Have you ever heard the phrase “study smarter, not harder”, but had no clue what it meant or how to adapt it to your own life?
There are hundreds of study skills and habits out there, but it can be difficult to find the ones that work best for you. Studying smarter means taking the time to study effectively so that you will remember and retain the material, rather than repeatedly cramming for tests and forgetting everything the moment you sit down at your desk. As a result, the right study habits will help you succeed not only in school now, but also further down the road in your career and in life.
So, how do you find the right study habits and skills that work best for you?
Study habits that work well for other students may not work the same for you. And that’s okay! People have different ways of learning and studying, so it’s all about finding the right style. More importantly, trial and error is the best way to find what works for you, so here are some things to consider when finding the right study habits and skills.
1. Learning Style
Study habits by no means need to be influenced by learning styles, but it can be interesting to know which styles work for you to see how you usually learn and retain information. This can be a good place to start if you want to find out more about the specific way you learn.
There are seven types of learning styles:
- Visual (learn best through observation)
- Aural (learn best through sound or music)
- Verbal (learn best through speech or writing)
- Physical/Kinesthetic (learn best through hand-on approach)
- Logical/Mathematical (learn best through logic, reasoning, and numbers)
- Social/Interpersonal (learn best through working with others and in groups)
- Solitary/Intrapersonal (learn best through working on their own)
Many people have multiple learning styles that work for them or they may have certain styles that work for certain subjects.
Some study techniques are better-suited for certain learning styles. For example, social learners may work better in study groups, while solitary learners may study better on their own. However, study techniques are not exclusive to specific learning styles. It’s good to try out a wide variety of different learning/study techniques to see what works for you, rather than sticking yourself in a box.
Location is incredibly important for studying. You want to set up a space where you know you can focus and get your work done. Do you study better at home or at the library? At the dining room table or in the living room? If possible, make sure you are working at a desk or table. You can have all your materials in front of you and focus on your work. Studying in bed or slouched on the couch takes away from your ability to focus and can get you into a lazy mindset. Try to study in the same location as much as you can- this will help your brain get into a good study routine.
Make sure you're organized before you start!
Get all the necessary notes, readings, etc. ready for the assignment. Clear the area of clutter. Turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode. Make sure you only have what you need in front of you and nothing else. This will help your brain focus on the task without getting distracted.
Along with location, consider the atmosphere you prefer when studying. Do you study better listening to music or is that distracting? If so, what type of music? Do you prefer complete silence or do you like hearing the hustle-and-bustle of a coffee shop or library? If you like studying with others, do you prefer studying just with a friend or in a big group? Or is it easier to study just by yourself? None of these are wrong answers!
What works for you is what works for you!
Similar to the learning styles, you may have different answers to these questions depending on the assignment or class you’re studying for. Maybe in a math class you need to be able to talk through the questions with a classmate, but for English, you write essays better on your own. If you do prefer studying and working alone, it’s still helpful to have someone else either quiz you for a test or proofread your essay. Similarly, if you prefer only working in groups, it’s also good to regularly set aside time to go over your notes by yourself.
There are lists and lists of different study tips and techniques out there. Try out as many as you can! The best way you can find the ones that fits you is to try them all.
Here are some of my favorites that helped me in school.
This one is very easy and very effective! Rewriting notes has been proven to help your brain better understand and retain information. Also, it makes the notes more legible and easier to read for you when you are studying. Rewrite your notes right after class because the information is still fresh in your brain, so you will be able to expand on parts that you might’ve had to skip over in class.
Color-code your notes to help organize the information better for your brain and help with memory recall. This is especially helpful for test study guides! When you are struggling to remember the answer to a question on the test, your brain will remember the color you used to write the answer on the study guide and be able to recall the information more quickly. Be sure to use the same colors on the study guide and remember what each of the colors means.
A tried and true method, flashcards have been proven to help with memory recall. Quizzing yourself throughout studying helps you keep track of your own progress, so you know which topics you need to work on more. I also recommend color-coding flashcards or buying a multi-color pack to further help with memory recall.
You can find more study tips and techniques here.
Unsure how to maintain these habits? Start these habits at the beginning of the school year or the beginning of the semester to best stick to them. However, you can start to develop better habits at any time! Work on developing a consistent routine with better study habits and you will be on your way to studying smarter in no time.
Need more personalized recommendations?
The above tips and recommendations are broad strokes on study habits. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us for a personal consultation. We look forward to helping you.
MathTowne is a locally-based tutoring resource. We are here to support students through the key phases of their academic journey: middle school, the transition to high school, all four years of high school, and college preparation. Our staff has years of experience in creating personalized lesson plans for all of our students.