Science says this is the best way to learn and remember new things


Do you ever feel like your study habits simply aren’t cutting it? bởi you wonder what you could be doing to lớn perform better in class và on exams? Many students realize that their high school study habits aren’t very effective in college. This is understandable, as college is quite different from high school. The professors are less personally involved, classes are bigger, exams are worth more, reading is more intense, and classes are much more rigorous. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you need lớn learn some more effective study skills. Fortunately, there are many active, effective study strategies that are shown to lớn be effective in college classes.

This handout offers several tips on effective studying. Implementing these tips into your regular study routine will help you khổng lồ efficiently & effectively learn course material. Experiment with them và find some that work for you.

Reading is not studying

Simply reading và re-reading texts or notes is not actively engaging in the material. It is simply re-reading your notes. Only ‘doing’ the readings for class is not studying. It is simply doing the reading for class. Re-reading leads to quick forgetting.

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Think of reading as an important part of pre-studying, but learning information requires actively engaging in the material (Edwards, 2014). Active engagement is the process of constructing meaning from text that involves making connections lớn lectures, forming examples, and regulating your own learning (Davis, 2007). Active studying does not mean highlighting or underlining text, re-reading, or rote memorization. Though these activities may help to keep you engaged in the task, they are not considered active studying techniques & are weakly related to improved learning (Mackenzie, 1994).

Ideas for active studying include:

Create a study guide by topic. Formulate questions và problems and write complete answers. Create your own quiz.Become a teacher. Say the information aloud in your own words as if you are the instructor & teaching the concepts to a class.Derive examples that relate to your own experiences.Develop symbols that represent concepts.For non-technical classes (e.g., English, History, Psychology), figure out the big ideas so you can explain, contrast, and re-evaluate them.For technical classes, work the problems and explain the steps & why they work.Study in terms of question, evidence, and conclusion: What is the question posed by the instructor/author? What is the evidence that they present? What is the conclusion?

Organization & planning will help you khổng lồ actively study for your courses. When studying for a test, organize your materials first and then begin your active reviewing by topic (Newport, 2007). Often professors provide subtopics on the syllabi. Use them as a guide to lớn help organize your materials. For example, gather all of the materials for one topic (e.g., PowerPoint notes, text book notes, articles, homework, etc.) & put them together in a pile. Label each pile with the topic và study by topics.

For more information on the principle behind active studying, check out our tipsheet on metacognition.

Understand the Study Cycle

The Study Cycle, developed by Frank Christ, breaks down the different parts of studying: previewing, attending class, reviewing, studying, và checking your understanding. Although each step may seem obvious at a glance, all too often students try khổng lồ take shortcuts & miss opportunities for good learning. For example, you may skip a reading before class because the professor covers the same material in class; doing so misses a key opportunity khổng lồ learn in different modes (reading và listening) and to benefit from the repetition & distributed practice (see #3 below) that you’ll get from both reading ahead and attending class. Understanding the importance of all stages of this cycle will help make sure you don’t miss opportunities khổng lồ learn effectively.

Spacing out is good

One of the most impactful learning strategies is “distributed practice”—spacing out your studying over several short periods of time over several days & weeks (Newport, 2007). The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day. The total amount of time spent studying will be the same (or less) than one or two marathon library sessions, but you will learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term—which will help get you an A on the final. The important thing is how you use your study time, not how long you study. Long study sessions lead to lớn a lack of concentration và thus a lack of learning & retention.

In order lớn spread out studying over short periods of time across several days and weeks, you need control over your schedule. Keeping a menu of tasks lớn complete on a daily basis will help you lớn include regular active studying sessions for each class. Try to bởi vì something for each class each day. Be specific and realistic regarding how long you plan lớn spend on each task—you should not have more tasks on your list than you can reasonably complete during the day.

For example, you may vị a few problems per day in math rather than all of them the hour before class. In history, you can spend 15-20 minutes each day actively studying your class notes. Thus, your studying time may still be the same length, but rather than only preparing for one class, you will be preparing for all of your classes in short stretches. This will help focus, stay on đứng đầu of your work, and retain information.

