When preparing for standardized tests (SAT, ACT, AP Exams, et.c) or studying for classes in school, having good study habits can make a huge difference in performance. Below are several tips that all students can utilize to improve habits – these are lifelong skills that carry into university and beyond.
1. Create a schedule
- An essential step of improvement is identifying concrete and tangible goals, both long-term (I want a 32 on this test) and short-term (today I’m studying grammar). Write down your schedule and goals for each day.
- For creating any new habit, the beginning will be the hardest, sitting down on a Sunday night and scheduling out the three hours you will devote to the studying over the week can be a powerful technique. If you find this a hard habit to begin, ask your tutor to help schedule out your week at the end of your lesson.
2. Do not overextend yourself.
- Students that overplan are often incredibly optimistic. It’s easy to plan to study 2 hours every night before going to bed, but doing it is much harder.
- With this in mind, it’s important for students to not put too much on the their own plate. Never study for more than an hour without giving yourself at least a 10- minute break. Spreading out your studying throughout the week into smaller chunks cultivates healthy study habits without overwhelming the doer.
3. Create systems of cues and rewards that incentivize studying.
- Studying, in and of itself, is not a ‘fun’ activity in the classical sense of the word. While you can’t change this reality, you can reframe the time before and after you do the day’s studying.
- The cue can be anything, grabbing a snack bar, making a cup of tea, or curating the perfect study playlist can all be cues to let your brain know you are about to start studying. It prepares the brain to go through the routine of studying. You may have heard of Pavlov’s dogs? You need to find your ‘bell’ to activate the brain’s studying mode.
- After you’ve identified your goals for the day, gone through your work, and reflected on your mistakes for future sessions, you should reward yourself! Once again, this can be basically anything (going for a run, eating a little ice cream, playing some video games, watching an episode of The Office). No one knows what motivates you more than you so be sure to use whatever device motivates you best.
4. Stay on schedule, even when it feels tedious or repetitive.
- Throughout time studying the, students will inevitably hit some plateaus. You will feel as though going through your conjunctions flashcard for the 50th time or doing yet another reading passage just isn’t worth your time. Do not fall into this trap.
- Every time you go through your routine of deliberate studying, you are improving. You’re helping your brain use just a little less energy when you get to the conjunction questions on the test. Through repetition, routine becomes habit.