Don't Study Harder, Study Smarter

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Brad Choyt
Remember those long nights of poring over notes while trying to memorize the last bits of required material before a final exam? Such marathon study sessions seemed like a right of passage—a physical and intellectual exercise that was a prerequisite to the earning of a diploma or a degree. 

But studying long or hard doesn’t necessarily lead to the best results. Research suggests that it is more important to study smart. And when students take advantage of certain strategies that lead to greater efficiency, scores on exams and final grades go way up. 

What are some ways to do this? One is to begin the studying process early so it isn't necessary to memorize piles of notes immediately before the exam. Information learned gradually and over longer periods of time is more likely to stick and later be retrieved than material that is learned all at once.  A second strategy is to continually verify what's been learned through flash cards or quizzes. It's common for students to think they are able to retrieve more information than they actually can, so verifying knowledge can illuminate unperceived gaps. A third strategy is to take many short breaks. Students are often more productive when they study for thirty-five to fifty minutes, depending on their ability to sustain concentration and focus, and then have timed breaks of seven to ten minutes. This strategy also allows for new information to be stored in places in our brains so it can be more easily retrieved. There are, of course, many other strategies that students can use successfully to prepare for exams. But the three mentioned above will not only help students avoid the stress of marathon study sessions, but also make them more effective learners.

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