Five Highly Effective Study Strategies and How to Apply Them
You’re here because you want to learn the best study strategies to improve your grades, test scores, and productivity. You want every hour you put into studying to stretch as far as possible. I can relate. My teachers were great at their subjects, but I never learned these highly effective study strategies until I did the research myself. In this article, you will learn how to implement these studying strategies and instantly increase your productivity.
#1: Space your Studying Out
You may think that cramming is an efficient way to study. Some students pass with OK grades when they cram. However, the sleep loss resulting from cramming negates the benefit of the extra studying done. Also, according to the Levels of Processing theory, cramming skips deep processing. This means you forget what you crammed later.
Space out your studying to strengthen the connection to what you learn. Every time your brain has to recall something it has already learned, the learning gets reinforced. Use this to your advantage by studying in smaller blocks of time over time. Instead of studying five hours over a weekend, split those five hours up throughout the whole week for better results. Also, that APA study linked above recommends dividing your content into more subgroups while studying.
Daniel Coyle’s writing about the process of skill acquisition contains similarities to these points about memory. In some ways, test-taking is just another skill that can be developed over time. I highly recommend his book The Talent Code if you want to learn more about becoming great at something.
#2: Divide your Studying Between Subjects
One study referenced here asked participants to study 12 different artists’ painting styles. One test group saw all paintings of each artist one after the other. The other group saw the paintings in a mixed up order. The participants were then distracted. Finally, they were asked to match a painting they hadn’t seen before to one of the artists they had studied. The group who saw paintings in a mixed order performed much better than those who had studied artists’ paintings all grouped together.
You can add this process to your study strategies. For instance, if you have calculus and biology to study for, keep switching between the two while you study. You can decide on a particular switch point, like a chapter subheading, or an entire chapter. When you switch like this, your brain has to work harder to make links between what you’ve learned. This strategy to study effectively increases long-term retention.
#3: Test Yourself
If you’re like most students, the last thing you want to do is take more tests and quizzes. However, testing or quizzing yourself is one of the best study strategies to improve results. A psychologist quizzed everyone in one section of his class after every class and didn’t quiz his other section. The section that was quizzed performed better on midterm exams than the non-quizzed section. Many instructors don’t include daily quizzes in their lesson plan, but you can do it for yourself.
Two researchers found that as the number of tests over reading material increased, so did memory of the material. Prep courses that allow you to test yourself often are great for this reason. You can test yourself by using or making flashcards. This ties in with writing things down, which is also great for memory.
#4: Answer “Why?”
One of the most overlooked study strategies is asking yourself why the information is true. In a study done in 2010 referenced here, students read a textbook section. One group had to answer many times why the information they were reading was true; the other group read the same section two times. The group asked “Why?” performed better on a test over the material than the group that read the section twice.
When you answer, “Why?”, you pay more attention to what you’re studying and actively read it to find why it is true. Also, you may have a stronger emotional attachment to the information when you defend it.
#5: Self-Monitoring Works
You can practice self-monitoring by asking questions and learning about what you’re learning. One of the best study strategies, self-monitoring works because it encourages you to develop a mastery of the material. Instead of just learning everything at a surface level, asking questions about what you learn forces you to gain a deeper understanding.
A study compared two groups of high school students. One group was instructed to ask questions about what they were learning, like “Hm…Did I know this?” The other group was told to just think out loud. The first group, the one that self-monitored, was better able to solve new math problems than the second one.
Did you enjoy this list of highly effective study strategies? Learning “the right way” may take more time than doing a slapdash job, but you will have greater retention this way. You can check out the Ultimate SAT Guide. Thanks for reading!