Study, study, study. It's what we are told to do from that first day of school to graduation. Study for tests. Study for exams. Or study for that tricky pop quiz. Preparing to be tested helps you perform better, but some of us have better study habits than others. Are you a studier? Do you spend hours getting ready for the big moment? Or are you more into winging it? If you want to perform well and succeed, it's best to be prepared. But how can you be a better studier? Check out these dos and don'ts of effective studying:
DO go to class. First things first: If you don't go to class, you're doomed from the start. Pursuing a new career starts with a passion for what you're doing. Always be on time for class – a couple of minutes early. Students who practice effective studying do this! Get to your classroom, find a seat, and get ready for class to begin. Prepare by packing your backpack with everything you need: notebooks, textbooks, and a few favorite writing utensils (always bring more than one). If your instructor allows it, you can pack a light snack or drink for a longer class session. Always take drinks in a spillproof container.
DON'T be late. Hey, we understand things happen, and nobody is perfect. But being continually late to class, unexcused, is a big no-no. First, it's sure to irritate your instructor and the rest of the class that made it on time. Second, you're likely to miss important information, and your notes will suffer. To make matters worse, some instructors may not allow entry into their class once it begins.
DO take notes. Taking notes gradually throughout the year helps you retain what you learn and makes reviewing for exams easier. There are several different methods when it comes to taking notes, so find the approach that works best for you. What's important is that you can recall the information through your notes to prepare for the test. Good note taking is a cornerstone of effective studying.
DON'T lose focus. Keep your eyes and ears open during class, listen, and take notes. It can be easy to drift off during a lecture and hard to stay dialed in. If you start to veer, don't be afraid to ask the instructor to elaborate further or see them after class for a more thorough explanation, if needed.
DO have a designated study space. Make sure you have a clean and distraction-free study space for effective studying each day. This space can be a dining room table or desk away from too many distractions. A dedicated study space lets you focus on the task without getting sidetracked. Find something comfortable that's away from distractions.
DON'T study in bed. Avoid studying in bed if you want to take full advantage of your time. If you get too comfy in bed, it's easier to become distracted and not fully devote your attention to the class material. It can also be more challenging to use study aids like cue cards and highlighters that help with productivity. By studying in bed, you brain may get used to being awake in that space, leading to problems sleeping when it's time to rest.
DO keep up with your readings. Always complete any reading or research assignments to keep up with what's happening in class. Class lectures, group discussions, and coursework can often involve reading sections from a textbook and completing relevant assignments. When you fall behind in reading, things can get more complicated.
DON'T wait until the last minute. An old professor used to say, "Procrastination is the assassination of motivation." Putting things off until the last minute can cause stress. It's best to stay up with the syllabus or class plan and not fall behind. Study a little bit every day, so you're not cramming the night before.
DO stay organized. Organizing your notes by date or topic will help make finding information quicker and more efficient. Using highlighters or specific colors of ink can also help you stay organized. If you have a lot going on, try making a schedule of events and activities to study around.
DON'T study around distractions. Find a quiet place to do your studying, far away from the TV, the internet, or your cell phone. Study groups are effective and can help you learn a lot, but only if you and your study mates get down to business and stay focused. No tomfoolery!
DO keep old quizzes and tests. Tests often have questions from earlier assignments or readings, so it's important to look them over while studying. Concentrate on what you got wrong in the past and what areas you need to focus on this time.
DON'T forget to take care of yourself. It can be impossible to concentrate or study when your stomach is growling or you are dehydrated. Drink lots of fluids and keep snacks on hand for energy while studying.
DO utilize your resources. Does your school offer tutoring or a study hall? Do your instructors post lectures or notes online for students to review? Class lectures and textbooks aren't always your only options. Having a mentor, professor, or friend who completed the course prior can be an invaluable resource for extra knowledge and guidance.
DON'T rely solely on your notes. Many students read their notes repeatedly to study. By only reading the material, students aren't thinking critically about the information. Mix things up, swap notes with a classmate, or take turns quizzing each other. Gaining knowledge from various sources helps you grasp the knowledge better.
DO test in advance. There are lots of ways to quiz yourself before a test. You can use notecards, get questioned by a friend, or write long-form answers to important material on the test. This lets you know what info you are confident in and which areas need a little more effort in the study department.
DON'T rely on class recordings. Recording lectures are OK for revisiting and reviewing, but you should always take notes and pay attention while things are being taught. You'll remember the information better by utilizing more of your senses. Swapping notes with classmates is an excellent way to ensure you get all the essential information in your notes.
DO take breaks. It's OK to take a break during studying – a short one. Don't get distracted by TV, chores, or social media. A "break" is 5-10 minutes long, and you should get back to studying before you lose focus or find a reason to procrastinate. Go for a walk, complete a simple chore, flip through a magazine, or take a bathroom break. Any short activity will suffice.
DON'T stay up all night. Learning instead of sleeping doesn't always lead to memory. Give your brain a rest to retain information long-term. Learn as much as possible up to a certain point, then finish. You can always resume the review when you wake up.