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What Exactly are Study Skills, Anyway?

study habits meaning and examples

It’s easy to say that study skills are important, but it’s less easy to identify what study skills actually are. Maybe that’s because study skills—the techniques students use when learning in class, doing homework at home, or preparing for a test—are very rarely taught in school, which is why homework and studying can be so stressful for students.

Practice Makes Perfect

Think of study skills as a tool you use to get a job done as efficiently as possible. If you were sweeping the floor, you wouldn’t just drag the broom along behind you—sweeping is more effective when you use the proper back-and-forth sweeping technique. Performing a task using the right skills just makes it easier.

The good news is that like any skill, whether it’s riding a bike, flying a kite or even sweeping the floor, study skills become easier with practice. The more students use them, the more second nature study skills become.

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Study Skills are a collection of learning techniques used together to make preparing for a test easier. When used regularly as part of an overall learning strategy, they help students become more organized in all areas of their education. 

Whether learning in class or studying for a test, each study skill plays a role in helping to make learning easier, tests less stressful, and grades higher. 

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8 Highly Effective Study Habits

Effective study habits can help you achieve better grades.

Woman using highly effective study habits at desk

Maybe you’re one of the many college students working toward a specific career goal. Or, you might be undecided but earning credits to transfer later. You could even be an enterprising teen looking to work “smart” not just “hard.”

Either way, you likely want to make the best use of your time by optimizing your study habits.

There are a few simple strategies that can help. Learning how to study smarter can make the difference between passing and excelling in school.

Why study habits matter

If you’re test prepping a topic that’s one of your favorites, chances are the process is comfortable and effective.

But what about a less interesting course, or a day when you’re distracted? It’s human nature to experience low motivation and reduced focus, which can interfere with your learning objectives.

Effective study habits can have a positive impact. A consistent study routine can support you through issues like poor time management that can interfere with your progress.

8 general effective study habits to boost your grades

Positive study habits

If you’re looking for a way to increase your academic success, a good place to start is by improving your study habits.

Adopting the right study mindset

Your attitude toward studying may influence the outcome.

It’s not just about thinking positively. Research from 2017 shows that a growth mindset is linked to achievement more than a fixed mindset.

A growth mindset is a belief that you can change the outcome with perseverance and effort. A fixed mindset is a belief that things can’t be changed.

Positive thinking can get you through the more challenging study sessions. Try not to compare yourself to other people and avoid catastrophic or absolute thinking .

For example, instead of fretting that you don’t have enough time, you could remind yourself that some studying is better than nothing. Rather than fixating on a poor grade, you might ask yourself how you can do better next time.

Knowing the course expectations

There’s more to academic success than subject mastery and test prep. Course expectations are also important.

Your instructor’s policy for late assignments and class participation are two examples of the type of information that can help you.

Another example is being aware of the required format for written assignments. Following this type of instruction can ensure that you get the best possible grades for your efforts.

Choosing an effective study location

A suitable study location is one where you’re comfortable and able to focus. For some people, this might be a park under a shady tree. Others might prefer the hushed and studious environment of a library.

You might have a room at home where you can close a door for quiet. However, if you live in a busy household, it might be easier to plan a trip to the library rather than repeatedly trying to disconnect from everything happening around you.

Having the right study materials

Imagine you’re getting ready to study for an exam from an outline that the teacher has provided, but you can’t find the outline. Now your studying will no longer be a specific and focused activity. Instead, it would be a guessing game.

Having the right study materials can save you time, and could make your efforts more effective.

Using helpful study strategies

Sometimes simply reading your notes in your head doesn’t work as well as you’d like. If this is the case, you can try some other study techniques to produce better results:

Networking with peers

If you’d rather study with friends than alone, there’s research to suggest this approach is beneficial.

A 2016 Australian study revealed that students odds of failing a pathology course (based on midsemester quiz marks) reduced significantly (by their final exam) when they used a study buddy support (SBS) system.

Meanwhile, the students who studied alone didn’t experience as much improvement by their final exams.

It might be worthwhile to look for study groups or create one yourself. An added benefit could be a consistent study schedule if the group meets at the same time on the same days every week.

Setting a schedule you can follow

If you wait to study until you’re inspired, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself cramming the night before each test. Instead, a study schedule can help you plan regular study sessions.

This means you’ll have a chance to review previous material. You’ll also be able to study the same topic enough so that you know it well.

It’s a sound idea to have a realistic schedule. Scheduling study time for several hours every night may be ambitious, but it can also lead to burnout .

Time management can maximize the effectiveness of your schedule. For example, if an upcoming test will cover four units of class material and you have 12 study sessions before the test, you can use three study sessions for each unit.

