Effective Study Habits for College Students

An effective study habit, first of all, is a study habit that works. Because people learn differently, effective study habits should (theoretically) be different for others. However, the very nature of studying does engender certain universal traits.

If you are in need of a new study habit, identify why you need these habits. For one, you need to learn the material for tests, but even this fact is not so basic. The first thing you should do BEFORE finding a study habit is find out what material you specifically need to learn and how you will be tested on it. The good news is that most professors already give you this information in the form of a syllabus. By just reading the syllabus, you can find out if the tests are based more on the lectures or on the books, a combination of the two, or something even more.

Once you find out what you need to learn, find out how you will be tested on the material. If you will be tested based on general understanding of the knowledge, then your study habits should focus on learning the concepts and associating them to other concepts. The specifics, in this case, aren’t as vital, because you should be tested not on nitpicky details but on the overview of the topic.

If, however, you know that the teacher is infamous for giving tests that ask questions over the most obscure details possible, then you must accommodate for this.

With this knowledge, you can now begin to delve into specific study methods based on the kind of teacher.

1) Associational

The associational method of learning is best for general ideas and concepts. It involves beginning notetaking with a central idea, and then “spoking” from that idea with other ideas. The point of this associational method of studying is to create a “mind map,” which graphically shows the relationships between ideas and concepts in the same way that a stream of consciousness might lead to these ideas. Furthermore, lines connecting the concepts ‘anchor’ them to your learning-so instead of memorizing endlessly, you might memorize a basic law and then anchor more difficult concepts to that based on rules, so you can use logic to figure out those difficult concepts on a test.

The key, however, to this method and others, is to relate concepts that the teacher discusses to concepts from the book. In that way, if one way is easier to understand, that can be your base of association.

2) Recreational

The recreational method of learning does NOT refer to recreation but rather to re-CREATING the data already found in the textbook and in the lecture notes. This method is best for detailed information, because through it, you will actually base your study notes on rewriting chapters from your book. The goal is not to write the chapter verbatim, but to simplify some confusing wordings and keep core phrasings of key details intact. This method is time consuming, but the benefit is that your brain must be more active while writing. Reading is passive, but when writing, you must pay attention to what you read, comprehend the ideas contained within so that you can rephrase the passages correctly.

In this method as well, you should incorporate lecture notes and other materials required for the test. The key to this method is also to understand the concepts but ALSO be able to back up concepts with specific quotations (from the book, the lecture notes, and so forth.)

The reason for incorporating lecture notes with book notes is that when you go back to study for the test, now you only have one set of information to read. Because it is written by your own hand, you might even remember what you wrote-you’ll go back to the mindset you had while writing.