Ever wonder how the A-plus student gets their good grades? They’re obviously intelligent and knowledgeable, but they probably have another trick up their sleeve: good study habits.
Study habits are the practices you implement each time you prepare for an upcoming test, plan a presentation, or write a paper. Poor study habits can hurt your grades while good study habits result in great scores and time saved.
If the way you study now isn’t getting you the results you’re looking for, here are five good study habits you can develop easily and use on a regular basis.
Get Into the Right Mindset
If you have ever tried to study with a problem weighing on your mind or while you’re in a bad mood, you know how difficult it can be to get anything done in this state.
This is why getting into the right mindset before you study is an important habit to adopt. Your work will always reflect your burdens or mood, so avoid going into a study session with “baggage” when possible.
If needed, take a moment to clear your head before studying. Go on a walk, do some yoga, or call up a friend. Time spent on this exercise will be more than worth it when you are able to sit down later and get things done more efficiently and effectively. Learn to identify the need to take a break from your studying and take care of your mental health.
Plan To Study Beforehand
Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes.
Creating a plan to study before your next exam is a good study habit that just makes sense. It gives you more time to study, eliminates unnecessary stress, and helps you stay on top of various due dates and deadlines.
Waiting until the last minute and cramming the night before a test or assignment is never a good choice, no matter what procrastinators will try to tell you. You might be successful doing this, but you just as likely might not be. What cramming will do is increase anxiety and stress and hurt your ability to retain information.
So plan. Most teachers provide a semester syllabus—use this to your advantage. Write down important dates and give yourself advance notice of at least a week or two to study. Do yourself a favor and learn to take great notes as well. That way when you sit down to study, you can easily look back at what you’ve learned and review material in an organized fashion.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Did you get that?
Repetition is critical in learning, so it goes without saying that it’s also important for studying. You’re more likely to retain information you have encountered more than once and in more than one way, so the more you see, speak, hear, and write your study material, the more likely it’ll be to stick.
Studies have shown that repetition allows us to engage with ideas until we eventually acquire them as knowledge. If you engage with something enough, it’ll make its way into your long-term memory.
Flashcards are great for repetitive study. Write definitions, quotes, statistics, or formulas on these cards and test yourself until you never miss a question. Both the creation and review of flashcards will help you learn. Ask a friend to quiz you for an added challenge.
Use a Study Timer
If you’re not investing quality time into studying, you might as well not study at all. With various apps and social media fighting for our attention, it is easy to “study” distracted and get little done over long stretches of time.
Luckily, app developers have created some amazing (free) study or productivity timers. Make a habit of using these when studying. The Forest app, for example, lets you grow trees, bushes, and flowers and create your own forest.
This app uses an interval timer that lets you pick a certain amount of time for an activity. It then starts a countdown and grows a plant while you work. If you leave the app to use your phone for something else, your tree is destroyed. But there are countless productivity timers out there if trees aren’t your thing.
Find the Perfect Study Spot
The last good study habit to develop is finding a good place to work. This could be your bedroom, at the library, or in a vacant classroom. Some people work better in complete silence while others need a little white noise or music to stay focused; some people are more productive when studying with friends and others need to work alone to remain on task.
Wherever and however you choose to study, make sure that you won’t be disturbed during your session either by yourself or by others. And be honest with yourself about what will or will not distract you—you may think that going to a coffee shop will help you get in the zone, for example, but this atmosphere might not actually be beneficial for your focus. You know what works or doesn’t work for you.
Now that you’ve got five new study habits in your toolkit, it’s time to crack open some textbooks and get to it.