When it comes to going back to college, there exists a bit of a paradox: Even though students are in college to learn, they may not be aware of some techniques that can help them learn more effectively.
Kind of a problem, especially if you want to get better grades and improve your academic results.
The solution? Develop better study habits.
For decades, good study habits have been linked to positive academic achievement. Current research published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, however, shows a marked decline in average weekly study time for college students.
Today’s students study only about 14 hours per week. That’s down almost 50 percent from 1961 when students studied an average of 24 hours a week.
Why the decline?
Aside from distractions like social media, technology, time-management and overcrowded calendars, studying is just downright difficult for most people.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be—especially when you try these simple tips for effective learning.
Try one or try all five. Each tip is designed to help you work smarter, not harder.
- Actively engage your brain. Take notes. It doesn’t matter how you capture the notes. Even if you never refer back to them, taking notes is extremely helpful. The act of note taking helps your brain make what’s known as a “spatial relationship” between you and the information you hear. Note taking is not just about helping you remember information. One of the biggest benefits of taking notes is the help it provides your brain in sorting out what information is important and what information is not, and the subsequent storage of important information in your memory for later retrieval.
- Create your own flash cards. Educators the world over use flash cards with good reason: They promote active recall, memorization, and repetition. Besides, they’re a portable, low-tech way to memorize factual material.
- Make a personal connection. Rewrite lecture notes or concepts in your own words and you’re taking a giant leap toward contextually understanding the study material. Think of your rewrites as a summarization technique and as an excellent way to check for understanding. Albert Einstein perhaps said it best: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.”
- Use memory builders. While nothing new or revolutionary, there’s no denying the power of songs, mnemonics, acronyms and other memory techniques. Proof positive? The alphabet song or the never-forget treble clef “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”
- Plan your study time. Much time is wasted trying to generally “study.” Instead, engage in small bursts of focused study time. It will be less taxing for you and is more likely to produce your desired outcome. Two techniques to try: the Pomodoro Technique® and the Pareto Principle.
Earn “extra credit” with these additional study-help resources:
- 7 simple steps for adult learners to excel in the classroom
- 10 secrets to success if you haven’t seen a classroom in years
- Overcome the 5 common obstacles that keep adults from finishing their degree
Have a study tip of your own? Leave a comment and let us know!