As you sit in your dorm with your books and notes, a glimpse of the fading sun catches your eye. You leer through the window, jumping from one thought to another. Before you know it, 2 hours have passed. A lot needs to be changed about your study habits, otherwise your grades will drop in the blink of an eye. Considering how you’ve come such a long way for international education, jeopardizing your studies due to underdeveloped study habits is not what you want.
So, let’s fix what’s broken—your study motor!
1. Schedule with an Aim
So, you have scheduled 3 hours in the morning and 3 in the evening for studies. Yet, you are struggling to finish the syllabus in time for exams. Wonder why?
Finishing the syllabus is a vague aim. You have to get more specific with your everyday study schedule. Set unique goals every single day and attain them. This is how to do it:
- Examine your lesson plan and class schedules at the start of each semester. Assess the difficulty level of each topic. Allot the time required to study accordingly.
- Make a list of your weak points irrespective of the syllabus. Maybe your academic research is shallow, or your writing skills need work. You have to set aside time to improve on these weaknesses.
- Set an aim for what you want to finish by the end of the week. Calculate how much time that would require in total. Distribute the study load evenly throughout the week.
- Start small. At the beginning of the semester, when the classes have just begun, tackle the easy stuff first. Read a small chapter, or do some preliminary research.
- Each day, schedule your personal study time according to what was taught in class. If you learn your subjects on the day it is taught, you’ll never fall behind.
- Handle the difficult topics with ample time on your hands. It should never be a day before the exam.
- Plan so that you finish everything on the syllabus at least a few weeks before exams. This way, you’ll have enough time to revise.
Rome was not built in a day, and you can’t study your entire syllabus in a day either. Break it down into small nuggets and work at it every day.
2. Don’t Study Whenever and Wherever
Do you doze off while studying?
Do you feel fatigued and quit after a while?
It is because you are studying at the wrong time and wrong place. Here’s how to make the right choice:
- Your study space should be separate. You shouldn’t study at places where you rest (like the bed) or entertain yourself (like the couch in front of the TV).
- Try a desk and chair arrangement, or the campus library. Somewhere you can go every day just to study. When your brain associates a particular place solely with studying or working, it becomes easier to concentrate there.
- You can’t study at different hours every day. If you study at bedtime, you’ll feel sleepy. If you try it when you usually do other activities, you’ll be heavily distracted. Set a specific time of the day when you’ll study. Stick to it every day.
- Don’t study too long. A few hours a day should be enough. Although this depends on your major, you should never overexert yourself. A few hours of studying at 100% is better than 6-8 hours of studying at 20%.
3. Dodge the Distraction Demon
A ping from a friend or an Instagram notification can throw your study schedule into disarray. Once you start scrolling, it’s difficult to stop. So, better keep such nuisances at bay.
Unless you have mastered self-control, try the following to cut out distractions:
- If you don’t have an important call scheduled, switch off your phone or put it on silent.
- Use an app that helps with distractions during studying. Focus Booster and AntiSocial are popular options. They limit your access to social media with a set timer.
- Turn social media into a reward instead of a distraction. If you finish a chapter, you get 15 minutes on Facebook or one episode on Netflix. This way you are constantly fueling your motivation.
- If you are easily disturbed by environmental factors, try sitting in a quiet place where you won’t be bothered. Don’t talk to others while you study.
4. Befriend Your Learning Style
The prime reason people find studies difficult to understand and remember, or just plain boring, is adopting an unsuitable learning style. Your subject matter is not the culprit; how you approach it is.
People retain information better if they learn according to their learning style. Here are the major learning styles, along with examples of preferred mediums:
- Visual learners – pictures, images, videos, spatial understanding
- Auditory learners – music, sounds, lectures
- Kinesthetic learners – physical experience using tactile sensations (hands-on approach)
- Logical learners – reasoning, logic, structured systems
- Verbal learners – speaking, writing, reading
- Social learners – learning with other people
- Solitary learners – learning alone
Note that this does not mean you should only focus on one learning style. Sometimes you have to read books even if you’re not a verbal learner. Practical projects may be mandatory even if you’re not a kinesthetic learner, and that’s how it should be.
It is best to combine different learning styles to create variety. You can focus on the style that suits you best, but that doesn’t mean you learn nothing from the other styles. Try all of them in a ratio that fits you best.
5. Special Techniques to Master the Art of Studying
Do you open the book and stare at the same sentence for 10 minutes?
It means you don’t have a technique to learn your lessons efficiently. Without one, even the most optimal learning conditions cannot produce results. So, pay attention.
A reading comprehension technique to identify and retain important information from textbooks. There are five steps: survey, question, read, recite, review.
Based on testing your memory by pulling out information instead of cramming it in. Ask yourself questions related to your studies at random, write down your answers before checking them, and take more practice tests.
You study a topic over a long period, with frequent revisiting and reviewing. Learn once, but refresh your memory multiple times.
A memory game to recollect pieces of information using a simple word association. This makes it easy to remember lists. Take the first letter of each item’s name and turn it into a new word.
If you understand the topic well, you can explain it in simple terms. That’s the logic behind the Feynman technique. After you have learned a topic, you have to explain it to yourself, in writing, as if you were a 10-year-old.
A learning technique based on flashcards and boxes. Each flashcard contains one topic or question, and every flashcard starts in box 1. Correctly answered cards go up a box, and if you answer incorrectly, the cards go down a box. The more often you get a topic right, the less often you have to study it, and vice versa.
Not everything in a chapter is important. Highlight only the important points, so you can skim through the essential bits without having to go through the entire thing. This saves time before exams.
Visually organize information in a diagram. Do it on paper first. Connect central ideas with keywords. This helps you visualize the big picture. This often works like a charm for visual learners.
Find out more about the method(s) that appeals to you. All it takes is a Google search.
6. To Group Study or Not to Group Study
…is the question that pesters every student. The answer is subjective. If you are a social learner and you study with the right group of people, group studies can enhance your productivity. But, with a bad study group, it only means loss of precious time.
Here are some pointers to help you create the perfect study group:
- Find study partners who are genuinely interested in studying and would come prepared. Include competent classmates who can help out. You can also include other international students. The group shouldn’t be any larger than 5-6 members.
- Don’t chit-chat about other topics while studying. If your partner does so, bring them back to studies immediately. Weed out people who tend to do this often.
- Share the study load. This means you’ll come fully prepared to teach a certain topic to the rest of the group, and they’ll do the same for you. This way, everyone gets a chance to teach and learn in simple terms.
- You can prepare a list of doubts and bring it to the table. Someone else in the group can clear up those doubts for you. This is a big advantage of study groups.
- Compare your class notes, and check if you have missed any critical points. Review materials together.
- Complete pending projects and assignments together. Since it can be motivating to work with others, group studies can skyrocket your productivity.
7. Help Is Available For Those Who Seek It
Even with all the help available on the internet and assistance from classmates, there might still be topics you are struggling with. Don’t push yourself to do it all alone. As a college student, you can always count on your college.
- Drop by the professor’s office during office hours and ask for the help you need. You can also email them. No need to feel embarrassed or apologetic about it, they are there to help you learn.
- You can also appoint a tutor. This can be a senior or a fellow at your college who excels in the topic you’re struggling with.
- Take advantage of institutional resources and services available at your institution. These can be academic advisors, English language assistance and bridging programs, information sessions, workshops, and so on.
These are the 7 basic study habits you need to get a grip on. With that under your belt, studying should not feel like a burden. Remember, not every rule will apply to you. You still need to adjust these study tips in a way that suits you.
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