In addition khổng lồ learning the material more deeply, spacing out your work helps stave off procrastination. Rather than having khổng lồ face the dreaded project for four hours on Monday, you can face the dreaded project for 30 minutes each day. The shorter, more consistent time khổng lồ work on a dreaded project is likely to lớn be more acceptable and less likely to lớn be delayed to the last minute. Finally, if you have to memorize material for class (names, dates, formulas), it is best to lớn make flashcards for this material and đánh giá periodically throughout the day rather than one long, memorization session (Wissman and Rawson, 2012). See our handout on memorization strategies to lớn learn more.

It’s good to lớn be intense

Not all studying is equal. You will accomplish more if you study intensively. Intensive study sessions are short và will allow you lớn get work done with minimal wasted effort. Shorter, intensive study times are more effective than drawn out studying.

In fact, one of the most impactful study strategies is distributing studying over multiple sessions (Newport, 2007). Intensive study sessions can last 30 or 45-minute sessions và include active studying strategies. For example, self-testing is an active study strategy that improves the intensity of studying và efficiency of learning. However, planning to lớn spend hours on kết thúc self-testing is likely khổng lồ cause you khổng lồ become distracted and lose your attention.

On the other hand, if you plan to lớn quiz yourself on the course material for 45 minutes and then take a break, you are much more likely to maintain your attention and retain the information. Furthermore, the shorter, more intense sessions will likely put the pressure on that is needed khổng lồ prevent procrastination.

Silence isn’t golden

Know where you study best. The silence of a library may not be the best place for you. It’s important to consider what noise environment works best for you. You might find that you concentrate better with some background noise. Some people find that listening to lớn classical music while studying helps them concentrate, while others find this highly distracting. The point is that the silence of the library may be just as distracting (or more) than the noise of a gymnasium. Thus, if silence is distracting, but you prefer to lớn study in the library, try the first or second floors where there is more background ‘buzz.’

Keep in mind that active studying is rarely silent as it often requires saying the material aloud.

Problems are your friend

Working & re-working problems is important for technical courses (e.g., math, economics). Be able to lớn explain the steps of the problems và why they work.

In technical courses, it is usually more important to lớn work problems than read the text (Newport, 2007). In class, write down in detail the practice problems demonstrated by the professor. Annotate each step và ask questions if you are confused. At the very least, record the question and the answer (even if you miss the steps).

When preparing for tests, put together a large danh mục of problems from the course materials and lectures. Work the problems & explain the steps & why they work (Carrier, 2003).

Reconsider multitasking

A significant amount of research indicates that multi-tasking does not improve efficiency & actually negatively affects results (Jnhatroso.como, 2012).

In order khổng lồ study smarter, not harder, you will need to lớn eliminate distractions during your study sessions. Social media, website browsing, trò chơi playing, texting, etc. Will severely affect the intensity of your study sessions if you allow them! Research is clear that multi-tasking (e.g., responding to texts, while studying), increases the amount of time needed khổng lồ learn material & decreases the unique of the learning (Jnhatroso.como, 2012).

Eliminating the distractions will allow you to lớn fully engage during your study sessions. If you don’t need your computer for homework, then don’t use it. Use apps to lớn help you set limits on the amount of time you can spend at certain sites during the day. Turn your phone off. Reward intensive studying with a social-media break (but make sure you time your break!) See our handout on managing giải pháp công nghệ for more tips and strategies.

Switch up your setting

Find several places to study in và around campus and change up your space if you find that it is no longer a working space for you.

Know when and where you study 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 a coffee shop with background noise, or in the study lounge in your residence hall. Perhaps when you study on your bed, you fall asleep.

Have a variety of places in & around campus that are good study environments for you. That way wherever you are, you can find your perfect study spot. After a while, you might find that your spot is too comfortable và no longer is a good place to study, so it’s time to hop to a new spot!

