This post was written by ScIU Senior Undergraduate Intern, Carly Jones.
Getting back into school and a study routine is not always easy, yet we have to manage somehow. But have you ever considered you could be studying wrong? As it turns out, common techniques such as highlighting, re-reading, and mnemonics (for example, PEMDAS) are not very effective. In fact, most of the time, they do not boost performance and offer limited benefits compared to other techniques. Luckily, researchers have identified study methods that are actually effective and improve learning. Check out these 5 proven studying techniques that will help you maximize studying:
- Recall: Stop Review
People tend to review the material: glance over notes, check highlighted words, re-read passages. However, this is not effective because it does not require you to retrieve the information like on an exam. Instead, use recall, or retrieval practice, where you recall information (verbally, mentally, or even written) from memory, then repeat after reviewing incorrect answers. This technique ingrains the information because it is more cognitively active. Some examples include practice tests and flashcards.
- Focus: Ditch “Multi-tasking”
“Multi-tasking” is really not possible, despite our persistent belief that we can do many things at once. In reality, these attempts to split our attention lead to prolonged studying and inefficient use of time. Our brains do not fare well switching tasks and this stop/start process from one task to the next wastes a lot of energy and time. Ultimately, the best strategy is to focus and limit distractions such as music, conversations, and phones.
- Print: Avoid Digital
Almost everything is online these days, including our textbooks, but unfortunately it could be stifling our learning. Recent studies have demonstrated that print text has higher and faster rates of learning information compared to digital text. Clicking through pages instead of flipping back and forth is more distracting for us, which lowers our ability to focus our attention. In addition, the lack of physical markers (i.e. location on page) can make recall more difficult because we lack that reference point previously available in print text. So, when
possible, try to find physical print!
- Variety: Forget “Learning Styles”
We all remember those “learning styles” from grade school, but there is little evidence to support this idea. The notion is that you should cater your learning to one of the 7 styles; for example, a visual learner should use diagrams and pictures. However, research has instead shown that we all benefit from a variety of these “styles.” Incorporating several modes of study (i.e. using visual, auditory, and verbal) is far more effective because it is stimulating and keeps interest, as opposed to using one single sense and getting sensory overload.
- Spacing: Cut Cramming
All of us are guilty of cramming the night before a test and spending hours trying to remember as much as possible. But at the end of the day, this technique is not setting us up for success. Spaced practice is better for learning because it fights the forgetting curve. With this technique, you study intermittently over time so information goes into long-term memory instead of short-term memory with cramming. Instead of forgetting, our brains are able to remember the information because of the repetition over several study sessions.
Studying is extremely important to college life, and it can make or break how well we do in a given class. However, a lot of the time, we find ourselves making common mistakes that actually do not help us learn, like cramming or reviewing. Fortunately, using recall, print, focus, variety, and spacing will help you maximize your studying! Using some or all of these techniques may just give you the little boost you need to get back into the study grind. But, keep in mind, these are lifelong tips that can be used for anything in the future like work! Which one of these methods will you be using before your next exam?
Study techniques that work — and (surprisingly) don’t
Do E-Books Make it Harder to Remember What You Just Read?
The Myth of Multitasking
How to Study Using the Spaced Practice Method
Different Learning Styles