How to Improve Your Study Habits
Students often believe that studying is simply revisiting material before an important test or exam. But successful study is so much more than that.
Study is the time you spend, going over material you have learned in class on your own. Ideally, you should allow time for studying every week, rather than waiting until just before that big test.
Studying includes reading about your subject, taking notes, making outlines, and creating flash cards.
Here are some study tips to make your study time more useful and productive. What is the point of studying at all if you waste your time and don’t learn what you need to know?
When it comes to learning, we all have our preferred methods of going about it. In reality, there are four main learning styles:
- Visual learners learn best by seeing. They respond well to diagrams, color-coding, video, and patterns.
- Auditory learners learn best by listening. They respond well to audio cues such as speech, music, rhymes, and other sounds.
- Reading / Writing learners learn best by reading and writing the material they need to study.
- Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. They enjoy role playing, building models, drawing diagrams and making flash cards. They try to find situations to put the subject into practice in the real world.
By knowing your learning style you can adapt your methods of studying. For instance, if you respond well to visual cues, you could draw up mind maps, use color extensively in your note taking, and utilize YouTube videos relevant to your subject. If you are an auditory learner you might create a rhyme to help you remember certain facts or listen to podcasts about your topics.
In many ways, if you are a reading / writing learner you will find traditional study easier than other learners, as you feel the benefit from reading relevant textbooks and making study notes. Conversely, kinesthetic learners find traditional study the most difficult (and you are likely to excel at more practical subjects where you have the opportunity to put your learning into practice).
You need to find somewhere to study where you won’t be interrupted. This depends, to some extent, on your learning style. For instance, music may enhance focused study for auditory learners, yet it may distract from it for others. These same auditory learners may easily be distracted by a television in the background, while others may simply tune out to it.
You need to find a study area that best meets your needs. Some students may find that a busy coffee shop is an ideal study spot for their personality. Others may prefer to lock themselves away in a totally quiet environment, free of any distractions.
An alternative view put forward by some researchers is that you can focus better by regularly changing your study spot. If you study material in a variety of places your brain builds up different associations in relation to the material you study and this builds up a stronger memory.
This is particularly important in the lead-up to an exam or major test, but it is still beneficial for your general study. If you can create a set studying timetable, and put it into your calendar, you are giving yourself a commitment to keep. It also helps you to ensure your study is organized and that you split your time between subjects as necessary.
Studying can be daunting at the best of times. It is extremely easy for your mind to wander. Therefore you need to help yourself as much as you can by removing as many distractions as possible.
Begin by ensuring that you have everything that you will need to study. Having to wander somewhere else to collect your notes or important textbooks is an easy way to distract yourself from what you should be doing.
If you can’t mentally switch off to television or music, make certain that your study area is in a place where you can’t hear these distractions.
We all know how easy it is to become distracted online – just a quick peek at Facebook can easily become a 20-minute detour into your study time. This is where a product like FocusMe is ideal. You can use it to block distracting parts of the internet where you know you are likely to lose focus when you should be focusing on your study.
Some students spend all of their time studying, particularly coming up to exam time. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for students to crash and burn when they do this.
It is far better to spread your study over a prolonged period, while at the same time continuing all of the other activities of a normal life. You are far more likely to retain the information you study if you allow some time for daily exercise and socialization.
When it comes to studying, quality is far more important than quantity. Long study makes room for counterproductivity; your mind wanders, you feel sleepy, you become bored, and you’re easily distracted. You’re far more likely to retain information if you do your studying in short bursts, fitting those bursts around your other daily activities.
Make sure you know the deadlines for every assignment you have to do during the term, across all of your subjects. This will allow you to figure out the best sequence for working on your assignments.
It is easy to procrastinate on work you find difficult or boring, and delay starting an assignment until it is almost too late.
Whenever you are given a new assignment, or any work with a deadline, enter it into your study planner, giving yourself plenty of time to complete everything that is necessary. It is far better to record your deadlines and prioritize your work by when it is due, rather than by how easily you can do it. Be prepared to adapt your schedule whenever somebody changes your assignment deadlines.
One exception to this, though, takes difficulty into consideration. Schedule the subjects that are hardest for you first so you can work on these when your mind is freshest.
When you complete a successful study session, make certain that you reward yourself with fun activities. Think of the reward as an incentive to get through and do the necessary studying. The anticipation of your reward should give you extra energy to help you achieve your study goal.
Everybody has their own way of taking notes, and this will be influenced by the type of learner you are. Visual learners, for instance, find using color and different sized headlines more useful than auditory or kinesthetic learners do.
Some general suggestions for creating better notes include:
- Ensure you are fully prepared when you arrive in class, with sufficient pens, paper and highlighters. If you’re an auditory learner investigate whether you can record the lesson (or whether your teacher provides copies of the lesson online)
- Make a conscious effort to pay attention to the lesson; “concentrate on concentrating”
- Start each lesson on a new page, with a clear heading showing what the lesson is about and its date
- Develop a note taking technique that best suits your style. If you are a visual learner, draw diagrams that help you understand the material covered. If you are an audio listener focus on writing down what you hear.
- Avoid writing in full sentences. Use bullet points, abbreviations, and symbols. These all make for quicker note-taking.
- Try and convert ideas into your own words when writing them down
Allow time after class—or perhaps in your next scheduled study spot for that subject—to review, edit and organize your notes. If need be, rewrite them in a more organized way.
If you are a kinesthetic learner look for practical opportunities to practice the lesson’s learning if possible.
“The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” – Oprah Winfrey
If you manage to organize your time spent studying, and make it consistent across an academic year, you can avoid the stress and difficulties of trying to cram study at the end. The key to study success is planning a consistent study program that allows you to live a normal life.
Study smartly, rather than studying more. The time you set aside for studying in your Study Plan does not need to be excessive or dominate your life. You just need to use it carefully and cleverly, avoiding procrastination and time-wasting distractions.
By knowing your learning style, you can tailor your study to focus on your strengths. That should improve your ability to retain information, and allow you to progress faster towards meeting your academic goals.