5 Powerful New Study Habits to Try This Fall
Maya was a new client and had a big test coming up in the next week. I asked her, “What are your current study habits? What’s your plan for studying for this test?”
“Um, a plan? I don’t really have a plan. Maybe I’ll re-read my notes and some of the textbook. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”
In a word, no.
There are WAY better methods to complete work and study for quizzes and tests. All too often, students are using study techniques from decades ago. Recent research into learning has shown us that many of the old stand-bys aren’t that effective.
On the positive side, that same research has found new techniques that are way more effective. It’s time to change up those study practices!
5 Powerful Study Habits to Try This Fall (or Whenever)
Retrieval practice is a fancy phrase for low-stakes quizzing. You can use retrieval practice as a student on yourself or as a teacher for all your students.
Retrieval practice is focused on getting information out of your head through low or no-stakes quizzes or review activities. Studies have shown that students who use retrieval practice do better on tests and have less test anxiety. That last one is a sweet bonus!
Lucky for you, I have plenty of ideas for how to incorporate retrieval practice in your everyday studying.
If you’ve ever tried to cram for an exam, you know that you promptly forgot everything within days. If you want to learn information long-term (🙋🏽), you need to space out your learning over a period of time.
That time in between allows your brain time to make connections and context around the information, meaning you are more likely to remember it. Once you’ve almost forgotten a piece of information, the straining to remember is like a workout for your brain.
Instead of cramming for 6 hours the night before a test, study for 30 minutes a day for 6 days prior to the exam. Or review nightly on Day 1, Day 3, Day 10, and Day 14. You are more likely to remember the information long-term by spacing out the studying that way!
Your body NEEDS to move. We were not built to sit at a desk and stare at screens. Additionally, we know that movement can help the learning process. I’ve definitely taught students who can only learn if their body is moving. It also means that you need to move while taking breaks. Staying at your table and scrolling through your Insta feed just doesn’t cut it.
This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a treadmill desk (though I would not turn one down if it were offered.) Set up stations around the house to work. Complete your Biology at the kitchen table, English in the office, and then do your math on the sidewalk with some sidewalk chalk. Yes, really. Pick a keyword – when you read that word, get up and do 10 jumping jacks or pushups.
Take breaks during your studying and move on those breaks. Take a quick walk or stretch session. And don’t forget to exercise regularly during the week!
Yet another fancy term! Interleaving means that you mix related subjects during study time. Interleaving content or subjects will help you learn more information even faster than if you studied them separately.
When studying, interleaving can look a few different ways. If you’re taking a language, mix in vocabulary from older units with the vocabulary from the current unit. In math, mix up the types of problems you are solving, instead of practicing all the same type at 1 time. Or let’s say you’re taking French language and European history – interleave the two subjects with each other.
OMG, just get some regular sleep! Teens need 9-10 hours of sleep a night. And if you think sleep is for the weak, think again. Sleep is for the smart.
Recent research has shown that the brain works hard while you’re sleeping, consolidating memories from the day and throwing out information it deems unnecessary. You essentially learn while you’re sleeping. (And I have some ideas for how to get more sleep!)
Luckily for my student Maya, I introduced her to a variety of study habits and strategies she could use. Not only did her test performance increase, so did her confidence! These study habits can do the same for you!