Do you study for long hours but never seem to make any headway? Are your grades stuck at average, no matter how long or how hard you study? It’s possible that you could just be doing it all wrong. While there are so many study techniques out there, only a few are really effective. Social media and other digital distractions mean that you’re actually multitasking all the time instead of going deep into a study flow. But research has proven time and time again that there really isn’t a way to successfully multitask.
A lot of time is wasted when switching from one task to another. If you spend three hours studying and scrolling through Instagram at the same time, your focus will be divided and the quality of the time spent studying significantly diminished. The learning techniques you use could also be keeping from success. Studying for long periods of time (over five hours), studying a single subject for a long time, reading and re-reading texts, highlighting important concepts, and reviewing notes are just some of the more popular but ineffective study techniques you may be using.
So much studying with little results may make you want to throw up your hands and just pay someone to do my homework. But you don’t have to take that route just yet. Here are five scientifically proven habits to help you get the most out of your study time.
- Pre-Test. Research shows that when students answer questions even incorrectly, their ability to learn that subject in the future is significantly improved. Pre-testing can therefore increase your chances of success better than spending the same amount of time studying.
- Spaced Practice. Don’t spend too much time on any one topic. Studying for shorter periods has been known to improve retention and recall more than spending five hours on a topic can. You can use flash cards for spaced practice. The cards you are able to answer easily should be set aside to be reviews three days later. The cards that you or answer incorrectly or fail to answer should be reviewed the next day.
- Quiz Yourself. Taking tests has been proven to be one of the best ways to learn a new concept. This goes back to the idea of answering questions rather than reading a block of tests. Quizzes should therefore be a part of your study time.
- Consider Interleaving. Instead of studying in block practices, consider studying a set of topics that are related but not the same. For example, instead of studying multiplication problems, study addition and multiplication since the problems can often be solved using the same strategy.
- Reflect on the Subject Matter. Most students will read a block of text like a few paragraphs during their study time, but fail to analyze what they have just read. A few hours after studying, they find that they’ve actually forgotten what they’ve just read. The single best strategy to combat this problem is to read a section of text, stop and think of how you would explain the concept to a 5-year old. Take the time to reflect on the new knowledge and ask yourself questions on the topic before moving on to the next block of content.