Practicing self-care

Self-care can affect academic success. For example, it’s easier to pay attention when you’ve had enough sleep.

Proper hydration also affects how well your brain functions. A 2015 study of 52 children ages 9-12 found that kids who were better hydrated had increased cognitive performance in areas including attention and working memory.

A healthy diet helps studying too. To function at its best, your brain needs nutrition from foods like:

You can also try a supplement for cognitive function and memory , like Ginkgo Biloba . It’s a good idea to let your doctor know about any supplements you’re taking.

Certain study habits to avoid

Building helpful habits is only part of academic success. It’s also helpful to know which habits can interfere with your progress.


If you’ve ever looked for excuses to avoid schoolwork, you’re not alone. Most students have procrastinated at some point, choosing more enjoyable activities over assignments and studying.

However, procrastination often leads to rushed and sloppy work. It also means you won’t have enough time to properly prepare for tests. If you find yourself frequently procrastinating, something more could be afoot. Procrastination is linked to some mental health challenges and conditions:

Cramming, or last-minute studying the night before an exam isn’t as effective for transferring learned material to long-term memory.

Instead, spaced retrieval practice is more effective. This refers to allowing some time to pass between each time you practice. Spaced retrieval is even more effective when it’s varied, which means switching topics during a study session.

Multitasking with entertainment

Imagine: The TV is on with your favorite show. Your best friend is livestreaming an event she’s attending. You might think you can multitask, 2019 research deep dives to debunk the media multitasking myth.

Not asking for help when you need it

Information can be cumulative, particularly in subjects like math. If there’s a concept you don’t understand and you sweep it under the rug, this could make it hard to learn new material that comes after.

Asking for clarification also helps the teacher. If enough students are stuck at a certain point, this is an indicator that the teaching materials may need tweaking.

Let’s recap

For many people, studying effectively is the difference between a pass and a good grade — between learning the material versus just memorizing it to regurgitate on a test.

Developing practical study habits makes learning easier. Setting a schedule, practicing self-care, and accessing peer support are some examples of actions you can take to help you reach your goals.

Last medically reviewed on June 19, 2022

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Daniel Wong

Equipping Students to Be Successful and Happy

22 Study Habits That Guarantee Good Grades

Updated on September 28, 2022 By Daniel Wong 18 Comments

Study habits

Were you hoping to get an A for your last test or exam, but your study habits got in the way?

Maybe you got a B, or maybe you did worse than that.

It’s annoying, isn’t it…

You put in all those hours of studying. You even gave up time with your friends.

So what if I could show you a way to work smarter and not harder, so you get good grades and have time for the things you enjoy and find meaningful?

Even better, what if I could guarantee it?

Well, I can.

All you have to do is adopt these 22 study habits.

(Throughout my career as a student I got straight A’s, so I can promise you that these study habits work.)

Want to get the grades you’ve always wanted while also leading a balanced life?

Then let’s get started.

Enter your email below to download a PDF summary of this article. The PDF contains all the habits found here, plus 5 exclusive bonus habits that you’ll only find in the PDF.

The best study habits.

Add these effective study habits to your routine to start getting good grades with a lot less stress.

Habit #1: Create a weekly schedule

When you schedule time for a particular task like studying, you’re saying to yourself, “I’m going to focus on studying at this time, on this date, and it’s going to take this number of hours.”

Once it’s down in writing, it becomes a reality and you’re more likely to stick to it.

This might sound weird, but it’s true.

Do this in your calendar, in a spreadsheet, or download a template – whatever works best for you.

First, think about your fixed commitments like school, sports practice, family time, religious activities and so on.

Now, decide which times around these fixed commitments are the best for you to do your work and revision each week.

Don’t worry about exactly what work you’ll be doing, or what assignments are due. Just focus on blocking out the times.

Your weekly study schedule might look something like this (the blue slots are the times you’ve blocked out to do work):

Weekly schedule

Give yourself a study-free day (or at least half a day) once a week.

Everyone needs a break, so you’re more likely to come back to the work refreshed if you give yourself permission to take some time off.

Habit #2: Create a pre-studying checklist

Have you ever heard your mother say you should never go to the supermarket without a shopping list?

You’ll wander up and down the aisles, wasting time. You’ll make poor choices about what to buy and end up with all the wrong things for dinner.

By using a shopping list, your mind will be focused. You’ll only put items in your shopping trolley that you need, checking them off as you go.

It’s no different from a checklist used by a pilot before he takes off, or a mechanic as he services a car.

Checklists are essential as you learn how to develop good study habits. They ensure that you cover all the necessary steps to achieve an outcome.

