5 Studying Mistakes You're Probably Making


Image via Kinga Cichewicz


Finals season is a trying time for us all. It's bad enough that it becomes necessary to spend time studying, so the idea that that time could be being wasted should be setting off all sorts of alarm bells. Here are some things I've learned to avoid in order to so I can study as efficiently as possible (read: for as little time as possible).

1. Studying too much

Now, this may sound counter-intuitive but sometimes, in order to study, you need to stop studying. If you’ve been studying for hours on end, skipping meals, operating on energy drinks and a faint memory of what it’s like to get a full night’s sleep, you're studying too much. At that point it may feel like you’re being as productive as possible, but in reality, not only is your brain operating less than optimally, your retention levels are likely to be abysmal and it’d be a better use of time to get some real horizontal in-a-bed sleep and some food with actual nutritional value.

2. Studying too many things

You know when you go grocery shopping and you end up with one of those carts that makes each turn like it’s a breath away from toppling over and squeaks in protest every time you try to go in any direction other than straight ahead at a snail’s pace? That’s your brain. Studying one subject for 45 minutes is going to be a lot more productive than studying three subjects for 15 minutes each.

3. Studying the wrong things

Be logical about this. If you understand something completely, reviewing it over and over again to bolster your confidence for the test may not be the best study strategy. In the same vein, if something frustrates you, ignoring it is not going to help your test scores. If you spent 3 weeks in class going over something, maybe study that a little more than the thing the professor touched on in the beginning of class once. Now is not the time to pursue equality, it’s time to pick a favorite child and hope they get rich.

4. Using the same method

This is one I was guilty of up until the kind woman presenting at the ALEC pointed out the flaw in this system. If you use flashcards for calculus, psychology and biology, and in the middle of a test you blank and try to pry some information that you swear you studied from you unforgiving brain, the chance that your brain pulls up a card that is related to the right subject is one in three. If you used flashcards for biology, a review sheet for psychology, and practice quizzes for calculus, you’ve at the very least conned your brain into presenting you with the right subject.  

5. Studying at the wrong time

I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but we all need to say it sometimes. The morning of the test? The night before the test? Too late to start studying. Too late to be studying new material. The only thing you should be doing then is reaffirming knowledge you’ve already obtained. Cramming things into your short-term memory isn’t going to work long-term. Trust me on this, I’ve tried it often enough for us all.