Too often, people imagine that long hours of study are the best way to be an outstanding student. However, research shows that successful students actually spend less time studying than their peers. They just study more effectively. All students can learn to use their study time more effectively by using research-proven techniques.

Study less with greater intensity

In this age of social media and digital distractions, many students and adults multitask. Rather than spending a lot of time doing low-intensity work with numerous distractions, these students work for shorter periods with greater intensity, without distractions from email, social media, etc. Its study is more effective and leads to higher achievements in performance.

Ineffective Learning Techniques

Many students use learning techniques that are time consuming and give the illusion of mastery. Ineffective techniques may include:

  • Studying for long periods of time
  • Studying a single topic over a long period of time and repeating phrases over and over again to memorize them (known as mass practice)
  • Review a topic repeatedly before moving on to another topic (locked practice)
  • Read and reread a text
  • Highlight or underline important concepts in a text and then revise
  • Review notes

High Intensity Study Habits


When students practice answering questions, even incorrectly, before learning the content, their future learning improves. Research has shown that pre-tests improve post-test results more than spending the same amount of time studying.

Spaced practice

Spacing out study sessions - focusing on one topic for a short period on different days - has been shown to improve retention and memory more than mass practice. The book How We Learn explains that spaced practice can be difficult due to an initial forgetfulness of knowledge - re-acquiring that knowledge requires effort. Creating flashcards that can be used for spaced practice and self-assessment is effective. Students should create different stacks by reviewing the flash cards. Cards that can respond immediately should be placed in a pile for review three days later; those answered with some difficulty should be reviewed two days later; and those that answered incorrectly should be reviewed the next day.

Self appraisal

Testing has a negative connotation in this age of standardized testing, but it is a form of active remedial practice. However students should incorporate questionnaires into their study sessions, answering all questions, even those they think they know well.

Interleaved practice

Students can rely on blocked practice, studying a set of problems, such as multiplication problems, as a group until they feel mastered. A more effective study method is to work on a set of problems that are related but not all of the same type, for example, a set of math problems that require addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

Paraphrase and reflect

Many of us have read a few paragraphs in a textbook only to realize that we don't retain a single concept or key point presented in those paragraphs. To show your students how to combat this, ask them to use intentional learning strategies. These include relating what is being learned to prior knowledge, thinking about how you would explain the content to a 5-year-old, and reflecting and asking questions about the content.

Pilot Study

Understand the study cycle

The study cycle, developed by Frank Christ, breaks down the different parts of the study: preview, class attendance, review, study and verification of your understanding.

Spacing is good

One of the most powerful learning strategies is "distributed practice": spacing your study over several short periods of time over several days and weeks. The most effective practice is to work a short time in each class every day.  The important thing is how you use your study time, not how long you study. Long study sessions lead to a lack of concentration, and therefore a lack of learning and retention. To spread the study over short periods of time over several days and weeks, you need to control your schedule.

Time Planning

Be specific and realistic about how much time you plan to spend on each task; You should not have more tasks on your list than you can reasonably complete during the day. For example, you can solve a few problems a day in math instead of all the hour before class. In history, you can spend 15-20 minutes each day actively studying your class notes. Therefore, your study time can remain the same length, but instead of preparing for just one class, you will prepare for all their classes in short periods. This will help you focus, stay on top of their work, and retain information.

In addition to learning the material more deeply, spacing out your work helps avoid procrastination. Instead of having to tackle the dreaded project for four hours on Monday, you can tackle the dreaded project for 30 minutes each day. The shorter, consistent time to work on a dreaded project is likely to be more acceptable and less likely to linger until the last minute.

Become a teacher

Try to explain the material in your own words, as if you were the teacher. You can do this in a study group, with a study partner, or on your own. Saying the material out loud will point out where you are confused and need more information and help you retain the information. As you explain the material, use examples and make connections between concepts (just like a teacher does). It's okay (even recommended) to do this with your notes in your hands. At first, you may have to rely on your notes to explain the material, but eventually you will be able to teach it without your notes.

Creating a quiz for yourself will help you think like a teacher. What does your teacher want you to know? Assessing yourself is a very effective study technique. Make a study guide and take it with you so that you can review the questions and answers periodically throughout the day and over several days. Identify the questions you do not know and evaluate only those questions. Say your answers out loud. This will help you retain the information and make corrections where necessary. For technical courses, solve the sample problems and explain how you went from question to answer. Resolve the issues that inconvenienced you. Learning the material in this way actively engages your brain and significantly improves your memory.

Bibliographic References

Carrier, L. M. (2003). College students’ choices of study strategies. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96(1), 54-56.

Davis, S. G., & Gray, E. S. (2007). Going beyond test-taking strategies: Building self-regulated students and teachers. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 1(1), 31-47.

Paul, K. (1996). Study smarter, not harder. Self Counsel Press.

Study techniques

Study techniques

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