Here are some of the things that might be on your pre-studying checklist:

Keep your checklist handy, and tick everything off at the start of every study session.

Habit #3: Create a study plan

The purpose of a study plan is similar to that of a checklist. It keeps you on track.

When you go camping, you might have a checklist that covers all the equipment you need to pack into the car.

But you also need a road map to show you how to get to the campsite. It allows you to plan your route, and keeps you focused on your destination.

So, at the start of each study session, create a study plan.

For example, today you might need to complete a math assignment and write up the summary notes of chapter 4 of your history textbook.

Write down the key tasks, together with a list of steps you’ll need to take along the way.

To complete your math assignment, you might write:

Your study plan will help you concentrate on what you need to get done today, without being distracted by the things that can wait until tomorrow.

Habit #4: Study offline as much as possible

Study offline

When you study, you want to be focused, which means limiting all those annoying interruptions that happen when you’re online.

Switch off your Internet connection and give your brain the peace and quiet it needs to concentrate.

And while you’re at it, try not to use a laptop to take notes.

This may sound like strange advice, but research has shown that taking notes by hand is a much smarter way of learning.

When you write notes by hand, your brain absorbs the meaning of what you’re writing. But when you use a laptop, you’re not processing what you’re learning as deeply.

Habit #5: Take three deep breaths before each study session

What’s the one thing that comes to you so naturally, you don’t even think about it?

We each take about 20,000 breaths a day, so you’d think we’d be pretty good at it. But did you know that there are better ways to breathe than others ?

And guess who breathes the best? Babies.

As babies, we all take deep, relaxing breaths. These breaths push the oxygen around our bodies and into our brains, helping us to concentrate better.

But as we get older, we take shorter, faster breaths. As a result, we have trouble staying alert.

There are plenty of ways to breathe more deeply, but here’s one method you can try before you start each study session:

Tip: Try this just before you go to bed as well. It will help you sleep better.

Habit #6: Learn how to motivate yourself

Do you find that sometimes it’s almost impossible to start studying? In fact, your body feels like a heavy stone as you drag yourself towards your workspace.

Don’t worry. Everyone feels like that from time to time.

You just need to know how to motivate yourself to study , and to do that we’re going to create another list.

This time, write down all the reasons why you want to study hard, such as:

Put your list somewhere you can see it. The next time you feel like watching TV instead of studying, go through your list.

You’ll be fired up and ready to get back to your studies in no time!

Habit #7: Take notes during class

Taking notes in class is an important study tip to implement .

Think about the number of classes you go to every day at school and the mountain of information that gets thrown at you.

You’d never be able to remember everything you learned without taking notes.

Taking notes also helps you to absorb and retain information much better than just listening.

And lastly, think of your class notes as the backbone of your focused study time . They sum up what you’ve learned, and they make your study time more efficient.

(Here are some proven tips on how to take notes effectively .)

Habit #8: Review what you learned in school that day

Review what you learned

Reviewing new information you learned in class is one of the most effective study habits you can develop.

Before the end of each day, read the notes you took or re-read the chapter that your teacher taught in class.

It won’t take long to do, and it will help you retain what you learned. It will also make the process of moving the information from short-term to long-term memory smoother.

Habit #9: Read your notes before you start doing your homework

This is similar to the last study habit we talked about.

The first thing you should do in your study session is to re-read the notes you took in class before you start the homework assignment for that topic.

Don’t forget to include this task in your study plan (see Habit #3).

It will refresh your memory, so you’ll be well prepared to tackle the homework assignment.

Habit #10: Get at least eight hours of sleep every night

We all know that a good night’s sleep makes us more alert and energised the next day.

But did you know that it also improves your memory and makes you a better student ?

You probably think there’s no way a top student could get enough sleep, but you’re wrong. In fact, getting eight hours of sleep before an exam is more effective than staying up late, trying to cram all the information in.

The best way to make sure you get eight hours of good quality sleep is to go to bed at the same time each night. (Set an alarm to remind you, if necessary.)

Read a chapter of a book, but don’t read it on your phone or tablet. This is because the light from such screens makes it difficult for the brain to wind down and inhibits melatonin production.

In addition, turn off phones and other electronic devices that may disturb you during the night.

Habit #11: Create an environment that helps you study

Trying to work in a noisy room, or one with poor lighting, is going to make your study time less effective.

To develop good study habits, take a few minutes to ensure your workspace is conducive to studying.

Here are a few things to think about:

Habit #12: Time your study sessions and breaks

Time your study sessions

Do you find it hard to concentrate for more than 45 minutes at a time? That’s perfectly normal.

