As students gear up for state tests and finals, it’s time to start taking a look at how they study. Knowing how to study not only helps boost students’ performance on major exams, it also helps them go into the exam with confidence. Even students who already know how to study can stand to re-evaluate their study skills to make sure they’re maximizing their brain power. These strategies for improving study skills will not only help students learn how to study, they’ll also help make their study time more effective.
1. Start Early
Despite its popularity, cramming for an exam rarely works. Focusing on a lot of the same information at once may make students feel confident that they know it, but often it doesn’t stick. Instead of cramming for exams, students should start studying early and gradually review the information over time. This helps them learn and review a variety of information at once and in smaller amounts, making it easier for the information to stick. It also removes some of the stress because they don’t have to spend the night before a test studying instead of getting a good night’s sleep.
2. Find Your Optimal Study Environment
Sometimes students know the basics of studying, but they don’t do it in the best environment. They may think they can study with the TV on and radio blaring or while sitting in the library with their friends, but that’s not always the case. Students should conduct an honest and thorough evaluation of their study environment to see whether it’s really working for them. One way to do this is to read a paragraph in the normal study environment, test what they remember, and then switch to a quieter environment, read another paragraph and see if they remember more or less.
A few questions to ask when finding the optimal study environment include:
- What do I hear around me? Does it distract me from what I’m reading/doing?
- What do I smell around me? Does it make me feel positive or negative?
- How is the lighting? Is it too dark? Too bright?
- Am I comfortable? Too comfortable?
- Do I have all the resources I need around me?
- What objects/sounds/smells/etc. take me away from my studying in this environment?
Answering these questions will help students determine whether their study environment is working and what they need to add or remove to create the optimal study environment.
3. Learn How to Study
Of course students can study all the time in the optimal study environment, but it doesn’t do any good if they don’t know how to study. Studying involves more than re-reading highlighted notes or flipping through a stack of flashcards. HowtoStudy.com offers a guide to help students learn how to study. The guide covers aspects of studying such as creating a study plan, taking effective notes, managing stress, and learning how to effectively study and brush up on your skills before a test. While the guide has been designed for college students, many of its principles also work well for students in middle school and high school. Too often students get to college without knowing how to study, so it’s good to teach them how to study while the stakes are lower and they have their parents and teachers around to support them.
4. Think Positive
When students have trouble with a subject and develop a negative attitude, no amount of studying will work. Instead, the negativity will overpower most of the learning that takes place. The goal of studying is to help students learn to master difficult concepts and become more confident in the material and they must approach studying with that mindset.
Parents and teachers can help encourage students to think positive by encouraging them with phrases such as “I know you can get this” or “you’re almost there.” Adding motivational quotes, posters, or other positive pictures and phrases to the study environment can also help students subconsciously think more positively about themselves and their abilities. When studying, students also shouldn’t start with the most difficult material they need to learn. Instead, they should start with easier material so they experience success early on and, therefore, are more motivated to keep going.
5. Use Study Skills Worksheets and Organizers
Study skills worksheets and organizers, like those found as part of Help Teaching’s free printables collection can help students learn the key words, vocabularies, and strategies needed to become better at studying. These worksheets will also help students by helping them with concepts such as creating a study calendar, learning what foods to eat while studying, and even just getting a handle on the vocabulary related to studying.
Focusing on the details involved with studying before actually looking at the material can help students vastly improve their study skills and, therefore, improve their performance on major exams. The following resources offer more advice to help students make studying more effective:
- AcademicTips.org covers the basics of studying and offers other resources, such as inspirational stories and funny jokes, to help students de-stress and feel confident while studying.
- The How to Study Infographic from Rasumussen College breaks down the basics of studying, including research-based facts on the optimal studying strategies.
- Study Guides and Strategies provides hundreds of free guides designed to help students learn to study and provide them with material to study related to major subject areas.
- HowToStudy.org organizes its study skills by subject, showing students that sometimes they must study different for a math test than a science exam.
Have some study tips or resources that you love? Share them in the comments.