Studying isn’t learning, unless you do it right. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about studying, it tends to come before they mention an exam. Studying has become something that too many of us dread; it seems that no matter what, studying is an obstacle. I don’t disagree. Studying is a huge obstacle, but it can be overcome with the proper habits.
Mindset Is Everything
If you sit down to study with an attitude that the material is too much to handle, you’ll only waste time. Time is precious in all respects, but especially when you’re studying. You’ve set aside some time to do work, so do the work. Time spent worrying and complaining is better spent working towards understanding your material. Every time I am faced with a difficult concept, I find that after studying effectively I feel more and more confident in my knowledge. When it comes time for an exam, provided that I’ve studied enough, I go into the room calm and in control. It’s not that I don’t get nervous; I just studied ahead of time and know that my knowledge base is enough to handle whatever my prof. throws at me. The key is believing in yourself. If you don’t, you’ll defeat yourself before you even start; it doesn’t do anyone any good to think negatively—least of all yourself.
The first step in building strong study habits is setting aside time. If you don’t allocate a specific amount of time towards your study plan, you’ll only be slowing your own progress down. You’ll grow more stressed about an upcoming exam because you don’t know what to do. Change this into having a plan of when you’ll be busy studying and when you’ll be free. It will make your time spent studying all the more pleasing because you know that once you’re done, you’ll have free time to explore your other interests. The same idea behind going to the gym applies to studying: make the time for it and make it happen.
The spot(s) you choose are largely dependent on what is around you. If you prefer to study in your home/dorm, that’s fine! But beware that it becomes much easier to grow distracted and ever more tempting to do anything and everything but study when you’re at home. If you choose your environment wisely, with knowledge of what you can and can’t do until you’re done with your daily goal, you’ll make the most of your time. The spot you choose is critical in defining how efficiently you will work. Studying when you’re on your bed with the TV on will not only make you less focused on your work, but it also makes it harder to tune out distractions. The goal of choosing your environment wisely is that it will be a productive space where you feel that you can efficiently go through your workload for the day. This leads into two important questions to consider:
- Where am I most productive?
- What can I do to make myself more productive?
In answering each of these questions, be honest with yourself. If you can’t focus at home but dread going to a library, find a medium and see if it works for you (many people gravitate towards coffee shops as an in-between, but make sure that it works for you first before you make that your new spot). After you finish your work, reflect on how you think it went. Did you remain focused? Do you remember what you just did? If you think that something could have been better (noise, company, or even your mood), decide on a plan of how to change it. Whether that means finding a new spot or a new location in your current spot is up to you—the goal is reflecting and learning from experience.
Learning Through Questioning
The ultimate goal of all of education, in my view, is to become more learned and a better person through knowledge and its application (both for ourselves and for the world at large). When it comes down to an exam, however, the emphasis tends to grow blurred for us. If we fail our exams, what good will learning the material do for us? What if I were to tell you that you can ace your exam while also learning and not just replaying information? The best way to learn while studying is to be actively engaged. Ask yourself, “How does X work?” and, “Why does X lead to Y?” Asking these two questions will not only open your mind up to the bigger picture, but will turn reading over slides or through a textbook into an active learning process. You’ll find yourself growing curious and wondering; it turns into more than an assignment and becomes a potential source for growth. You’ll find that your memory and retention of the information have improved if you apply this exercise regularly.
Constant Improvement & Sacrifice
Habits aren’t formed overnight. It will take consistent dedication to get yourself to the level that you want to be at. If you want to learn more about dedication and how it applies to improving yourself, check out my post on it where I go into detail:
I have found that as I improve my study strategies I continue to find areas of improvement. You begin to approach studying without a fear of the unknowns or how to do it “right.” Everyone studies differently. There are many ways by which you can build strong study habits, but they all start with one key ingredient: sacrifice. Studying is not hard. The only thing that holds us back is sacrificing the time to do it. We all have the ability to work on something, but what we choose to work on stems from what we give priority to. If you prioritize relaxing, then that will reflect on your ability to study and ultimately your exam score(s). You may wonder how some people appear to relax all the time and yet they still perform better than others. We don’t see each other 24 hours a day. People who are highly efficient with their time put effort into consistently building strong study habits. The only thing that can hold you back from studying is yourself. Perhaps that’s the hardest part of it all.
Honest reflection coupled with dedication leads to action while worry leads only to more worry. May we choose wisely lest we remain in the tunnel with no light in sight. We need only to look up and see what lay in store should we attempt at moving forward.