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8 Important Tips for Studying Effectively

Studying is a huge part of high school, and often times, you’ll see students frantically flipping through textbooks during lunch right before finals. Okay, I’ll admit, that was also me. However, learning good study tips can go a long way, and data by the National Survery of Student Engagement shows that students who spent more time studying than students who spent minimal time studying had better grades and more confidence. A paper presented during the American Educational Research Association meeting states, “Learning is strongly influenced by the degree to which an individual is invested in the learning process.” Yet, effective studying is key, even more important than spending hours poring over a textbook, so here are some tips I learned to get all A’s in my classes!

1. Finish all assignments and homework, and make sure to participate in class

Before you start studying, make sure you finish all of your classwork. It’s important to understand the material and listen in class so you won’t have to study even more by yourself to understand what was taught in class. Make sure to ask questions and take advantage of office hours if they’re offered by your teacher, since again, it’s incredibly important to understand the material. Regularly turning in assignments can also improves your grade, as often times, assignments and homework does make up a portion of your grade.

This graphic shows the difference between growth and fixed mindset! Image Source

2. Have a growth mindset for studying

I know, teachers talk about growth mindset and how important it is all the time, but I didn’t realize it until high school. It’s important to realize that you need to put in the work and effort to be successful and achieve your goal. In math class, my teacher would hand out review worksheets with extra problems that were optional, but most people decided not to do the optional problems, because, well, it was optional. I decided to finish the optional problems, which really helped me practice the type of questions that would be on the test. However, this isn’t just your teachers telling you to have a growth mindset, a study found that students who were taught to have a growth mindset towards learning resulted in higher test scores. It’s important to know that studying and achievements will take time and effort, so be prepared to go above and beyond to reach your goals!

3. Take advantage of available resources and textbooks

Using textbooks and other online resources such as Khan Academy can help you practice for questions that may be on the exam. I usually study math by practicing problems in my textbook and checking my answer through Mathway or PhotoMath, which are free math problem solvers that can help solve the math problems and offer explanations for how to do the problem. For my language classes, Quizlet is an online study tool that helps students learn through flashcards, games, and other tools. It has been incredibly helpful in helping me review vocabulary and practice for quizzes, so I’ve gotten perfect scores on my vocabulary quizzes by using Quizlet. In addition, even when you’re not studying for an exam, it’s always great to learn, especially during summer! Check out my post on free online learning resources so that you can have a head start when you begin the school year!

These were my notes I took for “The Science of Stem Cells.” I took them using the outline method!

4. Stay organized and take good notes

Notes help you remember the material taught in class, and according to a study in Psychological Science, taking notes using pen and paper helps boost memory and retain information. However, it can be hard to take perfect notes during class, so a way to overcome this issue is to write down notes during class, and condense the important information on a notecard when you’re studying using mind maps or other methods that help you remember best to summarize the most important information. I find it really hard to stay focused when I’m just passively reading from my textbook, so by taking notes and condensing information, it helps me stay focused since I’m actively studying. Some examples of active studying include creating study guides, teaching the material to others, creating connections and mnemonics, working on practice problems, and more. Also, staying organized during class and having an organized workspace allows you to access notes when you need it and eliminate distractions. Here’s another tip especially for open book exams: Write down all the important information and summary of the page on the margins of the textbook or notebook, and use sticky notes labeled with a short description of what the page contains so you will have an easier time finding all the information you need.

Khan Academy SAT Practice
Khan Academy can help you practice for the SAT!

5. Practice using previous versions of the exam

Using exams from previous years is the best way to practice, since it’s likely that your exam will be similar. This is also a good way to practice for the SAT, as Khan Academy and College Board both offer practice tests, although for other tests, you may be able to find previous versions of the exam, which is similar to taking a practice test. Make sure to time yourself, check your pace, and get used to the format so you can get a feel for how the actual test will be like. However, when old exams or practice tests aren’t available, you can create your own practice test by finding practice problems online or in the textbook then copying and pasting them onto a document and printing it out. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

One strategy that many people swear by is the Pomodoro Technique!

6. Plan your study time and know your study style

Sometimes I don’t feel like studying at all, while other times, I’m extremely motivated and focused. Try to find the best study time for you, so for example, if you are more focused in the morning, plan your study time in the mornings. Some people find it helpful to study in short bursts, and many studies back up this method, including Paul Kelley, honorary research associate at Oxford University, who found that, “students who take regular breaks from studying tend to retain information better. Spaced learning gives the brain time to embed the information using the brain’s own neurons.” However, I don’t like being disrupted when I’m focused on studying, so know your studying style and create a study schedule to stick to! Find the study environment that works best for you, and create a schedule so you won’t have to cram the entire semester’s worth of material into one night.