In fact, I’d recommend that you take a 5-minute break from studying every 30 to 40 minutes.

Don’t fall into the study habit of stretching out your break so it ends up being longer than your study time, though.

When you start a study session, set a timer for 30 to 40 minutes and then take a break. Likewise, set the timer for the end of the break so you know when to get back to work.

Habit #13: When you take a study break, step away from your desk

To develop good study habits, don’t forget to take breaks and use them wisely.

Step away from your desk and do something completely different to give your brain a break, as well as your body. Go for a short walk around the block or get a snack from the kitchen.

I encourage you not to watch a video, turn on the TV or check your social media news feed.

This is because these activities won’t give your brain a proper break.

Habit #14: Make use of the breaks you have during the school day

Do you have a long break in the middle of the school day or after lunch?

Is there something useful you could be doing with this time?

Maybe you could review the notes you took that morning or start preparing your study plan for later in the day.

Another great use of your free time is to seek out a fellow student and talk about what you’ve just learned. This is especially so if you need some clarification, or if you have doubts about something.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s an excellent way to learn faster and better.

Habit #15: Stay on top of your homework

This may sound like an obvious habit to cultivate as a student , but I’m often surprised by the number of students who let their homework pile up.

If it gets out of hand, just the thought of doing your homework can become overwhelming and stressful.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself working so hard to catch up, you’ll have no time to study for important tests and exams, which are stressful enough on their own .

One of the most effective study habits to practise is to start your homework on the day it’s assigned.

At the very least, take a look at the questions while the information you learned is still fresh in your mind.

That way, if you have to come back to it later, you’ll have a rough framework as a starting point, making it much easier to complete.

Habit #16: Ask your teachers for help at least once a week

Ask teachers for help

Your teachers are there to help you succeed . Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.

Asking for help is a crucial study habit to cultivate.

Include asking for help in your weekly schedule (see Habit #1) and keep a list of any questions you think of during the week.

Bring the list of questions with you, and don’t let them pile up.

If you let the questions pile up, you may start to feel overwhelmed, and you may become reluctant to seek help.

Habit #17: Use a planner to keep track of assignments and deadlines

If you’re not organised when it comes to things related to school , you’ll waste precious time doing last-minute work you forgot about.

Or you may stay up late to finish an assignment you should have started a week earlier.

Use a planner to keep track of important dates, tasks and deadlines. You can either use a physical diary or an online one like Google Calendar.

The important thing is to keep your planner up to date, so you don’t have to rely on your memory or wait for your teachers to remind you.

Planning and studying effectively will improve your test-taking skills and performance.

Don’t just include the date of a test, for example, when you use your planner. Include a reminder to start revising for the test well in advance.

And review your planner at least once a week. Every Monday, go through all the upcoming deadlines, and prioritise the tasks and projects you’ll need to keep on top of for the week.

Habit #18: Test yourself periodically

Don’t wait for regular tests and exams to come around before you start studying. Set mini-tests for yourself every few weeks.

You may have reviewed your class notes once, but it doesn’t mean the information has been absorbed or effectively memorised for a future exam.

Here’s how to test yourself…

When you review your class notes, highlight some of the key things you’ve learned.

For example, in history it might be the date of an important event. Write down some test questions on a separate sheet of paper as you go, such as “When did the war start?” or “What caused the civil war?”

The next day, pull out the test questions and see how many answers you can remember.

It takes some effort to succeed at a test you give yourself, but that effort will be rewarded when it comes to exam time.

Habit #19: Check your work before you consider it done

When you finish an assignment, don’t consider it done until you’ve double-checked your work for careless mistakes.

Here’s what you should be looking out for:

Habit #20: Keep a “worry” list

Keep a "worry" list

It’s common for students to worry about not doing well, but it’s a distracting pastime.

When you worry about something, it can hinder your ability to focus on learning and improving.

That’s why you need to keep a “worry” list.

Strange as it may sound, research has shown that writing down a list of your fears about school can actually improve your grades.

When you write down a list of your worries, it’s as though you’re unloading your anxieties and freeing up your brain to concentrate on learning.

So whenever a worry pops into your mind, write it down and move on.

Habit #21: Use online resources (if your teacher isn’t available)

Your teacher should be the first person you go to with a question or concern about the class material – unless you can easily find the answer on the Internet.

But if your teachers aren’t available when you need something clarified (which often happens in the middle of study time), there are some great online resources you can use.

Here are some of them:

Habit #22: If you struggle with procrastination, use the Pomodoro Technique

Procrastination or a lack of focus is a big problem during study time.

We’ve already talked about the need to take regular breaks (see Habit #13), but there’s another method you might find useful.

