How to Study Better in College

Every student would want to know how to study better in college. The desire for better study habits is understandable. By having good grades in college, one would have better chances of getting their dream job that pays big bucks, which help ensure success and financial security in the future.

However, even psychologists and education experts agree that the “how to study better tips” that you read in magazines and online will not be effective if the student does not make the effort to develop the necessary study skills and literally make them a habit. This is particularly true for the specific factors related to the enhancement of memory and learning.

The five major factors in learning and memory enhancement are the following…

  • Study Time = which involves how much time you allot for studying (this does not include class and homework times) and how you use said time
  • Study Place = which involves your chosen location for studying and at what time
  • The Input of Knowledge in Short-Term Memory = which involves how you enter what you have learned in short-term memory
  • The Storage of Knowledge in Long-Term Memory = which involves saving the knowledge that you have inputted into your short-term memory to your long-term memory
  • Knowledge Retrieval = getting the knowledge out of your memory, especially during tests.

Each of these factors will be discussed below.

Study Time

How to Study Better in College

The main key to learning how to study better in college lies in allotting sufficient study time (also known as “preparation time”) every day. In studies on how to study better for tests that was conducted on medical students, the participants have reported increased efficiency when they set regular study time periods in their daily college routine.

These study periods are usually 30 minutes to 1 hour in duration, depending upon the time available between classes. Why so short? It has been found that longer study times will result in dwindling concentration. So, even if a student is diligent enough to read his or her textbooks for 3 to 4 hours in the evening after class, he/she will get average or even poor grades.

One psychology study gave this tip on improving concentration. While you are studying, carefully observe when you read the point that what you are reading in your textbook is no longer registering inside your head. It can also be that you are having difficulty in paying attention and you are growing more and more distracted. In these cases, you will need to read the study material faster. This is similar to driving at a faster speed. The faster you read, the more concentrated you become.

Students who have difficulties in comprehending study material at a faster reading rate can improve significantly if they take speed reading classes.

Study Place

It has long been a given that the library is the best study place on campus because of its many books and its overall quiet environment. Recent studies by psychologists and education experts have shown that simply sticking to studying in the library may not be as effective as everyone thought. The better strategy would be to alternate study locations.

This is largely due to how human cognition works. A student is more likely to remember information he or she has learned if the memory is emphasized by the place where he/she studied, as well as by his/her mood.

For example, students who are having problems with their Biology classes can choose to study in the campus park surrounded by nature or in the Bio lab, with its many bottled specimens.

Studies have also shown that students can learn how to study better and faster for tests if they study in a location that is very similar to the exam room. Days prior to an exam, you might want to consider taking your textbooks and notebooks to a lecture room where tests are usually given.

As mentioned earlier, mood has an effect on knowledge retention as well. If you are not in a good mood, studying will prove difficult. In the same vein, if the study material is unpleasant, such as terrible moments in history, the less likely you would want to remember the details about them. In these cases, it is advisable that you study in a location that will put you in the mood for learning.

Inputting Knowledge in Short-Term Memory

For those who love to cram, you will probably be shocked to learn that you can only remember around 5 to 9 items/facts at a time. If you don’t reinforce what you learn days prior to a test, whatever is in your short-term memory will only stay there for 15 to 20 seconds. It is not surprising, therefore, that students who cram will their minds becoming a total blank during the test.

To make short-term memory work for you, you will need to practice a technique known as “chunking”. Here, you chunk related facts together into clusters that are easy for you to remember. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss “chunking” in detail, but there are many resources that provide tutorials on this technique.

Storing Knowledge in Long-Term Memory

Nothing can be more important to a college student than to be able to remember everything that they have learned, especially in time for Finals. Strategies for encoding knowledge are particularly critical because they need to be stored in the mind properly, so that they can easily be retrieved when needed.

One good example is by “overlearning”. Here, you simply read and then memorize basic concepts and skills until you have everything down pat. This is technique that you used in Elementary School when memorizing the multiplication tables. Another technique is “elaboration”, wherein you reorganize any new information that is relatable to facts that are already stored in your memory.

Check online resources for other excellent techniques, such as Mnemonics, the Peg Word Method and the Loci Method.

Retrieving Knowledge

If knowledge has been encoded properly inside your memory through regular reading and reviewing at the right times and places, knowledge retrieval will be very easy, especially during tests.

All tests and examinations have been designed to help the student recall information learned. You will notice that the main bulk of exams are Multiple Choice, Matching Type or True or False questions. These test sections provide the student with cues to make recall easier. Fill In The Blank, Enumeration and Essay questions are the more difficult questions to answer because they don’t have cues. However, the questions in the previous, easier sections should enable you to retrieve the facts that are needed to answer the harder test parts. The cues are all there; you just need to dig into your memory a little deeper.

Take the opportunity to learn the various education and study strategies. By learning these strategies, you will know how to study better in college.