7. Remember to stay healthy!

Yes, it can be tempting to pull an all-nighter to study, but research shows that sleeping helps retain information, and taking a nap after learning something new can help you process the information. Make sure to eat healthy, drink water, exercise and go to sleep, which are generally things that are important for maintaining your health, but can also improve concentration and memory. Researchers found that students who ate breakfast performed better than students who didn’t, as breakfast helps improve short-term memory. School can get stressful, but remember, your health is the most important thing there is, so take care of yourself!

PubMed is a great resource for medical literature!

8. Read literature and actively engage in the topic

For college students, often times, professors will assign required readings that are helpful for understanding the material later. I’ve found it useful when taking online college courses, but when teachers don’t assign readings, reading literature in the topic is a good way to stay current, particularly if you’re interested in it. Jessica Priddy Bullock, the director of pre-health services at Oklahoma State University, states that students interested in the healthcare field should read at least two pieces of medical literature a month to keep up to date on current medical innovations. If you’re passionate about a career field, take the time to actively engage and pursue opportunities in the field! If you’re not sure what you want to do in the future, it’s also helpful to explore some topics that you’re interested in to find out what you’re passionate about!

The average student spends 17 hours a week studying, so there’s no doubt that effective studying is an important skill to have. However, while it may seem like a long and difficult task, learning how to study effectively can help you save time and effort in the long run, and you’ll have time to do other activities. Yet, while studying for tests and exams may be stressful, the most important thing is your health, so it’s important to remember to take care of yourself! Now, if you’re a student who’s procrastinating, go study, you can do this!

Bibliography

Kuh, George D., et al. “What Matters to Student Success: A Review of the Literature.” National Postsecondary Education Cooperative, July 2006, pp. 1–156., nces.ed.gov/npec/pdf/Kuh_Team_Report.pdf.

McGee, Kimberley. How Does the Amount of Studying Affect Your Grades? 25 June 2018, classroom.synonym.com/amount-studying-affect-grades-8711.html.

Martinovich, Milenko. “Studying More Strategically Equals Improved Exam Scores.” Stanford News, 5 May 2017, news.stanford.edu/2017/05/08/studying-strategically-equals-improved-exam-scores/.

Young, Jeffrey R. “New Study Shows Where ‘Growth Mindset’ Training Works (And Where It Doesn’t) – EdSurge News.” EdSurge, EdSurge, 8 Aug. 2019, www.edsurge.com/news/2019-08-07-new-study-shows-where-growth-mindset-training-works-and-where-it-doesn-t.

Borreli, Lizette. “Using Pen And Paper, Not Laptops, Boosts Your Memory.” Medical Daily, 7 Feb. 2014, www.medicaldaily.com/why-using-pen-and-paper-not-laptops-boosts-memory-writing-notes-helps-recall-concepts-ability-268770.

Herbert, Wray. “Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking*.” Association for Psychological Science – APS, 28 Jan. 2014, www.psychologicalscience.org/news/were-only-human/ink-on-paper-some-notes-on-note-taking.html.

Hatch, Robert A. “How to Study.” How to Study – Not a Bad Skill to Have – Dr Robert A. Hatch, users.clas.ufl.edu/ufhatch/pages/02-TeachingResources/study/.

Taylor, Tess. “New Study Shows the Power of Learning in Short Bursts.” HR Dive, 14 June 2016, www.hrdive.com/news/new-study-shows-the-power-of-learning-in-short-bursts/420595/.

Markman, Art. “How Sleep Enhances Studying.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 7 Nov. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ulterior-motives/201611/how-sleep-enhances-studying.

Simon, Harvey B. “Sleep Helps Learning, Memory.” Harvard Health Blog, 30 Oct. 2015, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sleep-helps-learning-memory-201202154265.

“Food for Concentration: 11 Foods That Boost Memory & Help You Focus.” Edited by Smitha Bhandari, WebMD, WebMD, 13 Nov. 2019, www.webmd.com/add-adhd/ss/slideshow-brain-foods-that-help-you-concentrate.

Pierre, Kathy. How Much Do You Study? Apparently 17 Hours a Week Is the Norm. 18 Aug. 2014, www.usatoday.com/story/college/2014/08/18/how-much-do-you-study-apparently-17-hours-a-week-is-the-norm/37395213/.

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