Studying Under Stress: Six Ways to Study Smarter, Not Harder
To study successfully, you don’t necessarily need to study for a long time. There are a few techniques you can use to get the most out of each study session—so you can retain and memorize more material without spending more time studying. Often, studying successfully means knowing how you learn best—and using the techniques that are easiest for you. Here are a few different ideas for how you can study more efficiently.
Talk it out
When you study, don’t just read your notes over. Speak them aloud. This might be tough to do in the student center or the library—so do it when you’re in your own room, with the door shut. Read a passage, then summarize it to yourself, in your own words. This will help you synthesize the information—you can’t summarize something unless you understand it—and hearing yourself say it aloud will help you process and retain the information.
Write it out
Some people are auditory learners—others learn by writing. If you learn by writing things down, take copious notes. Copy your notes over after class. Write notes in the margins of your book, summarizing wherever a point doesn’t
seem clear. If you need to memorize a set of facts, write it down repeatedly until you
can write it without glancing at your notes.
Teaching concepts to someone else can help you learn it faster and more effectively. Try teaching something from your class to someone who doesn’t have prior knowledge—so you’ll have to explain even the most basic elements. This will help you identify areas where you need to deepen your understanding. In addition, answering someone else’s questions about the subject will help you think about it in many different ways—and see it from many angles.
Study soon after class
The most effective time to study is soon after you’ve learned something. As much as possible, take the time to review your notes for half an hour or so just after class. Maybe your best way to review is to re-copy your notes, hold a brief conversation with someone about what you learned, or listen to your lecture tapes again. Whatever your favorite method, don’t leave review time until hours or days later.
Study with other people
A study group can help you learn more in an hour than you would learn studying for three hours by yourself—if it’s focused. With other people, you get the chance to explain concepts and discuss topics—solidifying those topics in your mind. You can also quiz each other to see where your knowledge gaps are and what you need to study more closely. Be sure you choose a group of people who can stay focused on the task at hand, however. If your study group tends to do more gossiping and joking around than actual studying, you may be better off on your own.
Get enough sleep
All-nighters are practically a college student’s rite of passage—and many students pull them as a matter of habit. But if you’re getting good grades with all nighters, you’ll get fantastic grades if you study when you’re well rested. It’s never a good idea to try to study when you’re exhausted; you won’t retain information as easily, and it will take you longer to memorize. Instead of pulling an all nighter, schedule enough time to study between classes, during work if you can get away with it, or at meals—any time you have a chunk of time to spare. If you do, you’re much more likely to retain information when you study.
For most students, college isn’t easy. Studying can be exhausting, and some classes are more demanding than others. If you’re having trouble maintaining your GPA—or getting good grades in addition to keeping up with your extracurriculars, jobs and internships—think about how you can study more efficiently without spending more time. Knowing how you learn best can help you identify the most efficient methods for you. Summarizing—either aloud or on the page—can also help you retain information. And no matter what learning style you have, studying with a group and explaining concepts to others is likely to help you learn faster.
MIT: Study Smarter, Not Harder
Clemson University: Study Smarter, Not Harder
Psychology Today: Everything You Know About Studying is Wrong
NYTimes: Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits
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