How to Build Better Study Habits to Study Better
Far too many smart and capable students express frustration over their grades. They are putting forth the effort, but not seeing results. These students don’t lack ability; they lack quality study skills training. They need to build strong study habits.
Understanding the Problem
Students should apply efficient study techniques when completing homework, preparing for tests, and writing papers.
Yet schools offer little or no direct instruction for how to study (Zimmerman, 1998). Should an athlete compete in a tennis match without at least a few basic lessons in how to hold a tennis racket? Why do we expect students to fend for themselves when it comes to academics? Many students are unaware that proven techniques exist to aid them in their schoolwork (Gersten, 1998). They don’t know the learning methods that could improve their academic competence. These skills help in all subject areas and even apply to their post-graduate professional life.
Some students know they are not studying effectively. However, they don’t know how to improve their study habits. In 2008, the University of California surveyed over 160,000 undergraduates. Their goal was determining what students felt were their biggest obstacles to academic success. The number one reason students say they struggled? The report called it “inadequate study skills.” These students did not know how to study in a useful way.
From Struggling to Successful with the Right Study Habits
The good news: Direct instruction in study habits and skills can turn a struggling student into a successful one.
The New York Times reported, “In recent years, cognitive scientists have shown that a few simple techniques can reliably improve what matters most: how much a student learns from studying” (Carey, 2010).
Even better news is that these same basic study techniques apply to a wide range of people and subject areas.
The Times article continues, “The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language” (Carey, 2010). Learners also enjoy greater self-confidence that comes with achieving higher grades. Taking control of your learning is self-empowering.
Based on our research and years of experience, we have discovered three study techniques that achieve the greatest learning results for most students.
Top 3 Study Habits
- Set up a study routine
Having a set routine makes everything easier. This is because you need less willpower once your routine becomes a habit. Good study routines include the following:
- A designated study location, but beware the bedroom.
- Weekly planning time in your schedule to plan ahead for the following week.
- Study sessions scheduled ahead of time to keep from procrastinating. This will also help you become more productive.
- Space out your study sessions and review your notes using the 1, 3, 7 Study Hack.
Review your notes and study in shorter sessions. Spread out sessions over several days or weeks. It is much more efficient than one or two long review sessions. This has to do with the way the brain’s memory systems work. Spacing the review sessions out will make it easier for your brain. You will remember the information for a longer period of time.
- Create Practice Tests
Testing yourself to prepare for a test is one of the best ways to study. In fact, testing yourself has such a strong effect on memory that researchers even have a name for it. They call it the “testing effect.” You can use this research to your advantage. Start by creating a Pre-Test Organizer. Once you have an idea of which material you should focus on, you can create practice tests.
You can also use flashcards or use websites such as Quizlet.com to create your own practice tests.
Each one of these materials are ways that you can use the “testing effect” to your advantage.
A student cannot expect to succeed in academics without having the tools to do so.