Most college students pull all-nighters to complete major assignments or study for major exams. Cramming is not an effective way to prepare for classes and write papers. Students who cram for exams end up ill prepared, over tired, and over caffeinated. There is a huge difference between studying hard and studying smart. Studying hard is time consuming and stressful, whereas studying smart reduces stress, is efficient, and produces optimal results.
Give Yourself Time
Successful studying is completed increments of 45 minutes or less. After 45 minutes, students lose the ability to retain information. Therefore, avoiding procrastination is the key to stress free academic success. To avoid cramming, spread your studying over the course of the term. Review your notes after each lecture or reading assignment, periodically refreshing your memory when new material is being introduced. Make a conscious effort to dedicate 45 minutes a day to studying.
Effective studying is best done in a quiet and well-lit setting with ample space and few distractions. Unfortunately, the college lifestyle is not conducive to quiet spaces. You will have to learn how to study effectively in crowded libraries, student centers, or campus coffee shops. Always jump on the opportunity to study alone, or in a limited group setting. If not, implement a few rules to prevent yourself from being distracted.
Turn off your TV and turn your phone on silent in your 45 minute study increments to minimize outside distractions. Take a few minutes to write down distracting thoughts, and set them aside for later. Set up a rewards system for every portion of homework successfully completed within those 45 minutes. If necessary, block distracting websites on your computer until you have accomplished your work for the evening. Remember to take study breaks to collect your thoughts, check your phone, talk to friends, and grab a healthy snack before returning to work.
Take Care of Yourself
Skipping meals and losing sleep will reduce your comprehension level, and ability to produce solid work. It is important to put your health first, so you are in good condition to learn effectively. Using caffeine to stay awake will make your body exhausted and mind sluggish. Avoid excessive alcohol use. Be sure to work health foods into your grocery budget. Eating right helps your mind as much as your body. If you pair a good set of study skills with a healthy lifestyle, you will always be successful in the classroom.
Learn How You Learn
There are a number of different studying tricks to apply to different learning styles. For example, some students prefer flash cards, others like to make outlines, some use mnemonic devices, and others find it helpful to make connect themes between topics. Understand that learning styles are unique to every student, and what works for your peers may not work for you. Learn about different studying strategies online, from your peers, and your professors to find which method works best for you.
Last Reviewed: February 2017
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