It’s 10 pm on a Sunday night and you’ve just started to study for tomorrow’s big test. You’ve been delaying this task all week, and now you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re going have to pull an all-nighter to prepare. Sound familiar? Take heart. Studying doesn’t have to be a difficult, time-consuming chore if you don’t want it to be. Follow these 10 steps to improve your study habits.
1. Make it Routine – Schedule in a little study time every week for each of your subjects. This block of time can be as short as 2 or 3 thirty minute sessions per week.
2. Choose a Quiet Place – Ideally, your work space should be free from all distractions. Turn off the cell phone, the TV, and close any unnecessary windows on your computer. Easier said than done, right? Try it, though. You may be surprised see how quickly you finish when you concentrate on one thing at a time.
3. Write it Down – The simple act of writing can reinforce your memory. In class as well as during your study sessions, take plenty of notes. Use pens/highlighters in different colors if you need to, and make sure to write legibly so that you can decipher your notes later on.
4. Study the Hardest Subject First – Sounds counterintuitive, right? Look at it this way – if you cross the most difficult material off of your list first, the rest will be easy. Putting it off until you’re tired will only prolong your study sessions and lead to unnecessary frustration.
5. Use Your Senses – For hard to remember or abstract details choose an object in the room and associate the two in your mind. If you can, try to do some studying in the actual room that the test will be given in. That way you’ll be able to look around the room on test day and remember those details.
6. Think in Metaphors – Find ways to compare the information that you’re studying with things that you are already familiar with. For example, you can compare an animal cell to a city. The nucleus is city hall, the DNA are the original blueprints for the city, and the RNA are copies of the blueprints. The golgi apparatus, which ships proteins throughout the cell, is the postal system, while the mitochondria is the energy plant of the city. This metaphor can go on and on, but it’s a simple method that helps you associate the name and purpose of each item in the cell.
7. Take Breaks – Studying for extended periods of time can be tedious, so don’t forget to take time out for a walk, a healthy snack, or a quick chat with a friend or family member. If you are tempted to pick up the phone or go online, be sure to stick to a time limit.
8. Join a Study Group – Studying with other people can help motivate you to stay on task and reach your goals. Be sure to use this time to wisely, however. It’s okay to socialize, but don’t let that get in the way of actually studying.
9. Give Yourself Plenty of Time – Cramming the night before a test is not only stressful, it seldom leads to long-term memory retention. Sleep also plays a vital role in memorization, so it’s important to pace yourself and spread your studying over at least a couple of days.
10. Test Yourself – Ask a friend or family member to quiz you on what you have studied. You can use old tests, study guides from your teacher, or the review section in your textbook.