How to Optimize Your Study Time by Mrs.England & Mrs. Young

Written by Kitty England on September 22nd, 2014

Having wrapped up the first two weeks of school, students are no doubt thinking less about “what beach shall we visit today” and thinking more about how to get the most bang for their “at-home-study buck.” We are nothing if not helpful here at Providence, so here are a few basic study tips designed to help even the most experienced student to maximize the effectiveness of study time.

  1. While this might seem too obvious to mention, don’t study what you already know. A quick review of familiar material is never a bad idea, but spend the bulk of your time on material that is less familiar to you. This is good time management.
  2. While you may fancy yourself a master of multi-tasking, evidence shows that people learn better, with less effort and with longer lasting results—when working in an atmosphere devoid of distractions. Thus, make sure you have a good environment in which to study—a place that is organized and peaceful with good lighting. It is best not to have on any music, unless it is something peaceful that is turned on quietly. Cell phones, television, and social media should NOT be a part of your learning environment.
  3. Avoid lying down to study—it’s too easy to fall asleep! And when you are trying to memorize something, walk around and memorize. It’s weird, but it works!
  4. When deciding what to study first, get to know yourself. Some people really need to knock out the shorter assignments in order to free themselves up to focus on the longer or more taxing work. Others prefer to take on the most challenging work while they are most rested. Whatever you do, do NOT procrastinate. It only makes you feel rushed and it seldom results in your best work. If you have an afterschool or evening activity, don’t wait until you get home to start your homework; take a bit of a break, get yourself a snack, and get at least something done. You will feel so much better and again, you will learn more and do better work. Thinking that you will get up early in the morning to finish what you didn’t get to the night before always sounds like a good idea, but too often backfires.
  5. Memory Work: Read over your memory work several times a day rather than waiting until the last minute to shove it all into your brain at once. Similarly, when you are given something to study, chunk it out. Study a little each day rather than stockpiling it. The more times you “visit” something, the deeper it goes into your long-term memory. And again, just speaking practically, it is better to enjoy many small courses over time rather than to gorge yourself in one sitting. Unless, of course, it happens to be Thanksgiving.
  6. Take the time to stay organized. Put your papers in their proper places so you don’t waste time trying to find them or finding out to late that you do not have what you need to study.
  7. Use your planners to write down clear directions from your teachers, and if you are unclear about anything, ask the teacher right then and there. Also, make sure that before you leave school (or even the class), you have everything you need.
  8. When preparing for tests:
    1. Start as early as possible and “chunk it out.”
    2. Put all your materials together in one neat pile.
    3. Use your study guides! Don’t spend time studying what you have not been asked to know. Highlight places where information can be found that addresses the items listed on your study guide, but do not substitute highlighting “or looking over your notes” for true learning.
    4. After receiving a study guide, begin to match up what it says with what resources you have and identify any questions that you do not know where to find the answer to. This means that you will have organized your notes and handouts and readings etc. and at least skimmed them to recall information that can be lined up with the study guide. If you find gaps, having done this preliminary prep early allows you to talk to your teacher while there is still time to help direct you to where to find answers.
    5. Prepare for essay questions in advance when you have time to draw on all your sources and think about what you can or want to say and how you will say it. Try making an outline to help you learn the material and to organize your ideas.
    6. If you choose to study with others, make sure you have done some pre-studying ahead of time.
    7. Get enough sleep the night before; do not push yourself to study late into the night as it has been proven that your brain needs time to process, which is does while you are sleeping. You will only be able to do this if you have started early and not waited until the last minute to begin studying.
    8. Wake up a few minutes early on the day of the test and review the exam materials. You will probably be pleasantly surprised to see how much you remember after having applied yourself diligently in the days leading up to the test.

These are just a few basic and common sense tips for optimizing your study time. If you would like to share other ideas, contact Mrs. England.

In the meantime, grab a cold class of milk, find a comfortable place to lay out your books, and let the learning begin!