It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.

The idea is that you’ll stay on top of your work if you break your study periods up into focused but manageable bursts of 25 minutes.

This is instead of trying to concentrate for two hours or more at a go, which takes a lot of energy and willpower.

The objective is to train your brain to focus on a task that needs to be completed and postpone all distractions until later.

Here’s how it works:

Here are some apps you can try:

Check out this article for even more apps you can use.

Start practising your new study habits

Well done! You’ve read about the 22 study habits that are guaranteed to improve your grades.

(On top of that, here are 8 bad study habits you’ll want to avoid.)

Reading about these habits is a great start. But nothing’s going to change if you just click away from this article.

If you’re wondering how to get good grades , you need to take action – every day, every week, and every month. Start tomorrow with just one new study habit. Make it part of your daily routine.

After a week, pick another one and put it into practice.

Before you know it, you’re going to turn those disappointing B’s and C’s into straight A’s. I guarantee it!

Like this article? Please share it with your friends.

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July 31, 2019 at 7:50 pm

Thanks for the study habits, I will definitely use them in my daily life.

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July 31, 2019 at 8:08 pm

You’re welcome, Greta.

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August 1, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Thanks, Daniel, for making the points simple, clear and doable!

August 1, 2019 at 3:46 pm

You’re welcome!

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August 2, 2019 at 8:53 am

thank you so much for the tips sir. my A/L are literally in next two days. it will be very helpful if you can send me some tips about how to work during the exam time and now…….TBH I just want to take at least 3Bs…..thank you again for everything.

August 2, 2019 at 10:56 am

You’re welcome. All the best for your exams! I’ve actually created this guide ( ), which should help you do much better for your exams.

August 2, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Thank you so much…

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August 3, 2019 at 6:14 am

Ur an amazing tutor Daniel!

August 3, 2019 at 8:14 am

I don’t really consider myself a tutor, but I’m glad that you found the article useful!

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August 18, 2019 at 3:02 am

Thank you so much. You have been a great help! especially all your free pdfs have helped me be a lot more organized. Thanks a lot!

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September 23, 2019 at 4:16 am

Great tips. Thank you Daniel for sharing

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February 1, 2020 at 2:54 pm

You are great! I also remained an a grader for long but lost track with your tips I will be back

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April 5, 2020 at 6:53 pm

Hi. Hope you doing well. Great tips. Are these tips good for the university too? or they are just for school time? BTW I read your website every day! You are amazing. God bless you

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November 14, 2020 at 4:02 am

Some of them sound as if they are for university, so I would say both.

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August 8, 2020 at 11:43 pm

Simply the best and so practical and nicely presented i like a lot. Keep it up!

Really good job doing for the students and even for professionals this is going to help a lot.

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January 6, 2021 at 11:06 pm

Great article

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January 7, 2021 at 9:31 pm

The most important habits I am trying to adopt this semester are #1 Create a weekly schedule. #3 Create a study plan. #4 Study offline as much as possible.

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September 26, 2021 at 12:53 am


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Learning Center

Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder

Do you ever feel like your study habits simply aren’t cutting it? Do you wonder what you could be doing to perform better in class and on exams? Many students realize that their high school study habits aren’t very effective in college. This is understandable, as college is quite different from high school. The professors are less personally involved, classes are bigger, exams are worth more, reading is more intense, and classes are much more rigorous. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you need to learn some more effective study skills. Fortunately, there are many active, effective study strategies that are shown to be effective in college classes.

This handout offers several tips on effective studying. Implementing these tips into your regular study routine will help you to efficiently and effectively learn course material. Experiment with them and find some that work for you.

Reading is not studying

Simply reading and re-reading texts or notes is not actively engaging in the material. It is simply re-reading your notes. Only ‘doing’ the readings for class is not studying. It is simply doing the reading for class. Re-reading leads to quick forgetting.

Think of reading as an important part of pre-studying, but learning information requires actively engaging in the material (Edwards, 2014). Active engagement is the process of constructing meaning from text that involves making connections to lectures, forming examples, and regulating your own learning (Davis, 2007). Active studying does not mean highlighting or underlining text, re-reading, or rote memorization. Though these activities may help to keep you engaged in the task, they are not considered active studying techniques and are weakly related to improved learning (Mackenzie, 1994).

Ideas for active studying include:

Organization and planning will help you to actively study for your courses. When studying for a test, organize your materials first and then begin your active reviewing by topic (Newport, 2007). Often professors provide subtopics on the syllabi. Use them as a guide to help organize your materials. For example, gather all of the materials for one topic (e.g., PowerPoint notes, text book notes, articles, homework, etc.) and put them together in a pile. Label each pile with the topic and study by topics.

