6 Ways Develop Better Study Habits
Sitting down to study for a test (or several) often feels daunting or tedious, but adopting better study habits can transform this process into something manageable and rewarding.
Adopting productive study habits is critical as a student, but these habits continue into adulthood, in the workplace and at home. We’ve compiled a list of the top study habits and how to introduce them into your daily routine.
Table of Contents
1. Identify Setbacks in Your Current Routine
Before you can develop better study habits, you must first identify why you are having issues studying. Everyone learns differently, so certain practices that work for some classmates may not work for you and vice versa.
Start by reflecting on your current plan from start to finish, then identify areas open for changes. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How do you take notes? Do you use paper or a laptop / tablet?
- Do you write down every word displayed on every PowerPoint slide or focus on key points?
- Do you zone out when the teacher / professor is lecturing, or focus more on the lecture than taking notes?
- How soon before the test do you start studying?
- How frequently do you refer back to your notes when studying? Do you rewrite them or make flashcards?
- What study tools do you already use?
All of these aspects make up your study habits, but analyzing each step determines where your current plan is going wrong and where you can implement something new to improve your studying. These steps are also adaptable for each class you take since each class has a unique curriculum and challenges.
2. Make a Plan
After determining where you’re struggling with your current studying habits, the next step is to plan out how you want to study going forward.
Planners make great tools for laying out a study plan week to week and months in advance. Physical planners provide a creative outlet and room for personalization, while digital variations like Google Calendar have a more streamlined appearance and simplify editing on the go.
If planners aren’t your thing, find a way to visualize your studying goals that makes sense to you. Making a simple bulleted list on a sheet of notebook paper can go a long way in improving your study habits.
3. Organize Your Notes
Once you figure out what study habits need to change in your routine, it’s time to get to work.
Adjusting your study habits may involve modifying your note-taking in class, so start with changing those skills. For example, you might begin recording lectures and writing more detailed notes later that day, or typing out notes in class and reviewing this material every day throughout that chapter or unit.
Streamlining your note-taking process facilitates studying down the line. Keeping an organized binder, notebook, or folders on your laptop will make returning to the material easier when you get closer to the test date.
4. Minimize Distractions
It’s hard not to get distracted when studying, especially when reviewing material you don’t find interesting. Regularly taking breaks on your phone or laptop can negatively affect your retention of the material.
A 2018 analysis of media multitasking among college students cited several studies where college students who texted while studying had lower GPAs than students who didn’t text while studying. The review also mentions how task-switching in class and outside of class negatively affects students’ performance in the classroom.
Taking breaks is crucial when studying, but interrupting your work with unrelated distractions causes more harm than good. While it may be difficult, ignoring your phone while studying can pave the way for more productive learning.
5. Ease Into New Study Methods
Transitioning into new study habits takes time, and rapidly changing your routine may do more harm than good. Along with different note-taking strategies, there are a few ways to modify your study habits outside the classroom for efficiency and less stress.
Reviewing the Material
If you opt to use a planner, reviewing the material is a structured task that you can tailor to your schedule. In the days or weeks leading up to the test, put some time aside for studying and decide in advance how much of the material you will go over during each study session.
Along with the times you study, the medium you use to take notes might have changed. Whether you rewrite your typed notes, flip through flashcards, or work through practice problems, give yourself adequate time to experiment with this new method.
Study groups make studying large quantities of material more manageable but are also a source of distraction for some students.
If you choose to study in a group, it’s even more critical to reduce distractions like phone use to stay on track. Everyone has a busy schedule, and you don’t want to hold up the group. If you are taking a popular and difficult test such as the MCAT, the LSAT, or the Bar exam, there should be plenty of study groups out there which you can join.
If you hold yourself to the same standards in a group setting as when studying alone, groups are a great option to master the material while providing some social interaction.
Tools and Apps
Methods like the Pomodoro Technique facilitate studying by providing structured study and break times. The Pomodoro Technique includes working on a task for 25-minute blocks followed by short breaks, and a 20-30 minute break after completing four 25-minute blocks.
While this structured method may not work for everyone, customizing the duration of the blocks and the breaks in-between help track how long it takes for you to complete specific tasks and go through the material.
Along with time-oriented techniques, study apps, like Quizlet, are ideal for studying long lists of terms or key dates.
6. Be Flexible
With so many studying techniques and tools, there’s no one cure-all strategy guaranteed to improve test scores or boost productivity. If your new-and-improved plan still doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to keep adjusting it until you find something that works better.
Study habits are fluid, depending on the class and material. Staying flexible ensures you have a robust toolbox of study skills to fall back on even when your plan needs a new adjustment.