6 Unique Study Tips (For You or Your Students)
Whether you’re getting ready for the Praxis, the GRE, a state licensing test, or any other exam, there are usually plenty of resources to help you study. But getting into the study groove isn’t always about books and apps. Sometimes you need to make changes in your process and behaviors to really get the most out of studying. Trying out new study tips helps your mind get into a different way of thinking about the materials for the upcoming test. And this is true for your students, too. With so little time in class to teach all of the standards required, we often fail to teach students study habits and behaviors that will help them find the best way to learn material. The following list of unique study habits can work for you or your students!
1. Change It Up
When you work out, your body can hit a plateau. This is when your muscles get used to doing the same movements and no longer respond the same way. Your brain works the same way; so making changes to your study routine can really help you process information in new ways. One fun way to recharge your studying is to change the font on the notes that you take. When you go back to reread the information and you change fonts from something standard like Times New Roman to something unusual like Comic Sans, your brain is more attentive to the information because it seems like new input.
2. Stay Focused
Though you should take frequent breaks while you’re studying, it can be tempting to lose a lot of time checking social media or reading your email instead of focusing on the work at hand. If you find yourself constantly clicking into Facebook or scrolling through Instagram while you’re supposed to be memorizing vocabulary or reading peer-reviewed articles there is a way to curb that habit. The technology that is distracting you can actually help in this case. There are great apps like Self-Control that can keep you focused. These apps work by blocking your browser’s access to social media sites for a set amount of time. And don’t forget to keep your phone in a different room while you’re studying so you don’t get tempted.
3. Say Awww!
When it’s time to take a study break, consider skipping all of the politically-charged conversations on Facebook and Twitter and checking out some cute pictures of animals instead. A recent study showed that looking at images of cute animals, including humans, can help improve focus. So now you have an excuse for looking at pictures of beagle puppies while you’re supposed to be studying.
4. Get Some Sun
Getting into nature can be calming and can help with overall mood. It is especially helpful for a healthy brain. Researchers say that the reason that being outside provides such big psychological benefits is that it provides time for the mind to rest without making direct demands for attention. For example, you can notice that there are trees and wildlife around you but they are not beeping or blinking or flashing or making noise for your attention. Take your studying outside and sit under the tree or on a picnic table at a park. If you need to do some reading, download the audiobook and take a walk in your neighborhood. If the weather isn’t great while you’re studying, find a room with a view and at least look at trees or water while you sit inside.
5. Practice What They Teach
One of the best ways to really learn something is to put it into practice. Instead of passively reading and reviewing notes, teach others the work that you’re reading about. At the very least, have a conversation about it. Explaining the information, instead of memorizing it, will help make sure that you really know your stuff. If you are artistic or more of a visual learner, turn your studying materials into diagrams, charts, and pictures. Engaging actively with the material will help your brain processes it in new ways.
6. Know When Enough’s Enough
If you’ve been studying for a long time, you are going to like this tip the best. Sometimes you hit a wall and cannot study any longer. Forcing yourself to do so will not be helpful– you will not retain the information and it will not help you pass the test. When you feel your focus slipping try some of the tips above; but if they don't work, know when to call it a day. Stop studying when you’re exhausted and get some sleep.
You can probably see how these tips would be great for your students, too. Think about ways that you can bring these study habits into the classroom to help students discover more about themselves and how they learn. If you try these tips, track your success and share that information with your students. Whatever you’re studying for is important enough for you to be spending your time on it so make sure you’re spending your time wisely.
Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.