Column: Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Studying


Koralyn Karls

Editor-in-Chief Isabell Kopf offers her fellow students some advice on how to study.

Isabell Kopf

Entering my final semester as a high school student has made me reflect on the study habits I have learned over the past three and a half years, and I would like to share a few of those tips.

10. Pretend You’re Going to Teach the Material You Are Learning

This may sound strange, but it has been known to be a decent study habit that should at least be considered. Remember those presentations your teacher practically begged you to be well prepared for because you will be asked questions at the end? This is one of those scenarios in which you — the teacher of your topic — needs to understand the material in order to answer any questions that may arise.

In like manner, you, in most cases, won’t know word-for-word how you will be assessed on the material you have covered. So by becoming so familiar with the topic that you could explain it to a stranger who has zero prior knowledge, you will have taken the time to truly learn, not just memorize, the material and, therefore, be able to explain your answers on the assessment.

9. Seek Other Resources

Most times, teachers will suggest a few tools for you to use if you need some other form of the material. Crash Course videos seem to be a popular tool for last-minute studying to cover an entire unit or event in a matter of 10-12 minutes. Be aware that although these are a great resource, they may not cover everything you need to know for your particular assessment.

The same goes for practice quizzes and games that students find outside of class; they may not have all the material you need to review. If you are looking for extra resources, most, if not all, teachers are more than happy to point you in the right direction or even make up a few extra practice sheets for your benefit.

8. Find How You Learn Best

Do you like to listen to lectures, read from a textbook or practice through hands-on activities? Do you prefer reviewing with background noise or in complete silence? Figuring out how you learn best is a key factor in improving your study habits. Try out a variety of typical study styles: make flashcards, practice the material out loud, make a poster teaching your material, record yourself repeating the material and listen to it as needed, etc.

If you’re like me, you may like to listen to music while studying. Usually, I put on instrumental music, such as Lindsey Stirling, or acoustic guitar, so the lyrics don’t distract me from what I’m trying to learn. However, when it comes time to review one final time before the test, I turn off my music. The major reason for this is because I want to be able to demonstrate my knowledge (i.e. on the assessment) in silence because most teachers will not allow any music to be played while testing.

If you want to go a little extra, you may even consider changing your study location. I have found I can no longer study in my room because I end up falling asleep. Instead, I study downstairs at a desk because not only am I secluded away from distractions, I don’t have that mindset that it’s okay to go to sleep because I’m in my bedroom.

7. Ask Questions You Thought of the Night Before

When reviewing your material, make a note of the things you don’t understand or may need further explanation on. Ask your parents, siblings or classmates if you need a more immediate answer, but if you can wait until the following day, ask your teacher before or after class. That way, if you still have questions, your teacher can go more in depth or explain it to you in a way you’ll understand.

6. Put Away the Phone

Again, this is another one you hear constantly from parents and teachers, but it’s still a viable approach to studying. Phones, as we know, are already distractions from relationships, academics and quality time with loved ones, so it’s no surprise that they can also be a distraction from studying.

If you’re anxious about leaving your phone in another room or with a parent for a few hours, which is okay if you are, simply turn your phone over with the screen down or put it on Do Not Disturb mode. However, this may make it harder to resist the temptation of checking your notifications, so be aware of your limits. I personally flip my phone over as well as turn it on Do Not Disturb mode, and I have changed my Do Not Disturb settings so if someone absolutely needs to call me, they are able to. Otherwise, all Snapchat, Instagram and text notifications are muted and will not distract me from my studying.

5. The More Ridiculous It Is, the More Likely You Are to Remember It

How often have you read something so far-fetched and ridiculous that you somehow manage to remember it? It’s a similar idea with studying. Color- coding texts can help you remember different ideas. For example, in a math class, blue could be vocabulary, green could represent example problems and red could be formulas and other important information. This way, if you are skimming your notes for a particular item, it will be easier for you to find.

If you’re one who likes to type notes, might I suggest changing your font? Studies have proposed that studying text in a more intricate font will improve your memory of said text. Now, I do not suggest choosing a font that is impossible to read, but a little cursive or typewriter font may be worth a try if you’re looking for something new.

Do you remember that catchy jingle from that insurance commercial? Yeah, that’s the point. Again, it may sound ridiculous, but there could be a song out there just waiting for you to listen to it and soak in its factual information. I already had someone show me a song they had found that explains all the parts of the eye to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” As annoying as it was, it stuck, and it was easier to recall the information on the test.

4. Use Your Senses

I have used this technique before with gum. It’s a little like real-life imagery. You hear, smell, see that seemingly unimportant detail, and then you remember back to other times when you experienced that same detail. Spray a perfume or cologne you normally do not use frequently while you are studying, and then right before the test, spray the same thing. It will activate your memories of previous encounters with the scent and, therefore, trigger the information you studied while smelling the scent.

In like manner, chewing on the same flavor of gum while studying and during the test may be able to help you recall the information. If your teacher allows you to listen to approved music, that may also be another option for you to test out.

3. Don’t Cram the Night Before

Teachers say this over and over again: don’t cram the night before. You may be able to memorize the facts and information. But in today’s world with Standards-Based Learning, especially at CHS, you may struggle applying the
information you spent hours memorizing and earn a one or two rather than the three you could have earned if you had taken the time to understand the material.

By the same token, what happens if you have two tests scheduled on the same day? Are you going to pull an all-nighter and study until 3:00 a.m. and get less than three hours of sleep because you needed to study for seven hours to learn the material? Instead, take 20-30 minutes each night to review what you had covered in class that particular day. Review the terms, concepts, ideas or standards your assessment may include, and continue that until the day of the test. Not only will you find that it gradually becomes easier to recall the information, but you may also find it easier to apply the information to a variety of question styles.

2. Give Yourself Breaks

Although it may seem like a good idea to just push through three hours’ worth of material at one time to “get it over with,” the likelihood of you remembering anything is pretty slim. Study for 45 minutes to an hour. Then get up and move around, grab a snack, check your phone — whatever you need to do — for five to ten minutes. And then come back again. Give your brain time to process the material you just covered.

1. All Homework, Quizzes and Projects Are Just as Important as Tests

Just because quizzes and projects don’t typically have as much weight as tests or because homework is not graded doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Despite popular belief, teachers are not intentionally filling up your spare time with pointless assignments; they’re there for your benefit. The material you review and use to complete projects and homework is the same material you will be tested on, so why not learn the material while you’re at it and ace the test?

Now, I am by no means a scientist who has scientifically proven all of these study habits and tips to be 100 percent useful. Rather, it is simply a list of different approaches you could test out to see if any work for you like some have worked for me. The most important thing is to make sure you’re comfortable with whatever study habits you practice on a daily basis. If you’re not, you’ll be more worried about how you’re studying rather than what you’re studying. Nevertheless, I encourage you to try out one or two of these if you are interested in finding a new angle to succeed in your academics.