomplish the same amount of work. Study the hardest material first. If you start with the easy stuff, you might not get to the more complicated stuff until you’re too tired to figure it out.

Use time-management strategies to plan out your study time. Get started early. Pulling an all-nighter before an exam is definitely not the best way to learn. Studies show that students remember information best when they study in repeated short bouts. In general, you should plan on studying for two or three hours per hour of lecture.

Study with the goal of understanding the material, not just memorizing it. Make study notes. Think of questions that might be on the exam and come up with answers for them. Consult your lecture notes and try to recall any cues your instructor gave about what course material was the most important. Focus on the major themes and concepts of the course. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in minor details.

Study the Format

Make sure to take note of the format of the exam. Not every exam follows the basic multiple choice format. You may also be required to complete essays, short answer questions, fill-in-the-blanks and true-or-false questions. Knowing in what format the questions will be asked is vital to passing a test. You should study very differently for an essay exam than you would for a multiple choice exam.

Make sure you know what course material (lectures, readings, etc.) is being covered on the exam. If an article that you haven’t read is on the test, read the article! Likewise, if certain articles that you have read are not going to be tested, don’t waste time studying them.

Group Study

Some students find that group study is very beneficial. They feel more comfortable asking their peers for help than they would asking their instructor. Plus, studying in a group allows for collaborative learning. On the other hand, some students feel that having others around breaks their concentration. Try out group study and see if it’s right for you.

Take a Breather

It’s okay to take a break every once in a while during a study session. In fact, it’s a good idea. Your brain can only concentrate for so long. If you cram for hours straight, your ability to retain information will suffer. Getting away from your studies for a few minutes can also help you manage the exam anxiety that many students struggle with.

Take a 5- or 10-minute break for every hour of study. A short, brisk walk can be a great way to refresh your energy. Some students like to close their eyes and meditate (or at least let their mind wander). Just make sure that whatever you do for a break isn’t so much fun that you forget to go back to studying.

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