Find the Right Study Strategy for You

January 16, 2024

Students know they need to study, but sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to study. There are so many different ways, and there can be so much material to try to remember! If you find yourself struggling to figure out the best way to study, read on to learn about a few different methods. Try them out, and figure out which works best for you!

CREATE AN OUTLINE

If you’re in a class where you’re learning A LOT of new information at once, try creating an outline, either by hand or on a computer. Go back through your notes from class, and create a heading for each new important topic you learn about. Then, add in any information you learn about or read about in each category so that all information about a topic is grouped together. Once you have organized all the information, you may choose to condense your outline so it only includes key words and information you need, and so you can get rid of any words or information that aren’t useful. The act of reviewing and organizing information can help you remember it better, and as an added bonus, you’ll have these outlines created to review later when studying for midterms or finals!

MAKE FLASHCARDS

Flashcards are a classic study tool. To make a flashcard, write a key word or idea on one side of the card and the definition or explanation on the other. This way when you study, you can practice recalling information just like you may need to on a test. Also, you can organize your flashcards to keep track of what you know and what you still need to study – as you go through them, you should make three piles: one for things you easily know, one of things you kind of know, and one for things you really don’t know. Spent most of your time on the second two piles, and go back through the “easy” pile once in a while to review. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your “easy” pile starts to grow!

QUIZ YOURSELF

The best way to see if you’ve mastered material is by quizzing yourself. Whether you’re answering practice short answer questions or doing sample math questions, your success on the practice questions will show you how well you’re prepared for a test. If you’re acing practice questions, move on to something else, but if you struggle, go back and review! Remember, even if you feel like you know material, sometimes recalling it when it’s not in front of you can be more difficult than you expect – quizzing yourself helps ensure that you really know information deeply.

TEACH A FRIEND

The “teach a friend” method works well because it helps you consolidate information and put it in your own words. If you have a friend who’s struggling with a certain topic, take the opportunity to explain new concepts, which will help you and your friend! And if you don’t, see if a friend or family member is willing to listen to you as you explain a topic. Finally, if you’re studying alone, try talking to a “friend,” even if it’s the pencil case on your desk! You may feel silly explaining a science concept to an inanimate object, but the act of consolidating and summarizing your learning helps ingrain the ideas in your mind.

STUDY WITH A FRIEND

Study buddies can be very useful when trying to learn new content! If you have a friend in your class, arrange to meet up a few times a week to go over material. You can summarize the material for one another (as mentioned above), but you can also ask and answer questions about the material to further your understanding. If you have any questions, it can be helpful to have someone there – just make sure you stay on topic and don’t spend too much study time chatting about other things!

DRAW PICTURES

Whether you’re studying big topics or specific vocabulary words, it can be very helpful to draw little pictures when you’re studying. It may seem a little strange at first, but the act of thinking about a topic, deciding how to depict it visually, and drawing a little picture helps you interact with a concept so you learn it more deeply. Additionally, many people find that pictures are more “sticky” in their minds. You may not remember exactly what it says in one line of your notes, but you’ll probably remember the cute cartoon you drew in the margins!

USE ONLINE TOOLS

If you get stuck when studying your notes, use online tools to help! There are many helpful resources, like Khan Academy, that will explain difficult topics to you and provide practice questions to help you study. Quizlet is another great resource for studying, as you can view other vocabulary lists and play games to help you study. However, it’s important to keep in mind the limitations of using online support – while it can be helpful, you need to make sure you’re on reputable sites, as there may be some sites that provide inaccurate information. Additionally, often the act of writing flashcards or making outlines is what really helps you understand and remember information, so it may not be as effective to pull premade flashcards and outlines to study. 

DO A LITTLE AT A TIME

The best way to study is to do a little studying at a time. You may hear about friends staying up late to cram, but this is actually the least effective way to study! You’ll be much better off studying bit by bit, as you’ll have more time to process the material, and you’ll be much more likely to remember the material in the long run. Additionally, studies have shown that sleep is imperative to consolidating information and memories – if you stay up late studying, you won’t have enough time to get the restful sleep needed to really process all of the information you’ve learned.

ASK FOR HELP

Finally, if you’re still struggling after trying all these methods, ask for help! Your teacher may hold extra help sessions, or maybe you just want to start asking more questions during class. You may also want to reach out to a tutor – having some extra time and personal attention with a tutor allows them to identify exactly what you’re struggling with, and they can both help you through the issue at hand and help you develop skills and tools to tackle future issues independently.

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