Bad habits and good habits: how to learn to study well

As finals week looms in the not-so-distant future for college students everywhere, it is time to take a look at those good study habits and also the bad ones that we have all once been guilty of. College students eat, sleep, go to class, work and study. It makes up our 24 hour days, which we wish we could extend with time relativity like Matthew McConaughey in “Interstellar”.

But alas, we are not that advanced yet so we must fill those 24 hours as much as we can. But what study habits are beneficial? How much time should you spend studying? These are the questions we will explore.

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, college students on average spend about 17 hours studying. Not only does this include test studying, but also class readings, projects, and other homework assignments. Previous advice had been for college students to study three hours per class hour. So, for the average 15-hour semester, a student could be studying upwards of 45 hours per week.

Not enough time in the day, right?


So if college students have this limited amount of time to study, let’s look at tips on how to be most productive.


1.     Study over time

According to Dartmouth, studying should be broken  down instead of trying to cram during one nine hour session, a commonality for college students. Instead, try breaking up studying over two weeks’ time, studying in thirty-minute time intervals to truly maximize studying, while decreasing the amount of time you have to spend on it each day.


2.     Study during the day, don’t wait until night

As the day goes on, your body has to use more energy to fight sleep. Instead of studying in your bed at 11pm, try studying when it is light outside. Your brain will be more awake and not distracted by the fact that it is getting closer (or maybe already past) bedtime. There is no reason to wait until late at night to study- it also means you will get to bed earlier!


3.     Put the hardest classes first

You know what your classes are like, so don’t avoid the hard work of your hardest class. Getting through it creates more study time and an all-around good feeling because of your accomplishments. While it may seem like a good idea to wait around to write that ten-page paper, it actually extends the anxiety about the assignment. Procrastination is a battle that many college students face but one of the easiest to solve.


4.     Find the appropriate place

While it may be fun to study with a group of people at the loud coffee shop, it may be detrimental to the amount of information you are actually taking in. People react differently in many environments; what may seem like the ideal place to study (a crowded Starbucks), can be distracting. Students are already distracted enough with cell phones, social media, and group texts. A busy location can just add to those distractions.


5.     Be an active studier

What does it mean to be an active studier? Do more than just re-read your notes; take the time to rewrite them. Make them into flashcards, so you are actively trying to guess the material rather than just passively reading.


For more studying tips, check out this ASAP Science video.


Good luck out there, kids!