Think you’re studying hard? Think again. Bad study habits actually hinder instead of help you to study your best. You know you’ve got bad study habits if hours of study are no help at all in passing a test, or your best effort doesn’t help you retain your lessons.
See if you’ve got any of these bad study habits and find out how you can get yourself back on track:
1 Taking no-good notes, making overdone outlines. Note-taking doesn’t just count in class, it counts during reading assignments, too. You don’t have to write down every single fact—just zero in on the main ideas and make bullet points.
But don’t just mindlessly write down everything the teacher or the book says. Rewriting your notes in outline form helps to make you more efficient while studying. An outline that has too many details, however, defeats the purpose of outlining. To fix this, use the “shrinking outline method” where you create a series of outlines containing less and less details.
2 Reading in circles. Rereading chapters and giving your highlighter a workout while you’re at it is not the best way to remember what you’ve read. It would be much better to make shrinking outlines and practice tests out of those highlighted words. You can also try explaining what you’ve read out loud to an imaginary audience.
3 Not strategizing or organizing. Studying without being organized is like going to war without a battle plan—you’ll be more likely to forget important dates for tests or exams. To fix this, try emailing reminders to yourself or use your mobile phone alarm.
A timetable app in your smartphone might be a good idea, too. Plan what you are going to study by outlining specific activities—instead of saying “Tuesday, 4PM: Study”, you could say, “Tuesday, 4-5PM: Outline first month of History lecture notes.” It would help to schedule your study periods in small, concentrated chunks within a regular, daily study routine.
4 Waiting and procrastinating. Putting things off till the last minute is like putting your grades on the line. Information learned while cramming isn’t usually retained because knowledge retention needs sufficient time and energy. Waiting until “conditions are right” or “you’re inspired” is another form of procrastinating, and so is not being able to make up your mind about where to start studying.
To fix this, you can start with the easiest lesson and then move on from there. As soon as you know a test is coming, you can begin by rereading your notes then making practice tests. Block off a few days a week to study so you don’t cram everything in a single night. If you feel that cramming works for you, try cramming two nights before the test so that the last night won’t be too stressful.
5 Running a “distractathon.” Studying requires focus, and anything that detracts from this focus counts as a distraction. Group studies can be a distraction, too. If you find that your study buddies are more like buddy buddies, then you just might have to choose studying on your own, or with just one, serious study partner.
Distractions likewise abound in your surroundings—an uncomfortable chair, a messy room, ambient noise, TV, music, online connectivity, friends, or family. The only way to fix this is to minimize the distractions as much as possible. Find a neat and quiet place to study by trying out different places like a library, or anywhere but your bed.
Bad study habits could lead to flunking or falling behind, so it’s important to correct them now before they become harder to break. Developing good study habits now will help you get ready for the next level of school, and for life after you graduate.