By Emily Ellison
Welcome! Since you are reading this, I am going to assume you are a freshman in college looking to impress your teachers with your study skills for acing exams. So I have a question for you. In college, what do you believe is the most valuable thing to a student? The answer to this is time. Time is something that once it passes you cannot get it back and in college time management is a skill you will learn very quickly. College professors expect you to spend 2 hours outside of class studying for every 1 credit hour you are in class. Insane right? That was my first thought too when I got told that much time was expected of me.
So, let’s imagine you are in class and are told you have an exam coming up. How do you study? If your answer is that you re-read your textbook, notes, or highlighted sections of notes then you are not alone researchers conducted a study (1) and found that 55 percent of students listed rereading text as their favorite way to study. Though, re-reading is listed as favorite way to study it is actually not truly an effective way. You are now probably thinking well that is how I studied in high school and I did just fine. I will be the first one to tell you that college is not the same as high school and your professors will tell you the same thing. Now that you know this let’s look at proper ways to study. Do not assume what I am about to tell you is a quick fix or a magic solution that will make you ace every exam the proper ways of studying also take time.
First new habits take time to form so do not wait until last second to begin trying a new studying habit. A study (2) that was conducted found that when forming a new habit it takes between 18 to 254 days. The time that is needed to form a new habit can depend on the person as well, but the researchers also found the results that people who repeat the habit on a daily basis picked up on the habit faster. (2) So once you read these new study habits immediately start putting them into effect so that you can do well on exams and make a good impression on your professors.
A study that was conducted looked at students study behaviors and tied those behaviors to how students did on exams. The researchers (3) found the results that students who used practice exams as a study strategy had higher scores on their exams. So instead of just re-reading your text, put your brain to the test. If you want to make a practice exam to test yourself a great free website available is Quizlet. On this site you make note cards and then you can select multiple different ways to study. One of those ways is through an exam that the site makes. This is a great tool that you can use to put your knowledge to the test.
Take a break
Studying for exams can be mentally draining and for some people studying can be stressful. So believe it or not taking breaks while studying is actually good for you. So do not feel guilty when taking a break. Try getting out into nature or just take a small break and look out the window. Researchers have came to the conclusion in a study that being in nature or viewing nature can help people return to their work feeling refreshed. (4)
Do not pull all nighters
You have probably know someone or have seen a person in movies who have a big exam coming up and they need to study as much as possible. Therefore, they make the decision to pull the legendary all nighter. I do not know about you, but I truly enjoy my sleep. Sleep plays an important role in studying. It even has the power to affect your GPA. Sleep is considered important because it plays a role in our cognitive functioning. In fact, many studies have been conducted to look at the effect of unhealthy sleep habits have on cognitive functioning. In one study (5) researchers decided to look at the association of grade point average (GPA) and sleep. They came to the conclusion that the amount of sleep per night was positively correlated with GPA. This means that students who slept more hours per night had slightly higher grades than students who received less sleep.
I hope that these study tips help you ace your exams and help you to take college head on. Remember that these tips are not quick fixes and may not work for everyone, but give them a shot and see if these could work for you. Also remember to breath. You’ve got this! You will do great! Believe in yourself and as other people have probably already told you, these four years will fly by, so enjoy and value the time and experiences you gain.
- Karpicke, Jeffrey D., Butler, Andrew C. and Roediger III, Henry L.(2009)’Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practise retrieval when they study on their own?’,Memory,17:4,471 — 479
- Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998–1009. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.674
- Regan G, Janet W, and Amanda J. (2010). Focusing on how students study. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1 (10), 28-35. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ882123.pdf
- Gary F. (2009). Where to take a study break on the college campus: An attention restoration theory perspective. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29 (1), 160-167. Retrieved from ttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2008.11.006.
- Megan Lowry, Kayla Dean, and Keith Manders. (2010). The link between sleep quantity and academic performance for the college student. The University of Minnesota Undergraduate Journal of Psychology, Vol. 3 16-19. Retrieved from https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/TheLinkBetweenSleepQuantityandAcademic.pdf