For more information on the principle behind active studying, check out our tipsheet on metacognition .

Understand the Study Cycle

The Study Cycle , developed by Frank Christ, breaks down the different parts of studying: previewing, attending class, reviewing, studying, and checking your understanding. Although each step may seem obvious at a glance, all too often students try to take shortcuts and miss opportunities for good learning. For example, you may skip a reading before class because the professor covers the same material in class; doing so misses a key opportunity to learn in different modes (reading and listening) and to benefit from the repetition and distributed practice (see #3 below) that you’ll get from both reading ahead and attending class. Understanding the importance of all stages of this cycle will help make sure you don’t miss opportunities to learn effectively.

Spacing out is good

One of the most impactful learning strategies is “distributed practice”—spacing out your studying over several short periods of time over several days and weeks (Newport, 2007). The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day. The total amount of time spent studying will be the same (or less) than one or two marathon library sessions, but you will learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term—which will help get you an A on the final. The important thing is how you use your study time, not how long you study. Long study sessions lead to a lack of concentration and thus a lack of learning and retention.

In order to spread out studying over short periods of time across several days and weeks, you need control over your schedule . Keeping a list of tasks to complete on a daily basis will help you to include regular active studying sessions for each class. Try to do something for each class each day. Be specific and realistic regarding how long you plan to spend on each task—you should not have more tasks on your list than you can reasonably complete during the day.

For example, you may do a few problems per day in math rather than all of them the hour before class. In history, you can spend 15-20 minutes each day actively studying your class notes. Thus, your studying time may still be the same length, but rather than only preparing for one class, you will be preparing for all of your classes in short stretches. This will help focus, stay on top of your work, and retain information.

In addition to learning the material more deeply, spacing out your work helps stave off procrastination. Rather than having to face the dreaded project for four hours on Monday, you can face the dreaded project for 30 minutes each day. The shorter, more consistent time to work on a dreaded project is likely to be more acceptable and less likely to be delayed to the last minute. Finally, if you have to memorize material for class (names, dates, formulas), it is best to make flashcards for this material and review periodically throughout the day rather than one long, memorization session (Wissman and Rawson, 2012). See our handout on memorization strategies to learn more.

It’s good to be intense

Not all studying is equal. You will accomplish more if you study intensively. Intensive study sessions are short and will allow you to get work done with minimal wasted effort. Shorter, intensive study times are more effective than drawn out studying.

In fact, one of the most impactful study strategies is distributing studying over multiple sessions (Newport, 2007). Intensive study sessions can last 30 or 45-minute sessions and include active studying strategies. For example, self-testing is an active study strategy that improves the intensity of studying and efficiency of learning. However, planning to spend hours on end self-testing is likely to cause you to become distracted and lose your attention.

On the other hand, if you plan to quiz yourself on the course material for 45 minutes and then take a break, you are much more likely to maintain your attention and retain the information. Furthermore, the shorter, more intense sessions will likely put the pressure on that is needed to prevent procrastination.

Silence isn’t golden

Know where you study best. The silence of a library may not be the best place for you. It’s important to consider what noise environment works best for you. You might find that you concentrate better with some background noise. Some people find that listening to classical music while studying helps them concentrate, while others find this highly distracting. The point is that the silence of the library may be just as distracting (or more) than the noise of a gymnasium. Thus, if silence is distracting, but you prefer to study in the library, try the first or second floors where there is more background ‘buzz.’

Keep in mind that active studying is rarely silent as it often requires saying the material aloud.

Problems are your friend

Working and re-working problems is important for technical courses (e.g., math, economics). Be able to explain the steps of the problems and why they work.

In technical courses, it is usually more important to work problems than read the text (Newport, 2007). In class, write down in detail the practice problems demonstrated by the professor. Annotate each step and ask questions if you are confused. At the very least, record the question and the answer (even if you miss the steps).

When preparing for tests, put together a large list of problems from the course materials and lectures. Work the problems and explain the steps and why they work (Carrier, 2003).

Reconsider multitasking

A significant amount of research indicates that multi-tasking does not improve efficiency and actually negatively affects results (Junco, 2012).

In order to study smarter, not harder, you will need to eliminate distractions during your study sessions. Social media, web browsing, game playing, texting, etc. will severely affect the intensity of your study sessions if you allow them! Research is clear that multi-tasking (e.g., responding to texts, while studying), increases the amount of time needed to learn material and decreases the quality of the learning (Junco, 2012).

