The Most Effective Ways to Study

By Sydney Black

Every student has a unique approach to studying. Some students study for hours days before a test, while others may take a more focused approach the night before an exam. While the effectiveness of a studying method heavily depends on the individual, there are a number of things to keep in mind that could improve both the results and the retainment of information overall.

Studying Actively

When studying large quantities of material, it is easy to get in a cycle of rereading notes and rote memorization. While this does help you gain a surface level knowledge of a range of material, it can be hard to dig deeper and gain insight on these topics. One of the best ways to get out of this cycle is by creating concept maps or flashcards. Audrey Goldberg, a freshman, finds that flashcards, “not only help me with remembering information but understanding it better.” For humanities-focused classes, the Learning Center at the University of North Carolina finds that learning big ideas and then evaluating them is a fantastic way to succeed. In the sciences, coming across problems to solves provides a tool in which students can learn the material while also practicing the material in its everyday application.

Being Attentive in Class

Academic success involves a balance between in-class work and commitments outside of school. Many students associate studying with time taken outside of school to prepare for an exam, but often times the most meaningful studying is in class. It isn’t just preparation for one test but the obtaining of knowledge on a specific topic. David Kolb’s Learning Cycle highlights that a key part of learning is concrete experience. By this, Kolb maintains that before success in studying, you have to assert yourself in class.  Asserting yourself in class enables you to maximize receptivity of information, therefore strengthening out of class study efforts. 

Studying Over Time or Right Before?

Many students can’t decide whether to start studying over time or just before the test date. While results can vary with either approach, research has shown the spreading out studying is better. Nate Kornell, an assistant professor at Williams College, writes, “Space your studying and you’ll not only do better on your test – you’ll also remember the information you studied for a lot longer.” However, some approaches to last minute studying are indeed effective, such as the Pomodoro Method. This technique is a time management strategy breaking 25 minutes up with 5 minute intervals. This creates a balance between quality and quantity, as well as insuring a sense of urgency. When you divide your time into these increments, you see a set time you have to perform a certain task. 

Ultimately, the optimal studying style depends heavily on the individual, but there are steps that can be taken to increase productivity and overall time management. Active studying and attentiveness in class are essential as studying isn’t just about memorization but understanding of the information. Meanwhile, cramming or spreading out studying both have advantages and disadvantages, but can both equate to success. The most important thing is to choose a mix of study styles that work best with your needs as a student and that will ensure that you are as successful as possible.