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Building Good Study Habits: Study smarter, or harder?

4 Min Read
November 03, 2022

by: Claresta Audrey Tjandra

When it comes to developing good study habits, it may take a lot of trials and errors before you develop the one that works best for you. Contrary to popular belief, studying hard isn't as effective as studying smart. In any case, we got you some pointers to help you face the upcoming exam on the right foot! 

Stop cramming all your study session at once

If you're the type of student who usually puts off studying until the last minute, maybe it's time for a change. When you cram everything in at once, your brain doesn't have the chance to process or create long-term associations about what you're learning. You could be studying to remember instead of to understand.

On a regular basis, try to skim through the materials to refresh your mind and gain a better understanding of the concepts. It can be a quick 15 to 30 minute session where you go over the notes from class. Of course, it's easier said than done, especially with the latest Netflix movie grabbing your eyes. Nonetheless, keep in mind - consistency is key!

Start with the hard stuff first

In how many cases do you start with the most challenging task on your to-do list? Probably not much, right? Almost all of us prefer to start a study session with simple tasks as a form of 'warming up' before moving on to the more difficult ones. Unfortunately, once the trivial tasks are out of your way, your brain has run out of its battery.

Brian Tracy, a time management expert, refers to tackling the difficult tasks first as 'eating the frog'. The difficult task is your frog, and if you start by 'eating your frog' without spending too much time thinking about it, the rest of the tasks will be much easier to complete.

Get some breaks

When you're studying, there might be times when the words and concepts aren't making any sense. In case that happens, remember to set out a 10 to 20 minute break during your study session. Within the break, you can do a quick 10-minute workout, stretch your body, or even have a snack to lower your stress level.  

Stress of studying that lasts as briefly as a couple of hours, according to a study conducted by UC Irvine researchers, can alter the process of creating and preserving memories. Therefore, keep in mind to take breaks, but don't let them consume too much of your study time!

Test yourself with practice problems

Do you always feel extremely nervous whenever a test is coming up? Your heart may race really fast, your hands might be soaked in sweat, and your mind just goes blank. Well, if this resembles you, consider doing practice problems after you've finished reviewing and reading the notes. 

According to research, answering practice problems during your study period enhances test results more than studying for the same length of time. Yes, mistakes may arise, but it's an excellent tool to evaluate if you are actually remembering what you've learned and which topics you have mastered. Most importantly, pre-testing helps to reduce test anxiety as you can be familiar with what you'll be facing on the upcoming exam.

Make sure there's no distractions

As humans, we all get distracted by something. It could be anything - your phone, the TV, your family, even the silence in which you can hear your own heartbeat. It can be difficult to keep focused when there is so much going on, but it is not impossible.

First things first, tag a study spot that keeps you comfortable, and most importantly, filled with things that cannot break your study flow. If you're with a study buddy, ensure both of you respect each other's boundaries and have the discipline to warn each other in case anyone gets distracted. When you study with external distractions, the brain analyzes and gathers information in less beneficial ways, resulting in knowledge that is less capable of absorbing new materials.

Stop multitasking

When you multitask while studying, you might feel that your productivity is at its finest as you can complete multiple tasks at once. Nonetheless, with limited attention spans and frequent distractions, research has shown that people who multitask are rather flipping between tasks, not doing two things at the same time. As a result, performance on both activities worsens, and task-switchers are less likely to recall information afterwards.

The process of learning and mastering a material requires intense concentration, and the interruptions that come from trying to multitask drains the brain as well as increasing the time required to complete each task.  

Keep in mind that building good study habits, just like any new habit, requires time and effort. Focus on forming one or two of these habits at a time, and once they've become a regular part of your routine, you can introduce new ones.

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