It would seem only logical to assume that by the time students get to college, they know how to study. Some college students may have productive study habits down to a science from day one. But there are many others who need some advice on how to better manage their study priorities. If you are in this group, take a moment to consider the following study habits that may help improve your GPA and ease your stress when it comes time to take exams.
1. Pick Times and Places to Study
Avoid the temptation to study whenever you get a chance. Instead, determine ahead of time when you can fit studying into your schedule and where you study without disruptions. Use your phone to set reminders for your designated study times and select a location where you can actually study. For some college students, this is a quiet library, for others it’s a cozy spot outside on campus. Sticking to a study schedule often eliminates a lot of the common stress-triggers that can make it difficult to retain and absorb what you are studying.
2. Prioritize Study Tasks
Instead of holding off on the more difficult materials until last, tackle this stuff first. You’re more likely to be in the right frame of mind to concentrate on something more demanding when you first start studying. You’ll definitely appreciate shifting to more basic tasks as your study sessions wear on and wind down.
3. Set an Appropriate Mood
Studying in complete silence works for some college students while others concentrate better with some light background noise. Whatever your preferred mood is, get yourself all set before you start studying so you can focus and not get distracted by your immediate environment. This also applies to the time of day that works best for you. Some students are more productive at night while others have more energy and alertness in the morning.
4. Take Good Class Notes and Ask Questions
There’s more to studying than just what’s in your assigned reading materials and books. Class notes can give you a better idea of what an instructor considers important, which is what’s likely to be emphasized on exams. Asking questions and participating in class discussions can also help you clear up any confusion over certain subject matter.
5. Don’t Cram for Exams
Cram sessions have been a staple of college life for generations. Even so, it’s not an effective study technique. Having a late night of studying or finishing up an assignment now and then is fine, but using the cramming technique as your go-to study method won’t properly prepare you for mid-terms and finals. Biologically, information doesn’t sink in from late-night sessions because memories are formed during the deeper stages of sleep. According to the American Psychological Association, recall is better when studying is evenly spread out through the semester instead of in long, stressful sessions the day or night before exams.
6. Join or Form a Study Group
Most college students prefer to study alone. While solo study sessions can be productive, group sessions can be an equally effective complement to those sessions. If the class you need help in doesn’t have a study group, take the initiative and ask some students to join you and form a group. It can be helpful to get insights from other students who may have a better understanding of some difficult topics than you do. Fellow students also tend to explain things in a “less technical” way than instructors sometimes do, which also helps with comprehension.
7. Know When to Ask for Help
Don’t use the way you grasped material in high school as a guide for your ability to comprehend everything you’ll need to know in college. It’s perfectly normal to reach a point where some of the material you’re studying seems over your head or just plain confusing. This is especially likely to happen if you are taking several complex courses. Schedule an appointment with your instructor to ask for one-on-one help. Another option is to look into tutoring programs. Most colleges have such programs available to students.
Ideally, it’s best to build good study habits before college to ease the transition as workloads become more demanding. Fortunately, it’s never too late to learn and adopt effective study habits even if you’ve had difficulty juggling your college studying responsibilities in the not-so-distant past.