4 Tips to Study Better and Boost Learning
No one is born knowing how to study, or at least everyone can improve the studying methods they’re “born with.”
You have to learn a series of study skills and then put them in practice to develop good learning habits. You’ll learn better, and also use your time better.
Study skills are valuable tools when it comes to achieving meaningful learning. This is because they help you comprehend, retain, and absorb the information. But there aren’t many students who’ve mastered these skills.
A lot of students go for last-minute memorization, which makes their grades not meet their expectations. They quickly forget what they’ve learned.
Studying from memory won’t give you very promising scores. Luckily there are a lot of other study skills that are more fun and dynamic. These will help you study better and can also help improve your performance.
Skills to help you study better
Taking notes is one of the most widespread study skills. It means summarizing the most important points in your own words so that you can remember them more easily.
In most cases the key is to be able to summarize them quickly, but without leaving out any important information. The other key to a good summary is to make sure the relationship between the main concepts is very clear.
Sometimes it’s hard to absorb the big ideas in certain subjects. But doing practice problems and case studies can help you get a picture of the idea and absorb the knowledge in a simpler way.
This is especially useful when it comes to subjects like math, physics, law, and other subjects with numbers.
It can be a good idea to do case studies at the same time as you study the ideas. This way you’ll have a better understanding of what they’re for and what information all those letters are really conveying.
Another skill to help you study better, this time in a group, is brainstorming. It consists of a group meeting where members throw out any idea they might have about a specific topic.
Brainstorming can be especially useful for doing group projects, so you consider different ideas and viewpoints. But it can also be useful to cram for an exam. It could clear up any questions and help you dig deeper into the subject matter.
A lot of these study skills aren’t new, and they’re actually very well-known by most students. But what is new is the way you can put them in practice to study better. That’s why we suggest you read this article if you’re in college, preparing for an entrance exam, or if you just want to improve your learning process.
Strategies to boost your learning
Weinstein and Mayer (1986) identify five general categories of learning strategies:
- rehearsal (repeating terms)
- elaboration (paraphrasing, summing up)
- organizational (summing up a text)
- comprehension (asking questions, checking your own knowledge)
- affective (establishing and maintaining your motivation)
Classifications per Palinscar and Brown
To study better and boost your learning, the classifications described by Palinscar and Brown (1984) make these suggestions:
- Paraphrasing: putting the information in the text into your own words.
- Inferring: drawing conclusions from what’s been explained.
- Summing up: choosing the key parts, picking out fundamental ideas.
- Predicting: assuming, anticipating, foreseeing, forecasting, guessing, establishing inferences.
- Clarifying: specifying, detailing, and explaining certain aspects of the text.
- Questioning: helps activate thought processes and previous knowledge.
According to a 2012 study done at Brigham Young University, published in The Eastern Economic Journal, the two most significant strategies to boost your learning are your sleep schedule and constantly testing yourself on what you’re learning. Sleep schedules and rest have a direct impact on your performance.
The researchers say you need around 7 hours of sleep to get better learning outcomes. Sleep helps solidify your memory and what you’ve learned.
On the other hand, lack of sleep can damage the neuron networks in your prefrontal cortex, which will make it harder for you to assimilate, retain, and solidify the information you learn.
Research from 2011 published in Science magazine analyzed 3 commonly used studying methods: memorizing and repeating, making drawings and diagrams, and doing evaluations and exams to see if you’ve learned anything.
To see how effective these were, they followed 200 students, who they divided into 3 groups, each with a different studying method.
The researchers discovered that the most effective method is doing evaluations of what you’ve learned. It can increase your learning volume by up to 50%.
How can you improve your study skills?
The classic study skills method involves 5 stages:
- Speed reading, to give yourself an overall sense of the main ideas.
- Thorough reading where you underline the most important ideas.
- Summary or framework. This means summing up the key points in your own words so that you can remember them more easily.
- Studying and memorization. For this part it’s best to read the summaries out loud.
- Review with classmates. The act of “telling” what you’ve learned will help you internalize it better.
To improve these study habits you should follow a series of steps until they turn into habits:
Making a study routine
Giving yourself a study schedule and following it has a big impact on how effective your studying is. Doing your studying in a disorganized way is one way to end up studying late into the night, when sleep and tiredness get in the way of your ability to concentrate.
And getting used to a schedule will also make it easier not to skip your studying time. You’ll be more likely to give it the time it needs.
Keeping distractions at a distance
This might seem obvious, but it’s never a bad thing to remember. Distractions can take unexpected shapes and it’s good to know how to spot them. Some things on the distraction blacklist are Facebook, Instagram, cellphones, and TV. But there are also other things that you can add to the list of things to keep away while you’re studying.
Getting away from literal memorization
You have to make the information in the texts your own. This means linking it to certain things from your life, reformulating it in your own words, or using other examples you can think of.
That way you’ll be able to end up achieving meaningful learning. It’s more resistant to the passage of time than just memorizing information that doesn’t make much sense to you.
If you can, you should evaluate yourself with exams or lists of questions about the topic you’re studying. This might seem like a waste of time if you think you just need to “immerse” yourself in the information. But that’s not true, because it will help you spot mistakes and allow you to measure your progress.
If you use all these strategies to study better, you won’t just be making the best use of the time you spend absorbing knowledge (whatever it might be), it will make it so the learning you achieve will also be much harder to forget. It’s worth it.
Palinscar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and instruction, 1(2), 117-175.
Weinstein, J. D., Mayer, S. M., & Beale, S. I. (1986). Stimulation of δ-aminolevulinic acid formation in algal extracts by heterologous RNA. Plant physiology, 82(4), 1096-1101.