After 18 years of teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, Hong Lin, associate director of Center for Teaching Excellence said the best study techniques are those that promote active rather than passive learning.
“So many undergraduate students are always competing and juggling their lives with many things, and time management helps to set the foundation for critical study techniques,” Lin said.
Staying focused and prioritizing school first comes in handy for creating good study habits, Lin said.
Communications senior Marisa Morgan said a big factor in academic success is learning how to say no when you need to make time for school.
“There is always going to be someone who wants to do something, so you have to realize when you have time and when you really don't and be able to tell your friends that,” Morgan said.
According to a 2012 study published in “Psychological Science in the Public Interest” called “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions from Cognitive and Educational Psychology,” the top 10 rated studying techniques revealed high, moderate and low utility, showing some study techniques are better than others — something both professors and students can attest to.
Practice testing, such as making and memorizing flashcards, and distributed practice — the opposite of cramming — are highly effective studying methods, according to the study.
Techniques such as elaboration interrogation, where students ask new questions about information they’re familiar with, result in moderate utility, according to the study.
Interleaved practice, which gives students problem-solving skills, also had moderate utility, according to the study.
The self-explanation technique, which is explaining one’s choices while learning, had mixed outcomes according to the study.
Techniques with low utility included summarization, highlighting and underlining, keyword mnemonic pairs, imagery use for text learning and rereading, according to the study.
Despite the study’s findings, Morgan said some low utility methods can suffice when students are studying last-minute.
“When you're in a time crunch studying for a test, most chapters have summaries that can give you a good general idea of what you'll need to know in a short amount of time,” Morgan said.
From a professor’s perspective, the best technique for studying includes before and after class preparation, Lin said.
Using the first two weeks after students have learned information to relearn that information will help retain information, Lin said.
“Reviewing course materials even 15 minutes before class starts will even help,” Lin said.
Traditional strategies such as highlighting and color-coding notes, or study groups are only effective if the material is being expressed, revisited and reflected upon, Lin said.
Keeping updated and organized notes and reviewing them before and after class are essential to students’ academic success, Lin said.
Another good method is to have one’s questions answered in class or during office hours. Additionally, going into each reading with the purpose of coming up with questions helps the thinking process, Lin said.