What is studying and how do I do it? (Blog Version)

Hey everyone! It’s already August, so that means back to school prep has begun! It’s really never too early or late to get ready, in my opinion. I’m starting my bi-annual (twice a year) paper purge, figuring out what papers can go, which need to stay, and what materials I’ll need for the semester. It’s also when I start thinking about my study habits; what worked well last semester, and what didn’t work so well. (Example 1: choosing to study between the hours of 8-10 on Tuesday/Thursday, because I’d get distracted by the TV…)

If you’re starting college, or getting into a new school, or even not satisfied where you are with grades and such, these few tips may help you out- remember, it’s never too late to change habits! BUT one important thing to keep in mind is that there is no one single right way to study!! 

Every person needs a different combination of things, be it time, technique, or even note taking styles. Studying even depends on the material you’re working with. It’s kind of like a sandwich- there are a few things absolutely needed, but each part of the sandwich can be very, very different for each person. Different bread, different fillings, but all still sandwiches. Same goes for studying!

Here are some things that many students share-

Make a list- Breaking down tasks and making a list will take down a few notches of anxiety, as well as make you feel productive as you go along. Say, for example, you were writing an essay on the history of the wizarding world; you would break that down into research, planning/outline, writing the draft, and editing individual paragraphs. To study for an exam, you could break down the material into chapters, and then further into sections, and by keeping a list of the material you had trouble with.

Time Management– there are many studies that show a maximum concentration time for the average person as 50 minutes. This is pretty efficient because in a long-haul schedule (think weekends) it builds in a 10 minute break; start at the top of the hour, read/write/engage the material for 50 minutes, and then take a break. However, the amount of time can certainly be adjusted- a 45 minute work period and a 15 minute break, or a 30 minute work period and 10 minute break, etc. The important part of blocking out time is that you give yourself enough time to get at least one task done before taking a break. Make your flashcards, make a study sheet, read a chapter or heavy section. Then break and do something completely different for a bit.

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Engage the Material– simply reading and highlighting the book or your notes is kind of the ‘easy’ way out if you want to really understand the material. Although it’s comforting to see all the color in the pages, it’s really not the best way to commit it to memory. Highlight the notes/book, then write/elaborate on the material separately. Draw a picture or diagram displaying the information in a visual manner; speak or read your notes out loud/ record for further use. My go-to are multicolored study sheets that combine the notes and other sources, like the book or online videos.

If you get stuck- write down what’s wrong and get back to it later– sometimes it’s better to move on instead of getting frustrated and discouraged. This does NOT mean you’re giving up- you’re instead acknowledging that you need help with the subject either from a different source or you need to spend more time thinking about the material. Doing another project or section in the meantime can let your brain even subconsciously work on the problem.

Know when to study by yourself- Sometimes it’s helpful to study with another person or a group of people- otherwise it’s trouble. A good way to study with others is by doing some review yourself, and quizzing or doing a second review with others. They may have some new ideas or ways of thinking that you may not have considered! Science (and History and Literature and the Arts!) is a team sport, after all.

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Like I said, studying is different for every person, but everyone still has to do it anyway! Very few people can go to class, hear information once, and pass with flying colors. Find what works well for you! Listening to material, writing material, re-reading material or even relating movements to material can help your brain absorb the information like a sponge. Try and see  what works for you, and if not, change up your routine! It is never too late to learn a new way of studying. However, you should start studying long before a graded assignment so that if you need another technique, you can start before it’s too late. SLEEP is also key! You need at least one cycle of deep REM sleep to store information into long term memory!

Happy trails!

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