3 Ways to Study More Effectively

It’s that time of year again!  Yes, Finals are just around the corner and this is when life get exceptionally busy for college students.  We’re all busy finishing up last projects, presentations, papers, and preparing for our last round of exams plus our Final exams (yes, some professors give two tests back to back).  The great thing about college and higher education, you learn several ways to study.  I’ll cover three ways you can study more effectively and hopefully it will save you some effort whether you’re taking a final exam or studying for your next checkride.

#3: Do Less & Not More

Now, I know this seems a little backwards, but cramming more material versus being strategic about your study time has been shown to be more productive.  In a study done by the University of California – Las Angeles (UCLA), cramming for a test or burning through a pile of homework was less beneficial than getting the extra sleep and picking up again in the morning.

The pattern of cramming more homework in a few hours at night is often derived from habits in high school when most students are at school for hours a day only to come home to that many more hours of homework.  In addition to these habits, colleges often suggest two to three hours of studying for every one credit hour.  For the average student, taking the average full-time load of 12 credits, this is at least 24 hours of study per week.

Now, add the “recommended” 24 hours of studying, if you’re only taking 12 credits, and add your part time job (or jobs).  Most students are taking above the full-time limit to either finish programs on time, or just to quality for scholarships and financial aid.  Pretty soon, your “recommended” study time creeps well above 30 hours, not to mention your work schedule.

You end up being stuck with a few hours at night to accomplish everything you need to and you end up at the point of diminishing returns – less sleep, a propensity to become sick, and reduced attention spans.  This is where it is important to come to grips with the fact that sometimes doing less is actually more.

#2: What Worked Once Won’t Always Work Twice

A few years ago, I remember an individual asking me how I studied for my classes – I think they wondered if my study methods directly correlated to how well I did in class.  Moreover, it seems a common misconception is that a student uses exactly the same method for every class – this is far from the truth.

We learn many study methods over the course of high school as well as college.  However, I have found what works in one class does not work in others.  For instance, if you’re taking a class that is full of facts and numbers, such as a science class, you may find yourself using a lot of flash cards to memorize terms and definitions.  On the other hand, you may find yourself in a class that requires understanding concepts, and not just recognizing terms.  You will probably have to understand the context behind a definition and connect that to a real-world example.  This does not even account for the fact that no two professors teach or write tests and assignments the same.  For these reasons, I find myself adapting in almost every class when implementing my studying strategy.

For instance, I am currently in a class that prepares me for a certification exam in airport operations and administration.  The study material is almost entirely context-based, meaning I need to understand what something does rather than just memorize a term or a name.  I probably won’t get asked to select the correct year for a piece of important aviation legislation, but I’ll be given the name and date of that act and asked what it accomplished for the airport industry.

So, it’s important to get a feel first for how the professor teaches and what they test on and then adjust your techniques accordingly.

#1: Take a Break

I saved this tip for last because I think it’s the most underappreciated tip out there.  We all think “of course I take breaks!”  However, those breaks are probably after we’ve done an all-night study session and we want to grab a few hours of sleep before our big comprehensive final.  The most important piece of advice I got while in community college was to do intense periods of studying (30 minutes max) followed by 10 minutes of break.

This break could be on social media, listening to music, or some other relaxing activity such as walking.  The point is that you concentrate on studying with no distractions for a certain period of time followed by a real break.

Similar publications and articles suggest between 30 and 50 minutes of concentrated studying along with five to ten minutes of a break.  The goal is to get quality study time in which you actually retain knowledge versus pulling an all-night session and not being able to retain even half of the information.

Honestly, few people actually enjoy spending hours studying, but hopefully you have a few new ideas how to study more effectively.

Remember:

  • Study less, not more;
  • Be strategic in your methods;
  • And, take a break!

For all of you out there in the final throes of the semester (like me), keep up the good work and study smarter, not harder!

Image courtesy of Google.com.

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