Eliminating the distractions will allow you to fully engage during your study sessions. If you don’t need your computer for homework, then don’t use it. Use apps to help you set limits on the amount of time you can spend at certain sites during the day. Turn your phone off. Reward intensive studying with a social-media break (but make sure you time your break!) See our handout on managing technology for more tips and strategies.

Switch up your setting

Find several places to study in and around campus and change up your space if you find that it is no longer a working space for you.

Know when and where you study best. It may be that your focus at 10:00 PM. is not as sharp as at 10:00 AM. Perhaps you are more productive at a coffee shop with background noise, or in the study lounge in your residence hall. Perhaps when you study on your bed, you fall asleep.

Have a variety of places in and around campus that are good study environments for you. That way wherever you are, you can find your perfect study spot. After a while, you might find that your spot is too comfortable and no longer is a good place to study, so it’s time to hop to a new spot!

Become a teacher

Try to explain the material in your own words, as if you are the teacher. You can do this in a study group, with a study partner, or on your own. Saying the material aloud will point out where you are confused and need more information and will help you retain the information. As you are explaining the material, use examples and make connections between concepts (just as a teacher does). It is okay (even encouraged) to do this with your notes in your hands. At first you may need to rely on your notes to explain the material, but eventually you’ll be able to teach it without your notes.

Creating a quiz for yourself will help you to think like your professor. What does your professor want you to know? Quizzing yourself is a highly effective study technique. Make a study guide and carry it with you so you can review the questions and answers periodically throughout the day and across several days. Identify the questions that you don’t know and quiz yourself on only those questions. Say your answers aloud. This will help you to retain the information and make corrections where they are needed. For technical courses, do the sample problems and explain how you got from the question to the answer. Re-do the problems that give you trouble. Learning the material in this way actively engages your brain and will significantly improve your memory (Craik, 1975).

Take control of your calendar

Controlling your schedule and your distractions will help you to accomplish your goals.

If you are in control of your calendar, you will be able to complete your assignments and stay on top of your coursework. The following are steps to getting control of your calendar:

See our handout on calendars and college for more tips on using calendars as time management.

Use downtime to your advantage

Beware of ‘easy’ weeks. This is the calm before the storm. Lighter work weeks are a great time to get ahead on work or to start long projects. Use the extra hours to get ahead on assignments or start big projects or papers. You should plan to work on every class every week even if you don’t have anything due. In fact, it is preferable to do some work for each of your classes every day. Spending 30 minutes per class each day will add up to three hours per week, but spreading this time out over six days is more effective than cramming it all in during one long three-hour session. If you have completed all of the work for a particular class, then use the 30 minutes to get ahead or start a longer project.

Use all your resources

Remember that you can make an appointment with an academic coach to work on implementing any of the strategies suggested in this handout.

Works consulted

Carrier, L. M. (2003). College students’ choices of study strategies. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96 (1), 54-56.

Craik, F. I., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104 (3), 268.

Davis, S. G., & Gray, E. S. (2007). Going beyond test-taking strategies: Building self-regulated students and teachers. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 1 (1), 31-47.

Edwards, A. J., Weinstein, C. E., Goetz, E. T., & Alexander, P. A. (2014). Learning and study strategies: Issues in assessment, instruction, and evaluation. Elsevier.

Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59 (2), 505-514.

Mackenzie, A. M. (1994). Examination preparation, anxiety and examination performance in a group of adult students. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 13 (5), 373-388.

McGuire, S.Y. & McGuire, S. (2016). Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate in Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Newport, C. (2006). How to become a straight-a student: the unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less. Three Rivers Press.

Paul, K. (1996). Study smarter, not harder. Self Counsel Press.

Robinson, A. (1993). What smart students know: maximum grades, optimum learning, minimum time. Crown trade paperbacks.

Wissman, K. T., Rawson, K. A., & Pyc, M. A. (2012). How and when do students use flashcards? Memory, 20, 568-579.

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study habits meaning and examples

Study Habits of Highly Effective Students

Good Study Habits

10 Habits of Highly Effective Students

The key to becoming an effective student is learning how to study smarter, not harder. This becomes more and more true as you advance in your education. An hour or two of studying a day is usually sufficient to make it through high school with satisfactory grades, but when college arrives, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all your studying in if you don’t know how to study smarter.

While some students are able to breeze through school with minimal effort, this is the exception. The vast majority of successful students achieve their success by developing and applying effective study habits. The following are the top 10 study habits employed by highly successful students. So if you want to become a successful student, don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, just work to develop each of the study habits below and you’ll see your grades go up, your knowledge increase, and your ability to learn and assimilate information improve.

