Effective study habits can help you achieve better grades.
Maybe you’re one of the many college students working toward a specific career goal. Or, you might be undecided but earning credits to transfer later. You could even be an enterprising teen looking to work “smart” not just “hard.”
Either way, you likely want to make the best use of your time by optimizing your study habits.
There are a few simple strategies that can help. Learning how to study smarter can make the difference between passing and excelling in school.
If you’re test prepping a topic that’s one of your favorites, chances are the process is comfortable and effective.
But what about a less interesting course, or a day when you’re distracted? It’s human nature to experience low motivation and reduced focus, which can interfere with your learning objectives.
Effective study habits can have a positive impact. A consistent study routine can support you through issues like poor time management that can interfere with your progress.
8 general effective study habits to boost your grades
If you’re looking for a way to increase your academic success, a good place to start is by improving your study habits.
Adopting the right study mindset
Your attitude toward studying may influence the outcome.
It’s not just about thinking positively. Research from 2017 shows that a growth mindset is linked to achievement more than a fixed mindset.
A growth mindset is a belief that you can change the outcome with perseverance and effort. A fixed mindset is a belief that things can’t be changed.
For example, instead of fretting that you don’t have enough time, you could remind yourself that some studying is better than nothing. Rather than fixating on a poor grade, you might ask yourself how you can do better next time.
Knowing the course expectations
There’s more to academic success than subject mastery and test prep. Course expectations are also important.
Your instructor’s policy for late assignments and class participation are two examples of the type of information that can help you.
Another example is being aware of the required format for written assignments. Following this type of instruction can ensure that you get the best possible grades for your efforts.
Choosing an effective study location
A suitable study location is one where you’re comfortable and able to focus. For some people, this might be a park under a shady tree. Others might prefer the hushed and studious environment of a library.
You might have a room at home where you can close a door for quiet. However, if you live in a busy household, it might be easier to plan a trip to the library rather than repeatedly trying to disconnect from everything happening around you.
Having the right study materials
Imagine you’re getting ready to study for an exam from an outline that the teacher has provided, but you can’t find the outline. Now your studying will no longer be a specific and focused activity. Instead, it would be a guessing game.
Having the right study materials can save you time, and could make your efforts more effective.
Using helpful study strategies
Sometimes simply reading your notes in your head doesn’t work as well as you’d like. If this is the case, you can try some other study techniques to produce better results:
- rewrite your notes
- outline your notes
- use memory tricks like mnemonic devices
- make flashcards
- restate concepts in your own words
Networking with peers
If you’d rather study with friends than alone, there’s research to suggest this approach is beneficial.
A 2016 Australian study revealed that students odds of failing a pathology course (based on midsemester quiz marks) reduced significantly (by their final exam) when they used a study buddy support (SBS) system.
Meanwhile, the students who studied alone didn’t experience as much improvement by their final exams.
It might be worthwhile to look for study groups or create one yourself. An added benefit could be a consistent study schedule if the group meets at the same time on the same days every week.
Setting a schedule you can follow
If you wait to study until you’re inspired, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself cramming the night before each test. Instead, a study schedule can help you plan regular study sessions.
This means you’ll have a chance to review previous material. You’ll also be able to study the same topic enough so that you know it well.
It’s a sound idea to have a realistic schedule. Scheduling study time for several hours every night may be ambitious, but it can also lead to burnout.
Time management can maximize the effectiveness of your schedule. For example, if an upcoming test will cover four units of class material and you have 12 study sessions before the test, you can use three study sessions for each unit.
Self-care can affect academic success. For example, it’s easier to pay attention when you’ve had enough sleep.
Proper hydration also affects how well your brain functions. A 2015 study of 52 children ages 9-12 found that kids who were better hydrated had increased cognitive performance in areas including attention and working memory.
A healthy diet helps studying too. To function at its best, your brain needs nutrition from foods like:
- leafy greens
- nuts and seeds
- oily fish
- olive oil or avocado oil
Building helpful habits is only part of academic success. It’s also helpful to know which habits can interfere with your progress.
If you’ve ever looked for excuses to avoid schoolwork, you’re not alone. Most students have procrastinated at some point, choosing more enjoyable activities over assignments and studying.
However, procrastination often leads to rushed and sloppy work. It also means you won’t have enough time to properly prepare for tests. If you find yourself frequently procrastinating, something more could be afoot. Procrastination is linked to some mental health challenges and conditions:
- Procrastination: A Cause or Symptom of Depression?
- How to Stop Procrastinating If You Live with ADHD
- All About ADHD Paralysis
Cramming, or last-minute studying the night before an exam isn’t as effective for transferring learned material to long-term memory.
Instead, spaced retrieval practice is more effective. This refers to allowing some time to pass between each time you practice. Spaced retrieval is even more effective when it’s varied, which means switching topics during a study session.
Multitasking with entertainment
Imagine: The TV is on with your favorite show. Your best friend is livestreaming an event she’s attending. You might think you can multitask, 2019 research deep dives to debunk the media multitasking myth.
Not asking for help when you need it
Information can be cumulative, particularly in subjects like math. If there’s a concept you don’t understand and you sweep it under the rug, this could make it hard to learn new material that comes after.
Asking for clarification also helps the teacher. If enough students are stuck at a certain point, this is an indicator that the teaching materials may need tweaking.
For many people, studying effectively is the difference between a pass and a good grade — between learning the material versus just memorizing it to regurgitate on a test.
Developing practical study habits makes learning easier. Setting a schedule, practicing self-care, and accessing peer support are some examples of actions you can take to help you reach your goals.