It’s New Year’s Resolution time, and Noodle has some great tips to improve your study productivity in 2014.
While most of us would rather not think about it, a new semester is just around the corner. Like it or not, the New Year is the perfect time to finally break some of those less than helpful study habits. Especially when it comes to reviewing for major exams, everyone is different. Highlighting the textbook to death may work for your best friend, but it just doesn’t seem to make information stick for you. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.
As 2013 comes to a close, here are 14 habits to help improve your studying in 2014.
- 1. Review early and often.
It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually most helpful to review new material right after class. While it’s still fresh in your memory, you have the best chance of absorbing all of those new concepts.
- 2. Don’t cram.
For 99.9% of students, waiting to study until the night before the exam will not work. For the majority of us, timing is everything. Plus, once you get into the habit of reviewing new material right after learning it, rereading class materials several times a week leading up to the test will help everything sink in better.
- 3. Find the perfect study spot.
Some people study better in the library and others need to be in the comfort of their own apartments. Case in point: find the place that works for you (with the least number of distractions). While you’re at it, try picking out two or three perfect study spots, because it’s also important to…
- 4. Alternate study spaces.
Variety’s the spice of life, right? According to an article in the New York Times, your ability to remember material is tied to your location. Thus, changing your study location periodically increases the likelihood that you’ll remember what you studied for the exam.
- 5. Learn key concepts first.
When it comes to preparing for huge exams, it’s a necessary evil to master the most basic concepts first. Don’t stress yourself out trying to master the details until you’re well acquainted with the building blocks behind them.
- 6. Fully engage.
Have you ever noticed that it’s really easy to look like you’re studying? Breaking out a few highlighters and cracking open your notebook can easily create the illusion that you’re learning. But actually taking the time to focus in on what you’re doing by taking extra notes, summarizing the most important ideas from PowerPoint slides, etc. helps make sure that you actually learned the material.
- 7. Make flashcards.
Personally, I’ve been the Queen of Flashcards since about the 7th grade. I swear by them. Especially if you’re a visual learner, writing concepts repeatedly can really help solidify them in your mind.
- 8. Attend class.
Yeah, it seems obvious (I know). But the number one mistake that most of us make when it comes to studying actually has nothing to do with opening the textbook in the first place. While it’s tempting to skip that 8 A.M. lecture in favor of catching some Zs, just remember, the best way to prepare for tests is to attend classes (and participate).
- 9. Don’t just memorize…comprehend.
The easiest way to get tripped up studying is by confusing learning with memorization. Especially in classes where professors give practice exams or practice questions, it’s common to end up (intentionally or unintentionally) memorizing the answers after seeing them so many times.
Remedy this problem by mixing up questions into a different order or changing the question up a bit to reflect a new concept.
- 10. Choose study buddies wisely.
We’ve all been there. Half of the group is there to study, and the other half is there for the snacks. Consider yourself warned.
- 11. Take advantage of practice exams.
Sometimes, the only way to figure out how prepared you are is to test yourself under similar exam conditions. Whether you use review questions at the end of your textbook or practice tests from professors, practice makes perfect—especially when it comes to exams.
- 12. Listen to music.
Unfortunately, I’m not implying that you have a Lady Gaga dance party while studying for your O-Chem final. Instead, try listening to relaxing (word-free) classical music. The background noise will keep you awake, without distracting you.
- 13. Find your perfect study time.
Just like finding the perfect study spot, learning how your personal clock works is also a must. If you are a morning person, study when you wake-up. If you’re a night owl, chances are you’re more plugged in later in the day. Figure out what works best for you, and plan your study schedule accordingly.
- 14. Take a break.
Eventually, you’ll need to take a break from studying just for sanity’s sake. Go for a walk outside. Grab an energy boosting study snack. Watch a few minutes of your favorite YouTube video to wake you back up.
Whatever you do, just make sure you take a quick break to recharge—you’ll be glad you did.
Emily Grier is a senior in the Master’s of Accounting Program at Penn State University. She previously served as Managing Editor for VALLEY magazine, Penn State’s life and style magazine, and was a 2011 USA Today Collegiate Correspondent.