1. Don’t attempt to cram all your studying into one session.

Ever find yourself up late at night expending more energy trying to keep your eyelids open than you are studying? If so, it’s time for a change. Successful students typically space their work out over shorter periods of time and rarely try to cram all of their studying into just one or two sessions. If you want to become a successful student then you need to learn to be consistent in your studies and to have regular, yet shorter, study periods.

Good Study Habits

2. Plan when you’re going to study.

Successful students schedule specific times throughout the week when they are going to study — and then they stick with their schedule. Students who study sporadically and whimsically typically do not perform as well as students who have a set study schedule. Even if you’re all caught up with your studies, creating a weekly routine, where you set aside a period of time a few days a week, to review your courses will ensure you develop habits that will enable you to succeed in your education long term.

3. Study at the same time.

Not only is it important that you plan when you’re going to study, it’s important you create a consistent, daily study routine. When you study at the same time each day and each week, you’re studying will become a regular part of your life. You’ll be mentally and emotionally more prepared for each study session and each study session will become more productive. If you have to change your schedule from time to time due to unexpected events, that’s okay, but get back on your routine as soon as the event has passed.

4. Each study time should have a specific goal.

Simply studying without direction is not effective. You need to know exactly what you need to accomplish during each study session. Before you start studying, set a study session goal that supports your overall academic goal (i.e. memorize 30 vocabulary words in order to ace the vocabulary section on an upcoming Spanish test.)

5. Never procrastinate your planned study session.

It’s very easy, and common, to put off your study session because of lack of interest in the subject, because you have other things you need to get done, or just because the assignment is hard. Successful students DO NOT procrastinate studying. If you procrastinate your study session, your studying will become much less effective and you may not get everything accomplished that you need to. Procrastination also leads to rushing, and rushing is the number one cause of errors.

6. Start with the most difficult subject first.

As your most difficult assignment or subject will require the most effort and mental energy, you should start with it first. Once you’ve completed the most difficult work, it will be much easier to complete the rest of your work. Believe it or not, starting with the most difficult subject will greatly improve the effectiveness of your study sessions, and your academic performance.

7. Always review your notes before starting an assignment.

Obviously, before you can review your notes you must first have notes to review. Always make sure to take good notes in class. Before you start each study session, and before you start a particular assignment, review your notes thoroughly to make sure you know how to complete the assignment correctly. Reviewing your notes before each study session will help you remember important subject matter learned during the day, and make sure your studying is targeted and effective.

8. Make sure you’re not distracted while you’re studying.

Everyone gets distracted by something. Maybe it’s the TV. Or maybe it’s your family. Or maybe it’s just too quite. Some people actually study better with a little background noise. When you’re distracted while studying you (1) lose your train of thought and (2) are unable to focus — both of which will lead to very ineffective studying. Before you start studying find a place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted. For some people this is a quiet cubical in the recesses of the library. For others is in a common area where there is a little background noise.

9. Use study groups effectively.

Ever heard the phrase “two heads are better than one?” Well this can be especially true when it comes to studying. Working in groups enables you to (1) get help from others when you’re struggling to understand a concept, (2) complete assignments more quickly, and (3) teach others, whereby helping both the other students and yourself to internalize the subject matter. However, study groups can become very ineffective if they’re not structured and if groups members come unprepared. Effective students use study groups effectively.

10. Review your notes, schoolwork and other class materials over the weekend.

Successful students review what they’ve learned during the week over the weekend. This way they’re well prepared to continue learning new concepts that build upon previous coursework and knowledge acquired the previous week.

We’re confident that if you’ll develop the habits outlined above that you’ll see a major improvement in your academic success.


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  1. What Exactly are Study Skills, Anyway? - Oxford Learning

    Study Skills are a collection of learning techniques used together to make preparing for a test easier. When used regularly as part of an overall learning strategy, they help students become more organized in all areas of their education. Whether learning in class or studying for a test, each study skill plays a role in helping to make learning ...

  2. 8 Highly Effective Study Habits - Psych Central

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    For example, instead of trying to study for three hours, plan to study for three one-hour-long sessions with breaks in between. Here are some benefits to this strategy: Taking breaks can increase your endurance, allowing you to study for longer. During those breaks, your brain can process the information you studied.

  5. Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder – Learning Center

    For example, self-testing is an active study strategy that improves the intensity of studying and efficiency of learning. However, planning to spend hours on end self-testing is likely to cause you to become distracted and lose your attention.

  6. Study Habits of Highly Effective Students | Good Study

    Good Study Habits 2. Plan when you’re going to study. Successful students schedule specific times throughout the week when they are going to study — and then they stick with their schedule. Students who study sporadically and whimsically typically do not perform as well as students who have a set study schedule.

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