So, you’ve made it through to higher education. You’ve successfully handed in homework assignments and passed exams for the majority of your school life. There’s also a good chance that you have your study routine in place, whether it’s a nightcap and your textbooks in your bedroom or a quiet library corner you’ve claimed as your own.
However, it could be that the study habits you’ve practised for over a decade may not be serving you as well as they could be. Research has shown that some common sense study techniques such as spending hours at a time concentrating on one subject or always reading in the same quiet location do not promote long-term learning. And some habits like last-minute cramming in for exams may be worse than you think.
Psychologists have rounded up three principles drawn from years of research to help you get the most out of your time spent studying.
Space Your Study Sessions
Extensive research has shown that spacing out study sessions over a longer period of time improves long-term memory. So, if you have 12 hours to spend on a subject, it’s better to study for three hours each week for four weeks than to cram all 12 hours into week four. It has also been identified that the more time you take between study sessions, the better off you are.
Mix Your Subjects
You might think that if you want to learn one thing well, the best thing to do would be to sit down and concentrate on it for as long as you can stand. But research shows that mixing tasks and topics is a better bet. As in spacing, the key may be in the learning, forgetting and re-learning that helps the brain cement the new information in the long-term. It also gives students a better and deeper understanding of the material.
Students don’t enjoy taking exams and some people bemoan the fact that too many exams can force teachers to teach to the test while extracting creativity from the classroom. But done correctly, testing can be a useful tool to help students learn. Making yourself recall information helps strengthen your long-term learning and helps you remember the material in the final exam.
None of these techniques can be classed as easy but it is important to remember that putting in the extra work to learn material for the long haul is particularly important for graduates. This is because by the time you reach higher education, you’re not just trying to pass a test, you’re learning things you’ll need to get to grips with for the rest of your working life.