Studying is essential if you want to perform well in school and pass important tests. While we all recognize the importance of studying, sometimes it can be difficult to put effective study methods into practice. This is a universal problem among students and test-takers. As an expert in test preparation, we are here to share some beneficial study tips that can help you develop a strong foundation to perform well on your exams.
1. Study in manageable blocks of time.
One of the most common misconceptions is that you need to have long study sessions to cover a vast amount of material. This is actually a hindrance to your brain’s ability to retain information. It is better to separate your studying into small, 20-30 minute sessions so that your brain is able to retain a higher percentage of the information presented.
2. Create a consistent study schedule.
In order to help your brain prepare to retain information, try setting up specific times during the week for designated studying. If you have a specific study schedule, your brain will recognize the pattern and become more receptive to new information during these study times. It’s helpful to study within 24 hours of learning new material, as studies show that if a student reviews what they have learned from that day, they are 60% more likely to remember the information.
Another recommended time slot for studying would be right before you go to sleep. While you’re sleeping, your brain is working to strengthen and retain new memories. Because of this, if you study just before sleep, your brain will readily retain the new information.
3. Make connections between your various study topics.
If you only memorize a few concepts, but can connect those concepts to your other fields of study, that will help you to access information that you were previously unable to memorize.
4. Use flashcards rather than just rereading your notes.
A common study habit for many is to repeatedly reread their notes and highlight the key points. However, studies show that this is a generally ineffective habit. A better practice is to use flashcards. Why is this? When you continually reread things, you are not challenging your brain to truly understand the concepts. When using flashcards, you are forcing your brain to actually learn about the subject, in order to recall the answer to the prompted question.
5. Set specific goals for each study session.
An easy way to ensure that your shorter study sessions remain concise and effective is to have a specific study goal. Instead of overloading your brain with a large variety of information, it is better to focus on learning a specific concept. This helps to improve retention and confidence in that particular subject. It is also important to reward yourself when you complete these goals! Allow yourself to take a break, spend time with friends or treat yourself to a snack.
6. Explain the concepts you’re learning out loud.
Another way to better understand the topics you’re studying is to teach them to others. Explaining a concept aloud will strengthen your understanding of that concept and your ability to recall the details. While this is a great exercise to do with fellow classmates and friends, you can also teach to an imaginary audience. It doesn’t matter who you explain the material to, as long as you have the ability to explain it.
7. Test yourself with practice questions.
If you are able to find a practice test about the specific concept or test you are studying for, be sure to take advantage of it. Practice tests are a great tool for highlighting which concepts you need to focus on further. Taking practice tests also inspires confidence in the subject of testing. Look for practice test sources like Mometrix Academy or Test Prep Review in order to have a successful test day.
8. Find study environments where you can be productive.
In order to help with neural retention, it is beneficial to find your “special” study place. Try to find a quiet space where you can be alone and focus on studying without distractions. Whether it’s the library, a coffee shop, your room or elsewhere, keep track of which locations inspire the most productivity. Once you’ve established these locations as designated study spaces, your brain will register that it’s time to focus and become more receptive to new information.
9. Don’t listen to distracting music while you study.
While music can inspire a sense of calm or motivation, it can also be distracting. Although certain types of classical music have been shown to assist your brain with information retention, upbeat music with lyrics can make it more difficult to focus. So if you do choose to listen to music while studying, try to stick to instrumental music.
10. Put your cell phone away while you study.
Of all the distractions students face while trying to study, cell phones are likely the most significant one. While text messages and social media are great forms of communication, they have no place in the study environment. One strategy you can try is setting a timer on your phone, and agreeing not to look at your phone within that set time period. Establish checking your phone as a reward for staying focused, rather than letting it repeatedly divert your focus away from the material you’re studying.
We hope these tips will help you to develop great study habits and ace your upcoming exams! You’ll be amazed by the benefits gained from following these simple techniques. Good luck in all of your academic endeavors!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016, but has been updated for clarity and relevancy.