Study Smarter Not Harder

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Do you ever feel like your studying habits aren’t doing the job? Are you wondering what you can do to help you perform better in class and on examinations? A lot of students realize that their high school study routines aren’t particularly effective when they go to college. This is quite understandable since college is quite different from high school. Professors aren’t as personally involved, classes are more extensive, tests are worth more, reading is more intense, and classes are much more rigorous. This doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you; it simply means that you have to master some effective methods of studying. There are plenty of innovative, efficient study methods which have proven efficient when taking college classes.

This handout offers several tips to help you study effectively. Incorporating these suggestions into your regular study routine can help you efficiently and effectively learn subject matter. Explore them and you will find ways to use them.

Reading is not studying

Simply reading and re-reading texts or notes isn’t engaging in the material. It’s just rereading your notes. Only ‘doing’ the class readings isn’t studying. It’s simply readings for class. Re-reading leads to quick losing track of the text.

Imagine reading as an essential part of your pre-study, but learning information requires active engagement in the material (Edwards 2014). Active involvement is the act of constructing meaning from text that requires making connections with lectures, creating examples, and regulating your self-learning (Davis 2007). It is not about highlight or underline text and re-reading it, nor rote memorization. Though these activities may help to keep you engaged in the course but they aren’t classified as active study techniques and have no connection to better learning (Mackenzie 1994).

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Ideas for active studying include:

  • Create a study guide based on topic. Write down questions and problems, and then write your complete answers. Create your own test.
  • Be an instructor. Then, speak the information in your own words as an instructor. Then, you can teach the concepts to a class.
  • Find examples that are relevant to your personal experiences.
  • Create Concept map or diagrams that help explain the subject matter.
  • Create symbols that represent concepts.
  • For non-technical classes (e.g., English, History, Psychology), figure out the big ideas to be able to explain how they are different, then compare and revise the ideas.
  • For technical classes, work the problems , and then explain the steps and why they work.
  • Study in relation to question, evidence, and conclusion: What is the question being asked by the author or instructor? What evidence will they offer? What do you think is the most conclusive conclusion?

The organization and planning process will assist you to actively study for your classes. When studying for a test start by organizing your material and then start reviewing according to topic (Newport, 2007). Most professors will provide subtopics on the syllabi. Utilize them as a way to organize your material. Take, for instance, all of the materials for one topic (e.g., PowerPoint notes as well as text book notes assignments, articles, etc.) and arrange them in an orderly pile. Label each pile by subject and then study according to the.

For more information about the premise behind active study take a look at our guide on metacognition..

Understand the Study Cycle

The Study Cycle, developed by Frank Christ, breaks down the different components of studying: previewing studying, attending classes, reviewing study, analyzing, and testing your comprehension. While each step might seem obvious at a glance However, too many students try to take shortcuts and lose opportunities for learning. For instance, you might not read a book prior to class because your instructor covers the same material in class; doing so is a missed opportunity to develop your skills in two different ways (reading as well as listening) and benefit from the repetition and distributed practice (see the next section) that you’ll get from both reading ahead and taking classes. Understanding the importance of each of the steps of this process can help ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities to learn effectively.

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Spacing out can be beneficial.

The most impactful techniques for learning is “distributed practice”–spacing your study in short intervals of time, spread out over many days or weeks (Newport, 2007). The most efficient method is to devote a little time on each class every day. The study time will be equal (or less) as two or three marathon library sessions. However, you’ll be able to absorb the material more thoroughly and remember it more for the long term–which will help get you an A in the final. It is important to consider how you use your study time instead of how you study. you sit down to study. The long study time can cause an absence of focus and consequently a decline in studying and retention.

To be able to spread study sessions over short intervals of time that span several days and weeks, you must have an understanding of how to manage how you manage your timetable. Maintaining a list with tasks to complete each day will help you to include regular active studying sessions in each class. Try to do something daily for every class. Be precise and realistic about how long you’ll dedicate to each project. You must not have more tasks that you can reasonably complete during your day.

For instance, you could complete a few tasks per day with math instead of each one of them for the time before class. In the field of history, you could take 15 to 20 minutes every morning concentrating on the class notes. Therefore, your time spent studying will likely be the same length, however instead of just preparing for a single class, you’ll be working on all of your classes in short stretches. This will help focus to stay on top of your work, and keep in mind the information.

Alongside learning the material more thoroughly, spacing out your work helps stave off procrastination. Instead of having to confront the task you’ve been dreading to complete for 4 hours Monday, you are able to work on it for 30 minutes every day. A shorter, less consistent period of time for working on the project that you are dreading will probably more manageable and less likely to be delayed until the very last minute. Finally, if you have to recall material in classes (names, dates, formulas) It is recommended to make flashcards for this material and review periodically throughout the day, rather than one long memorization session (Wissman and Rawson 2012).

It’s great to be intense

There is no standard for studying. You will accomplish more by studying intensively. The study sessions that are intensive are shorter and can help you complete your work with less waste of effort. Less time-consuming, intense study sessions are more effective than drawn out studying.

In actual fact, one of the most impactful study strategies is distributing studying across several sessions (Newport 2007). Study sessions that are intensive can last 30 or 45 minutes and also incorporate active study strategies. For example, self-testing is an active learning strategy that improves the intensity of study and effectiveness of learning. However, planning to spend long hours self-testing will likely result in you becoming distracted and lose interest.

