Tips for Studying

proficient study methods found through studying

What works?

Self Testing: Effective methods of doing this are flash cards or end of chapter review questions. This helps with retention of knowledge. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between testing your own knowledge and improved test scores. It is most effective to use short test where you can see if you’re correct or not immediately.

  • Flashcards
  • Study Buddies
  • Online quizzes and pretests

Distributed Practice or Spaced Retention: Spreading study intervals over time instead of cramming last minute is a much more effective study method. One of the biggest hurdles students face with this this study method is that it requires you to plan ahead and overcome the common student tendency of procrastinating.  To remember something for one week, learning episodes should be 12 to 24 hours apart; to remember something for five years, they should be spaced six to 12 months apart. Although it may not seem like it, you actually do retain information even during these long intervals, and you are able to quickly re-learn what you have forgotten. Long delays between study periods are ideal to retain fundamental concepts that form the basis for more complex ideas.  

Elaborative Interrogation:  This is a very complex name for a very simple concept. All you need to do is ask yourself why something is the way it is, or why a particular concept or fact is true, and then provide yourself with the answer.  Ask yourself why? Does it make sense? Why is it true? 

Self- Explanation:  This is a very similar process to elaborative interrogation, except with self-explanation, the explanation might take the form of answering why to one question and then answering all the other questions that the first answer brought up, as well as relating new information to information which is already known.  You want to ask yourself,  “What does the information provide for me? How does it relate to what I already know?” 

Interleaving Practice:  Is a term that refers to when you study different topics or problem types within a single study session. It’s important to switch between the different subjects that you need to study, and also make sure to switch up the method you are using to study the information. Study have suggested that this is particularly effective when trying to learn a new type of problem because you can draw lines between information you already know and the information you are trying to learn. 

Sleep:  One of best way to add information to your long term memory is by getting a good night's sleep.

What doesn't work?

Highlighting: Highlighting and underlining may help identify the important parts of a textbook or document, but it is not a great tool for retaining the information.

Re-reading:  It’s important to read the information, but re-reading is not the best use of your study time. After you have read the info the first time, consider using your text for reference on tough topics .

DUNLOSKY, J., RAWSON, K. A., MARSH, E. J., NATHAN, M. J., & WILLINGHAM, D. T. (2013). WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN'T. Scientific American Mind, 24(4), 47-53.