You know you need to break your bad study habits. There are loads of great ways to study, but there are plenty of bad methods out there too. Let’s go over the study methods to avoid and the ones to prioritise instead, so you can actually remember all your material and nail your next test.
Avoid these bad study habits
- Rewriting: Rewriting is fine if you’re refining and condensing your material (and you should be rewriting your notes immediately after class for better retention)—but it’s not the best strategy for remembering information if you’re simply recopying everything you’ve already written over and over. The writing centre at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests condensing notes to the point that they only include key concepts. After or instead of that, try using active recall, a method that requires you to dig information out of your short-term memory to help that information stick around longer. You can use flashcards, summarize your chapters and notes out loud, or take a practice quiz—and it’ll be more helpful than basic rewriting.
- Taking linear notes: Writing down what you hear during a lecture is important, but doing it in a productive and beneficial way is even better. And while this might seem like it’s not really “studying,” remember that it’s the first big step toward overall retention. Just jotting down keywords and phrases or, worse, every single word, won’t help you identify main concepts or make connections between them. Instead, use a note-taking method like outlining or the Cornell method to actively listen and record the most pertinent information as you go. And don’t forget to revise them right away after class!
- Cramming: Cramming is an inevitable part of the college experience, but it’s not an ideal way to study every single time you have a test. In fact, scholars and researchers have suggested it may even backfire, causing you to remember less for your big test. Instead, schedule your studying out across multiple days. Use the distributed practice technique to create the perfect schedule for your studying based on when your next test is. It takes more discipline, but it will help you remember more material for longer periods of time, which makes it ideal for cumulative finals as well as regular old quizzes.
- Not taking breaks: Avoid failing to take breaks when you study, even if you’re not cramming. A key element of distributed practice is breaking the study sessions into chunks. You’re more productive when you take breaks, so try using the Pomodoro method to schedule those breaks consistently.
- Over-highlighting when you study: The University of British Columbia warns its students against over-highlighting, and for good reason: When you make everything a key point, you don’t remember the pieces of information that really are. There are benefits to colour-coding your texts and notes, but only if you do it intentionally and carefully. Instead of over-highlighting, try reading critically, using a method like SQ3R or KWL to identify exactly what you want to learn before you start studying, narrowing down the concepts that you need to look for and retain.
Lead image credit: Canva