Space out your Studying Cramming. Is. Never. A. Good. Idea. It might sound productive to do a huge study session right before a big test but research shows it’s a bad idea to cram all your studying into that day. Instead, space out those study sessions – you don’t have to spend more time studying, you just need to re-order your study time across a number of days or weeks. Cramming can leave you exhausted but if you space your study sessions out, you have a much higher chance of retaining the information.
Practice! Practice really does make perfect. It’s just as important to practice learning and test-taking as it is for athletes to train for their sport or musicians to practice their instruments. Taking practice tests helps you learn the quirks of the test, identify your knowledge gaps, track your progress and cement knowledge. Double-check with your course provider and see if they have to practise tests available. Practising should also help alleviate any anxiety you might have about taking the test and make sure you’re in your best mindset for the real thing.
Don’t just reread books and notes One of the most common mistakes students make when studying is rereading books and notes; studies show this is a superficial type of study and doesn’t make any meaningful difference to your knowledge recall. It looks like it makes sense. But until you try it yourself, you don’t really know if you understand it. Studying rewards active participation – don’t waste your time passively rereading.
Test yourself You’ll understand and remember information better if you can explain it to someone else. And if you can’t explain it, you probably don’t understand it well enough yet. Teachers often don’t just ask for definitions. They ask students to compare and contrast ideas and engage in critical thinking. There are lots of ways to test yourself and make sure you’re on top of everything such as creating flashcards, summarising key concepts and completing practice tests. This is easy to do by yourself but you could also engage with other people in your class and test each other.
Mistakes are okay — as long as you learn from them It’s crucial to test your memory but it doesn’t really matter how many seconds you spend on each try. What’s important is being able to focus on what you got wrong and work to correct it before the next try. A secret of science: Mistakes boost understanding. Making mistakes gives you the opportunity to focus on where you need the most help – it’s a primary key to learning.
Mix it up Studies show that it often helps to mix up your self-testing. Don’t just focus on one thing. Drill yourself on different concepts. Try to solve problems and recall information on your own. Then check to see if you’re right. Retrieval practise boosts your learning and memory. Usually, tests are formatted in a similar way so using this method of interleaving can help you learn better. If you practice one concept over and over your attention decreases because you know what’s coming up next. This method of studying could also help you see how concepts differ, form trends or fit together in some other way.
Use pictures Pay attention to diagrams and graphs in your class materials, they can really boost your memory of this material. And if there aren’t pictures, creating them can be really, really useful. Creating visual representations can help you create more complete mental models of concepts. Visuals summarize content into smaller, and easier to process chunks, and when you select the right visuals, they offer more comprehensibility than text-based explanations or only audios. Also, students effortlessly relate emotions with visuals, which make what you’re eLearning courses more impactful and memorable than only adding text.
Make a plan — and stick to it This seems like the most obvious way to improve your study habits, but that’s because it is tried and true. Many students know they should space out study periods, quiz themselves and practice other good skills. Yet many don’t actually do those things. Often, they fail to plan ahead. Try to create a study plan that fits into your day to day life and stick to it. Make sure you build in breaks for exercise and have a set place and time allocated to study. Start by scheduling the parts of your day which have set times (work, sporting commitments, weekly appointments etc.) and then identify the hours you are most productive and centre your study around them. Especially if you’re learning online, you have the ability to do little blocks of work throughout the day so whether you’d prefer to study late at night or early in the morning, choose what fits best with your day. Make sure you’re holding yourself accountable for the work you need to complete but don’t forget to take breaks and stop yourself from getting burnt out.