If you want to do well at school, on standardized tests, and in college, you are going to want to develop strong study habits sooner rather than later.
While many students, especially in middle and high school, feel like cramming for a test the night before is an adequate way to prepare, this method of “learning” information negatively influences long-term recall and is not sustainable in the long run.
Cramming and last minute or disorganized studying will not serve students well who want to get A’s in IB or AP courses, earn an SAT score in the 99th percentile, or attend an ivy league school.
Although there is not a tried and true, one-size-fits-all approach to studying that is guaranteed to be the best study strategy for each individual, students must practice good study habits to reach their fullest academic potential.
Here are seven study habits that you can use to improve your academic performance:
1. Find a designated study spot
It will be hard for you to study effectively if you do not have a study area that is conducive to learning.
Studying at the kitchen table when your parents, siblings, and pets are moving in and out making noise and causing distractions is not going to give you the peace and quiet you need to study well. Studying in your bed when you’re tired and ready to go to sleep won’t help you either.
You need to find a spot that is quiet and free from distractions. The last thing you need is for several people to be bidding for your attention or creating noise while you are trying to focus.
You also need to make sure your study area is comfortable enough for you to stay there for long periods of time, but not so comfortable that you lose all motivation to get work done.
Try finding a quiet corner of your home, a quiet coffee shop or bookstore, or a library where you can spend time studying without losing focus.
2. Minimize distractions
We’ve all had moments where notifications from our phones or a sudden desire for a snack have kept us from getting work done that we needed to finish.
Your study sessions will be far more effective if you minimize distractions by doing the following:
- Silencing notifications or turning on settings like Focus on your smartphone
- Listening to a playlist with studying music that is conducive to helping you concentrate and focus rather than your favorite songs that might be distracting
- Only taking breaks during designated windows of time
When you work toward eliminating distractions, it will help you focus long enough to study well.
3. Use spaced repetition
You didn’t learn your alphabet by repeating it to yourself or with your parents over and over on one single night.
Instead, you heard and repeated it multiple times over the course of several months until it was firmly ingrained in your head.
Likewise, when it comes time for you to study for a class or a test, you should adopt spaced repetition practices. Spread out the information you are learning over a long period of time to help you improve your information retention and recall.
If you have a math test at the end of a unit, study a little bit every other day, being sure to focus on content that you don’t know while also revisiting concepts that you know well from time to time. If you are studying for a major exam like the SAT or ACT, start studying months in advance, going back to old information periodically to strengthen your knowledge of the material.
4. Don’t be afraid to take breaks
While it might sound counterintuitive, taking well-planned study breaks can actually increase your productivity and your ability to focus.
If you are so tired of studying that your eyes are straining to see the information on the page, pushing through is not going to be helpful.
Try taking a short break for 15 minutes after every hour you spend studying. During this break, try to continue to avoid distractions or activities that will make it difficult for you to return to studying after your designated break time.
Instead of getting on your phone for 15 minutes or watching part of a tv show that you’ll likely want to finish, try taking a short walk to get your blood pumping or grabbing a snack that will keep your energy up when you return to studying.
5. Form a study group
Studying with others is a great way to limit distractions, receive extra support, and hold yourself accountable for getting your studying done. If you struggle to find the willpower to study or you find it difficult to study on your own, joining or forming a study group can help.
When you are in a study group, you will have people who can push you to keep studying when you want to quit, encourage you to stay focused instead of spending time doing other activities or taking too many breaks, and answer questions you might have as you study.
Furthermore, studying with a like-minded group of students will allow you to practice explaining difficult concepts so that you can improve your understanding of the material and make reviewing flashcards and other study materials easier and more fun.
6. Organize your notes
Studying is going to be difficult if you can’t find all of the notes you need from class. Set the groundwork for effective studying by organizing your notes when you are taking notes in class.
Label the notes you take every day and create a system that allows you to keep track of the key information presented in each of your classes.
You shouldn’t have to flip through random, scattered notes for math and Spanish to find your history notes. You shouldn’t have to search all throughout your notebook just to compile the notes from a single unit in Biology.
Staying organized will help you have your notes in one place where you can find them easily when you are ready to study.
7. Create a study schedule
When you have multiple classes to study for or a long exam you need to take, it can be easy for some of the material you need to review to slip through the cracks.
Creating a study schedule can alleviate this problem and allow you to find time to study for each and every class and test on your plate.
Make a schedule that maps out what subjects you will study for at what times, and don’t forget to include break times in this schedule.
With a set study schedule, you will be able to ensure you have plenty of time to study all of the material you need without worrying about forgetting a key concept or running out of time and being forced to cram information before a test.
Learn more about effective study habits and see how Prep Expert can help you prepare for your classes and for standardized tests when you visit our website.