Become a teacher

Try lớn explain the material in your own words, as if you are the teacher. You can do this in a study group, with a study partner, or on your own. Saying the material aloud will point out where you are confused & need more information and will help you retain the information. As you are explaining the material, use examples & make connections between concepts (just as a teacher does). It is okay (even encouraged) to vị this with your notes in your hands. At first you may need lớn rely on your notes khổng lồ explain the material, but eventually you’ll be able to lớn teach it without your notes.

Creating a quiz for yourself will help you to think lượt thích your professor. What does your professor want you to lớn know? Quizzing yourself is a highly effective study technique. Make a study guide and carry it with you so you can nhận xét the questions and answers periodically throughout the day and across several days. Identify the questions that you don’t know và quiz yourself on only those questions. Say your answers aloud. This will help you to retain the information & make corrections where they are needed. For technical courses, vì chưng the sample problems và explain how you got from the question khổng lồ the answer. Re-do the problems that give you trouble. Learning the material in this way actively engages your brain and will significantly improve your memory (Craik, 1975).

Take control of your calendar

Controlling your schedule & your distractions will help you to lớn accomplish your goals.

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If you are in control of your calendar, you will be able khổng lồ complete your assignments and stay on vị trí cao nhất of your coursework. The following are steps to lớn getting control of your calendar:

Go through each class & write down what you’d lượt thích to get completed for each class that week.Look at your calendar và determine how many hours you have to lớn complete your work.Determine whether your các mục can be completed in the amount of time that you have available. (You may want to lớn put the amount of time expected to lớn complete each assignment.) Make adjustments as needed. For example, if you find that it will take more hours lớn complete your work than you have available, you will likely need lớn triage your readings. Completing all of the readings is a luxury. You will need khổng lồ make decisions about your readings based on what is covered in class. You should read & take notes on all of the assignments from the favored class source (the one that is used a lot in the class). This may be the textbook or a reading that directly addresses the topic for the day. You can likely skim supplemental readings.Pencil into your calendar when you plan to get assignments completed.Before going to bed each night, make your plan for the next day. Waking up with a plan will make you more productive.

See our handout on calendars và college for more tips on using calendars as time management.

Use downtime lớn your advantage

Beware of ‘easy’ weeks. This is the calm before the storm. Lighter work weeks are a great time lớn get ahead on work or khổng lồ start long projects. Use the extra hours lớn get ahead on assignments or start big projects or papers. You should plan lớn work on every class every week even if you don’t have anything due. In fact, it is preferable to bởi some work for each of your classes every day. Spending 30 minutes per class each day will địa chỉ cửa hàng up to three hours per week, but spreading this time out over six days is more effective than cramming it all in during one long three-hour session. If you have completed all of the work for a particular class, then use the 30 minutes to lớn get ahead or start a longer project.

Use all your resources

Remember that you can make an appointment with an academic coach to work on implementing any of the strategies suggested in this handout.

Works consulted

Carrier, L. M. (2003). College students’ choices of study strategies. Perceptual và Motor Skills, 96(1), 54-56.

Craik, F. I., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing và the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 268.

Davis, S. G., & Gray, E. S. (2007). Going beyond test-taking strategies: Building self-regulated students & teachers. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 1(1), 31-47.

Edwards, A. J., Weinstein, C. E., Goetz, E. T., và Alexander, phường A. (2014). Learning và study strategies: Issues in assessment, instruction, and evaluation. Elsevier.

Jnhatroso.como, R., và Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers và Education, 59(2), 505-514.

Mackenzie, A. M. (1994). Examination preparation, anxiety và examination performance in a group of adult students. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 13(5), 373-388.

McGuire, S.Y. & McGuire, S. (2016). Teach Students How lớn Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate in Any Course khổng lồ Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, và Motivation. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Newport, C. (2006). How khổng lồ become a straight-a student: the nhatroso.comonventional strategies real college students use to lớn score high while studying less. Three Rivers Press.

Paul, K. (1996). Study smarter, not harder. Self Counsel Press.

Robinson, A. (1993). What smart students know: maximum grades, optimum learning, minimum time. Crown trade paperbacks.

Wissman, K. T., Rawson, K. A., & Pyc, M. A. (2012). How & when vày students use flashcards? Memory, 20, 568-579.

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