5 Bad Study Habits Holding You Back From Success, Complete With Their Solutions

Is it possible to study for a test or exam, and still do poorly on it? Now, some of you might say that’s downright impossible! But the truth is that it has been known to happen.

Should this happen to you, don’t you go thinking it’s the handiwork of some wicked individual after your destiny, it’s possible that your current study habits are failing you. But the good news? You can turn it around!

While there are lots of studies on how to be a more effective learner, what they all agree on is that to study effectively, you must read, draw, compare, memorise, and test yourself over time. In this vein, take a look at some of the things you are doing wrongly and how to turn it around.

1.  Taking Linear Notes

Linear notes are notes students take when they attempt to write down every word the teacher says. While it’s not bad to capture every word of a lecture, it becomes bad only when you think you must do so to study effectively.

Solution: Instead of rewriting what your teacher has said verbatim, you could recreate your class notes in another form. Try to identify the key concept in each material, understand them, and try to connect them to new concepts that you come across either while studying or in class. The reason this works is that you are helping your brain to make associations between different concepts, which is how the brain remembers things anyway.


2.  Highlighting the Book

Most people think doing this will help them identify key points faster, and which is true. Though bright colours on a page make a big visual impact, but they do not do you much good if you are not actively making use of the highlighted information. Besides, reading highlighted words again and again is not active enough; so, don’t waste your time doing this.

Solution: Use the information you highlight to create a practice exam. Put highlighted words onto flashcards and practice until you know every term and concept. Identify key concepts and use them to create practice essay questions.

3.  Rewriting Your Notes

Students rewrite notes under the assumption that repetition is good for memorisation. Repetition is valuable as a first step, but it’s not effective by itself.

Solution:  Rewrite your notes using several outlines – in the first one, write out all the relevant material that are contained in that topic; then in the second outline, condense this information to only include the main ideas from the first one; and in the last outline, connect each main idea to the lists and details that support it from what you can recall from the first outline until you are sure you have included all the information – then follow up with self-testing methods.

Switch class notes with a classmate and create a practice exam from his/her notes. Exchange practice exams to test each other. Repeat this process a few times until you are comfortable with the material.

4.  Rereading the Chapter

Students are often encouraged to re-read a chapter on the night before an exam to reinforce what they have learned. But rereading is a good tactic only as a last step. Like the other study habits mentioned above, rereading is only one part of a puzzle.

Solution: Make sure to use active steps like charts, shrinking outlines (described in Tip 3), and practice tests and follow up with rereading your chapter.

5.  Memorising Definitions

How many times do students cram definitions in the hope that this will help them remember it? While this is a good study method for short-term memory usage, it is not useful for long-term memory and understanding of material. In fact, you cannot expect to do well on an exam by memorising the definitions to terms.

Solution: Not only must you learn to memorise a definition, you must also be able to define the new vocabulary terms you encounter, explain how these terms are relevant in the subject, be able to compare and contrast your term to something or someone of similar significance, and explain why they matter.

The act of testing and retesting yourself somehow makes the information stick.

This article was adapted from

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