OPINION: How to Implement Better Study Methods

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With the start of a new quarter comes new classes and new content to learn, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of studying you might have to do. However, there are a couple proven ways that you can motivate yourself to study and increase the quality of your study sessions. You don’t necessarily need to study all hours of the day — just in a way that works the best for you. Quality over quantity. Now, all of the methods and tips I’m going to talk about might not work the best for everybody; finding the best way you study can take years and lots of trial and error. But, hopefully, you pick up a few tips that will leave you feeling more prepared for your next exam!

First of all, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between students’ grades and how much sleep they’re getting. It’s important not just to sleep well the night before a big exam, but to establish a consistent sleep schedule.

You can also try switching up your study environment, like heading to the library or a cafe. This helps some people retain information better. 

It’s also recommended to try out a focus app. These are applications that you could put on your phone to help you avoid distractions. They can gamify or reward staying on task, or they can act as a timer so you can keep track of how long you’ve been studying. You can find a couple of great options here.

Now, the first popular study method is the SQ3R method. It’s a reading comprehension technique designed to help students retain information. It goes like this.

  • Survey: Start by skimming the first chapter, and take notes on important features like headings, images or other standout features.
  • Question: Come up with questions about the chapter’s content, like what you think it might be about or what you might already know about the subject.
  • Read: Read through the whole chapter and try to answer the questions that you came up with.
  • Recite: After you’re done reading, summarize whatever you just read in your own words.
  • Review: When you’ve done all that, quiz yourself on your questions and go over the parts that confused you.

The next one is retrieval practice. It’s based on the concept that recalling the answer to a question will improve your learning more than looking for the answer. To use this method, you can do this:

  • Use practice tests; either make your own or find some on Quizlet.
  • Use flashcards, but remember to try and recall the answer or content before flipping the card.

The spaced practice method is all about studying over a longer period of time as opposed to cramming the night before an exam. When you space out your studying, it can help your brain make more connections about what you’re learning and make it easier to recall information and content. This would look something like learning the material, reviewing it on days two and three, and then coming back to it after a week and then another week.

The Feynman Technique is where you learn by pretending to teach other people. You write the subject or concept name at the top of a paper and then explain it in your own words like you’re trying to explain it to someone else. Then, you review what you got wrong and rewrite technical or complex words in simpler language.

The Pomodoro technique is all about time management. Using an app or timer, you break your studying into intervals of around 25 minutes in length and then take a five-minute break when that’s over. After four cycles of 25 minutes, you take a longer 15- to 30-minute break. To get the most out of each pomodoro, simple tasks should be combined with other simple tasks. If a task would require more than one pomodoro, then it should be split into smaller steps that are more approachable. If there’s some kind of unavoidable disruption, then you take a five minute break and start again. You can learn more about the Pomodoro technique here.