In recent years, strategic studying has become a hot topic in the world of education. With assessments having such a substantial effect on a student’s final grade, midterms and final exams can be looming stressors from the very onset of an academic term. Fortunately, research is being conducted to identify the most effective strategies for studying. By using these studying tips, students can work smarter, not harder, to retain knowledge and perform their best when it counts.
Three research-based study habits to try today
Everyone has heard of students pulling an ‘all-nighter’ the evening before a big exam…drinking coffee and energy drinks to stay awake for hours on end, attempting to commit as many facts to memory as possible. While relatable and entertaining in movies, this is not an effective way to retain information. Research shows that spacing out your study time can improve retention and recall more than massed practice. By spacing out your practice, you can retain more information over time, even if there is a bit of knowledge loss between sessions.
Tip: Creating and studying with flash cards is a great way to space out study sessions. When studying, put cards you can answer immediately aside to review three days later. Cards that are more challenging to answer can be practiced again in two days. Any cards that cannot be answered or are answered incorrectly should be studied and reviewed again the next day.
Another effective study habit to implement is self-assessment. After learning a new concept, quiz yourself to see how well you retained the information. A study conducted by Washington University showed that immediate testing after reading a prose passage promoted better long-term retention than repeatedly studying the passage. While rereading a text is like looking at the answer to a puzzle, asking yourself questions as a teacher would is like doing the puzzle yourself.
This is a great strategy for all learners. In a 2020 study in Learning & Instruction, Knouse and others discovered that retrieval practice was equally as successful for students with attention disorders such as ADHD as it was for those without.
Tip: Avoid only using simplified questions (such as recalling definitions or facts). Challenge yourself by drafting questions that may appear on an exam. Higher depth of knowledge questions may ask you to compare and contrast information, develop an argument, or explain a process.
Research shows that pre-testing can improve post-test results even more than extended studying. Edutopia.org states, “When students practice answering questions, even incorrectly, before learning the content, their future learning is enhanced.” It is believed that by taking a pre-test, a student can get a sense of an instructor’s testing style and build familiarity before the actual test day. In a 2011 study, students who tested themselves with a practice test after learning the material retained 50% more of the information a week later than their peers who did not take a practice test. If your instructor does not offer an official practice test, work with your peers to create your own!
Tip: Take practice tests for the ACT, SAT, and college placement exams as well. Free practice tests are available online. High scores on college admissions exams can help you stand out on college applications.
Study Habits at Nevada State High School
At Nevada State High School, we teach effective study habits in our Study Skills course to help students perform successfully in a college environment.
Study Skills serves as the “training wheels” to support students while they are submerged in a full college experience. The Study Skills course develops and refines skills for college remedial assistance, academic guidance and planning, and proficiency assistance. Instructors monitor, support, assist, tutor, and meet with students to work on targeting academic needs. Students are encouraged to be actively involved in their education by becoming independent, resourceful learners.
Two of the Study Skills sessions that address strategic studying are Study Habits and Test Taking Strategies. In the Study Habits lesson, students learn how to create effective 5-point notecards that can be used for spaced practice and self-assessment. In Test Taking Strategies, students reflect on the practices that they currently implement and develop an action plan to improve their test taking strategy moving forward. Students at Nevada State High School also have access to free ACT Boot Camps throughout the year which include ACT pre-testing.
Work smarter, not harder!
Preparing for exams in high school and college is crucial for success. To reduce stress and increase test scores, it is important to implement effective and strategic study habits to better retain information and master academic content. We hope you try out these new tips!
Are you looking for more support on your academic journey? Nevada State High School assists students every step of the way during their transition from high school to college. From building study habits to providing one-on-one support and tutoring, NSHS helps students improve their test scores. With an average ACT score of 21.6 (3.7 points higher than the state average) and 98% graduation rate, NSHS is a clear choice for those looking to study hard and succeed. Applications are now open for the Fall 2021 semester. Apply at earlycollegenv.com.
L.E. Knouse, K.A. Rawson and J. Dunlosky. How much do college students with ADHD benefit from retrieval practice when learning key-term definitions? Learning and Instruction. Vol. 68, August 2020. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2020.101330.
Richland, L.E., Kornell, N., & Kao, S.L. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval
attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15(3), 243-257.
Roediger, H. L., III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention. Psychological Science, 17(3), 249-255. http://learninglab.psych.purdue.edu/downloads/2006_Roediger_Karpicke_PsychSci.pdf