Published: December 21, 2019
The way we learn new information and skills may have changed significantly over the past twenty years, but no matter how many new technological tools we acquire, basic study skills are still a central part of education at all levels.
Consistently, the most effective students — the ones able to rapidly master new disciplines and incorporate new information into their understanding of the world — are those who have built a reliable set of habits that help them synthesize new information quickly and to retain what they have learned over the long run.
Good study habits can:
- Make studying easier
- Make studying faster
- Reduce the time needed to synthesize new information
- Improve grades
- Lock information into the long-term memory
So what are these habits, and how can students who want to study more efficiently acquire them?
In this article, we’ll go over four of the most important study habits a high school or college student can develop and explore some of the strategies that can help you make them part of your daily life.
1. Regular Goals
When you start out in a new subject or discipline, learning is often stimulating and fun — after all, it’s empowering to discover new things about the world. But once the initial excitement wears off and your realize just how much you don’t know, it’s easy to get discouraged. Learning a handful of words in Japanese makes you feel smart and accomplished: putting in the hard work to master the language’s complex grammar is another thing entirely.
We often imagine that the thing that separates students who learn a few words and then give up from those who go one to achieve a degree of fluency is simply a matter of motivation and dedication. But motivation is about more than just drive, and motivated students tend to be good at providing themselves with incentives.
Setting regular goals is an essential part of this, because regular goals help students to feel that they are making a progress. Learning a language or mastering calculus takes a long time; if you are constantly measuring yourself against some kind of perfect ideal, it will be hard to stay the course.
But if you find ways to set regular goals — learning a cluster of words every week and a grammatical tense every month, for example — you can measure your progress more effectively.
Having outside help can make this a bit easier, which is why you might want to find a tutor near you if you’re worried that you won’t be able to hold yourself to your stated goals on your own.
2. Good Time Management
We tend not to think of time management as being a studying skill, per se, but effective studying is all about making the most of the hours available: the problem most students face is not that they can’t master the material, but that they struggle to balance all of their different time commitments, and can’t dedicate the time a given learning task requires.
For this reason, becoming a better student typically means finding ways to use one’s time more efficiently.
One common problem students run into with time management is that they aren’t sufficiently realistic about how long certain tasks will take. This leads to forms of magical thinking whereby students convince themselves that they can do more with their study time than is actually possible.
It is important to find out how long certain routine learning tasks actually take (how long, for example, does it take you to read a page of a history book, or write a thousand-word position paper), and then base your study plan on realistic metrics regarding what you can accomplish with the time you have.
Time management isn’t just about allocating yourself enough time to complete a learning object, however. It’s also about using that time strategically.
Cramming is an excellent example of where this often goes wrong: if you have four hours to prepare for a major test, that time will be far better spent in half hour or forty-five minute blocks of studying time spread out across the week, rather than a single intensive session the day before the test.
While certain mnemonic techniques can help you remember key information more easily, scientists who study how memory works know that there are no real shortcuts for mastering complex material: you need regular exposure over time in order to lock major and minor details into your long-term memory.
Again, when you find your local tutor they may be able to help with time management simply by virtue of requiring you to do regular, weekly work, thereby keeping you on task and not giving you a chance to fall behind in your studies.
3. Willingness to Use the Resources at their Disposal
We are living in a time of unprecedented access to educational tools. Companies like Udemy, Duolingo, Masterclass and other online learning sites have all become massively popular by making learning software, games, and lectures widely available to the public. You can now receive high-level instruction in everything from German and literature to cooking and coding on your phone.
And the resources that are available are not only digital — even small Canadian cities now feature thriving innovation hubs that can help students of all ages connect to quality instruction and learning opportunities. And of course, tutoring services like Prep Academy Tutors can help students get hand’s-on help with English, French, math, science and other challenging subjects.
The most effective students don’t just set regular goals and manage their time well — they also look beyond the textbook to find resources that can help them learn more effectively.
Studying is, for many people, a deeply social act, and using the resources other people provide to make learning easier is an important way to make the information really stick. After all, a student who is regularly meeting with tutors and peers will have new material regularly reinforced, which plays an important role in locking it into the long-term memory.
If you want to find out how tutoring can help you meet your learning goals, contact us to learn more about our tutoring services or take a look at the tutoring opportunities we offer in your city or community.
Study habits are just that: habits that form an almost unconscious part of our everyday lives. The routine nature of habits is part of what makes them so effective. Once you have developed good study habits, it is easy to make learning a regular part of your life even when you aren’t preparing for final exams.
But developing good study habits is easier said than done, especially for busy high school or college students who have a lot of activities to schedule in every week. For this reason, building these studying routines into your life requires an intentional and strategic approach, one that avoids overly optimistic thinking and focuses on what is doable.
There are plenty of tools online that can help you create a study routine that works for you, but here are five easy steps that can get you started:
- Make a list of your learning goals for the month.
- Determine how long each of these goals will take to complete — and be realistic.
- Sit down with your calendar and map out what your week and month look like. What activities and events are locked in? Where do you have time to spare?
- Portion out your study time into twenty-five minute blocks, with five minute breaks between, and see how many blocks you have over the course of the week.
- Allocate the tasks you need to complete to these time blocks, being sure to spread out major tasks like exam prep over a few days.
Like many things in life, there are no shortcuts when it comes to studying. If you want to see positive results, you just need to put the hours in.
But this can also be a liberating thing to realize. After all, if acquiring a new skill, learning a new discipline, or mastering a new language is simply a matter of studying smart enough and long enough, then the only thing holding you back from achieving your goals is proper planning.
One of the most important benefits that comes with professional tutoring is the feeling that you are not alone. Intellectual work can be tiring and isolating, and working with a tutor is a great way to feel not only that you have the expert help you need to overcome the obstacles in your path, but also have the human support you need to stay motivated.
If you want to overcome your personal learning challenges in 2020, get in touch with Prep Academy Tutors today and find the tutor in your city who is right for you!