However If you are planning to test yourself on the course material for 45 minutes, and then take breaks, you’re more likely to keep your attention and retain the material. Also, the shorter and more intense classes will put the pressure on that is needed to prevent delay.

Silence isn’t golden

Find out where you learn best. The library’s silence may not be the best environment for you. It’s important to consider what noise environment works best for you. It is possible that you’re more focused when there’s some background noise. Many people report that hearing classical tunes when they study helps them concentrate, while others find it distracting. The point is that the silence of the library may be equally disturbing (or more) as the noise from an exercise facility. Therefore, if the silence is annoying, but you choose to study in the library, consider the first and second floors where there is more background noise.’

Keep in mind that active learning is not always quiet, since it typically requires reading the material aloud.

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Problems are your best friend

Re-working and working on problems is crucial for technical courses (e.g. math, physics economics,). Know how the problems are solved and explain why they’re effective.

In technical classes typically, it’s essential to solve problems rather than reading the text (Newport 2007). In class, write down all the details of the exercises taught by your instructor. Annotate each step along with asking questions in case you are unclear. At the very least, record the question and the answer (even in the event that you do not follow some steps).

While preparing for the test prepare a comprehensive list of the problems that you have learned from textbooks and lectures. Answer the questions and describe the steps and the reasons for why they work (Carrier 2003).

Reconsider multitasking

Research has shown that multi-tasking doesn’t boost efficiency, but actually can impact outcomes (Junco 2012).

To learn smarter instead of less, you’ll have be able to block out distractions in your study time. Social media, internet browsing games, texting, gaming and so on. can greatly impact the quality of your learning sessions if you allow them! Studies have shown the fact that multitasking (e.g. responding to text messages, while studying) will increase the time required to learn material and decreases the quality of learning (Junco, 2012).

By removing distractions, it will be possible for you to focus fully on your study sessions. If you don’t require your computer to do your homework do not use it. Make use of apps that can help you limit the time you can spend at certain sites during the day. You can turn off your mobile. You can reward your study with an interruption to social media (but make sure you time your break!) Check out our guide on managing technology for more information and strategies.

Adjust your settings

Find a variety of places to study in and around campus and alter your surroundings in the event that you discover that it’s not an ideal workspace for you.

Be aware of when and where you learn best. It may be that your focus at 10:00 PM. is not as sharp as at 10:00 AM. Perhaps you are more productive at an establishment with background sound, or in your study room in your apartment hall. Maybe, when you sit down to study on your bed, it is easy to get sleepy.

Have a variety of places within and around the campus that can be a good study space for you. That way wherever you are in the world, you will be able to find your ideal study space. After some time, you could find that your spot is too comfortable and no longer is an ideal location to work It’s the right time to find an alternative location!

Learn to become an educator

Make sure to present the information using your own words as if you were the instructor. This can be done in a study group, with a study companion, as well as on your own. Speak the material aloud to help you identify areas you are confused and need more details and help you retain the knowledge. When you’re explaining the subject, you can use examples and link the concepts (just as a teacher would). It is okay (even encouraged) doing this using your notes in your hands. At first you may need use your notes for a way to explain the material, but eventually you’ll be able to teach the material without notes.

Making a test for yourself will allow you become more like your teacher. What would your teacher want you to be aware of? It is an extremely efficient method of studying. You can create a study book and take it along with you to review the questions and answers periodically throughout the day and for several days. Choose the questions that you aren’t familiar with and test yourself on only those questions. Answer your questions aloud. This will allow you to remember the information and make corrections where they are needed. For technical courses, try the sample problems and explain how you got between the query and the solution. Re-do the problem that gives you problems. Learn the material in this way stimulates your brain and will significantly enhance your memory (Craik 1975).

Take control of your calendar

Becoming aware of your schedule and distractions will help you to accomplish your goals.If you have control of your calendar you’ll be able to complete your assignments and keep in the loop with your studies. The following are steps to taking control of your schedule:

  1. Each day on the same week, (perhaps on Saturdays or Sunday evenings) create your plan for the week.
  2. Review each class and write down what you’d like to get completed for each class that week.
  3. Examine your calendar and decide how long you have to complete your task.
  4. Determine whether your list can be completed in the time you have available. (You may want to indicate the time required for each task.) Make adjustments as needed. If, for instance, you realize that it will take more hours to complete your project than time to spare, you’ll probably need to triage your readings. Completely completing all the books is an option. You’ll need to choose your readings based on the material that is being taught in the class. Read and make notes on every assignment using the most popular class source (the one commonly used in class). This may be the textbook or a reading that is directly related to the subject for the day. You may also read supplementary readings.
  5. In pencil your calendar the next time you intend to have assignments done.
  6. Before going to bed each night, make your plan for the next day. Waking up with a plan can help you be more productive.

Utilize downtime for your advantage

Beware of weeks that seem easy. This is the calm prior to the storm. A lighter week of work is an ideal opportunity to start working on work or to start long projects. Make use of the extra time to get ahead on assignments or to begin large assignments or papers. Plan to work on every class every week even if you have nothing due. It is better to complete a task for every class each day. By committing to 30 minutes of class every day can add up to the equivalent of three hours per week, but spreading that time over the course of six days is much more efficient instead of cramming everything into a single three-hour class. If you’ve finished all of the work required for the particular class, you can use the 30 minutes to advance or to start on a bigger project.

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By karansuryakant

I have an online tutoring business and I teach students all over the world. I specialize in teaching complex subjects in an easy-to-understand manner.

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