Students can settle in to a false sense of security if they take the time to study but don’t retain much of the information.  This happens because they don’t study in the most effective way.


If you don’t study the right way, you can show up on test day feeling prepared, and then draw a blank on the test. Are you guilty of these seven sins of studying?


1. Passive Study


Reading your text book is a great first step when it comes to studying, but you can’t just read your text book or passage. That is passive studying. To study effectively, you have to get active with the material in your book. The more we “work” with information, by reading, writing, drawing, and quizzing, the more we remember it.


2. Studying Without Structure


Every topic that you study has been presented to you in some type of sensible structure, whether it is math – which comes in building blocks, or social studies  - which comes in categories. Take some time to examine how the material you’re studying was presented to you, and frame the material this way as you study.


For example, you must study math in the sequence of steps or blocks that was presented in your chapter, because you are unlikely to understand “step three” if you didn’t see it as a follow-up to steps one and two.


In social sciences, you must find out what types of categories or subtopics your text is presenting. If you are studying several civilizations or populations, for example, what topics are presented as chapters? It could be customs, governments,  hereditary traits, or more. Find patterns in your notes and chapters. Then create reusable comparison charts and fill them in from memory a few times.


When you study any social science, you must recognize subtopics and make charts to:

Compare,Contrast,Contextualize.By comparing and contrasting government types, for example, you will be prepared to recognize incorrect choices in a multiple choice exam.


3. Single Cramming Session


Memories are reinforced through repetition. Do not fool yourself into believing that you can really learn material in a single session of cramming. Some of the information will absorb, but some will evaporate, which means it’s an OK strategy if you’re going to be happy with a C grade .

The more you revisit information, the more you absorb and retain. Study a week or so before a test and then follow up with your cramming sessions.  That’s a formula for an A.


4. Failing to Preview


Your brain works best if we give it time to create a framework for the information we’re taking in. It might be helpful to think of your brain as a filing cabinet. When you do your assigned readings before class, you establish “drawers and files” for the information you hear in class lectures.

Without this ready storage system, your brain doesn’t know where to file things, and it is more likely to get lost in confusion.



5.Ignoring Images


One very common mistake students make is glazing over images and charts in their readings. Those visuals are chosen for a reason, and instructors often include information from the information on exams.The next time you’re reviewing a chapter for an exam, make sure to notice the images, and work into that information your flashcards.


6. Lazy Flashcards


Flashcards are terrific study tools, but you have to learn to use flashcards the right way in order to make the most of your study time. The first step of effective flashcard use is the method you’re already using: put key terms or dates on one side and definitions on the other. Quiz yourself repeatedly until you can define every term from memory.


Step 2 of flashcard use is to use your terms to make comparisons. Go through your stack again, selecting two random cards. Then write a short paragraph explaining how the two terms relate to each other. This exercise will help you understand how individual terms fit into the bigger picture.


7. Late Night Study Before Your Test


Students love to stay up late to study, but this is a dangerous practice on the night before a test. Often, students cram for a test late into the night, and then go to bed with the adrenalin (or caffeine) pumping through their veins.

When this happens, you run the risk of getting too little sleep and taking the test in a zombie-like state.  You just defeat the purpose of studying in the first place if you try to take a test in a dozy haze. Take care of your brain and give it the rest it needs on the night before your test.