When you’re a college student feeling the pressure of having to read and digest volumes of information for your classes, you may be desperate to try any and all study practices in order to make that information stick. However, before you commit to pulling an all-nighter or day-long cramming session, look over our list of three study habits that do more harm than good when it comes to excelling in your academics.
- Putting off your studies until you embark on an all-day cram session. Cram sessions, which are times when students sit down and attempt to learn all that they need to know in a single, lengthy sitting, are fairly common. However, this study habit will likely get you nowhere. This is because all of the information that you absorb during a cram session will only be stored as short-term memories. These types of memories typically only stick around for a few minutes to a few hours, making them virtually useless for those hoping to recall information the next day during an examination. In addition, short-term memories are vulnerable to stress. This means that any stress, such as the anxiety that naturally comes with examinations, can cause your memories of what you’ve crammed to either change or disappear completely. All in all, short-term memories are utterly unreliable. Instead, you should strive to absorb your class information as long-term memories because these memories are more easily recalled and less susceptible to change and forgetfulness. To do this, you will need to study on a regular basis over a long period of time rather than cramming all of the information into your head in a single day.
- Pulling an all-nighter. Depriving yourself of sleep for the sake of studying is almost like a rite of passage for college students , but that does not mean that it is a smart choice. Though it may appear to be logical to forgo sleep in order to study all night long – after all, this means about eight extra hours of studying – this study habit will backfire on you. Sleep plays a much more important role in your life than simply serving as a time for you to trek to Dream Land. Your sleep time is also a time for your brain to sift through the day’s information and get rid of irrelevant things. In addition, it uses this time to seek patterns in other bits of information, which is why sometimes while you sleep, your brain may solve puzzles that previously stumped you. Most importantly, however, sleep allows your brain to recharge so that the next day, you will feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day’s obstacles. This mental alertness is especially important on test days, which is why it is important to not pull an all-nighter the night before. When you do not sleep or sleep too little, your brain will be sluggish and slower to recall information. In addition, you run the risk of falling asleep at your desk and not finishing your examination at all.
- Highlighting everything. If you flip through your notes and your reading materials and find that it is practically completely covered with neon yellow streaks, then you may need to rethink your highlighting strategy. Highlighting important pieces of information is a great way to give yourself visual cues as to what to focus on when you study, but if you end up highlighting everything, the benefits are completely lost. On any given page, the highlighted material should be significantly less than half of the material present. This ensures that you are not over-highlighting. In addition, do not highlight entire sentences unless every single word truly is important. Instead, highlight only the bits of information that you need to remember, such as specific names, numbers, and dates. Another good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that typically, the most important information comes early on in the paragraph, so look there when you are trying to determine what to highlight.
Studying takes a lot of effort, no matter how you go about doing it. For this reason, avoid falling into bad study habits that end up wasting your time and energy. Instead, opt to employ good study habits that will help you to flex your academic prowess.
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