Most college students know that going to class and studying are essential for earning good grades and getting the most out of college. But exactly how should you study?
Hint: Ditch the highlighters and embrace methods that are proven to guide students toward academic success.
Here are five study tips that will help you master material, retain knowledge, and take steps toward your academic and career goals:
Space Out Study Sessions.
In a 2003 study* of different learning techniques, researchers shared that one of the most effective methods of studying is to review material over time. In other words, no cramming! Spend a little time every day reviewing material your professor has noted as important during class time. Even 10 or 15 minutes a day will help strengthen your retention of the content and ensure you’re ready when it comes time to take a test.
The 2003 research study also showed that utilizing practice tests boosts memory, comprehension, and student performance. When possible, incorporate practice tests and/or quizzes into your study routine. You can use tools like Quizlet to create your own interactive flashcards and practice tests, too.
This is called “elaborative interrogation,” and researchers agree that explanatory questioning—and explaining one’s thinking—facilitates learning. So rather than just reading your textbook and trying to memorize a concept, ask yourself why something is true and why it makes sense. This approach to studying integrates any new information you learn with the knowledge you already possess.
Study With Others.
As subject matter becomes increasingly challenging (which is common in college), studying with others has important benefits. Surrounding yourself with other motivated students can be the nudge you need if you’re struggling to get started. Group studying is also ideal when you need help understanding or thinking through a topic or problem. And if you’re the one doing the explaining, this helps reinforce your understanding of the material. Of course, it’s critical to keep group study sessions on track. If you’re particular about your study environment and study time, make sure you don’t compromise your own learning just to study with others.
Vary Where You Study.
A 2010 New York Times article** examined several study habits that have long been considered most effective, and reported something surprising about where students study. Alternating study locations improves retention and comprehension (as corroborated by several studies over the past 40 years). Sit at your desk one evening and stand at your kitchen counter another. Try a coffee shop, then try the library. The point is that your environment can augment your study sessions, and you do not have to be in one designated study spot to learn. Changing things up can, in fact, be good for your brain.
Remember, studying is a learned skill, and it does take a little trial and error to figure out how you learn best. These methods are proven to work—so they’re definitely worth trying.
Of course most of us want to earn the best grades possible—but the biggest bonus that comes with learning to study effectively is that you’ll actually learn more. With each new class, you’ll feel more confident as a student, more certain about where you want to go in your career, and better prepared for the journey to come.
Don’t Be Shy. Ask for Help.
At FRCC, each campus has an Academic Success Center. For more tips on understanding yourself as a learner—and guidance on effective learning techniques—explore FRCC’s academic resources at your campus.
Now… go hit those books!
* “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology,” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, January 8, 2013.
** “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” The New York Times, September 6, 2010.