The way most college students study in the U.S. flat out doesn't work, according to Washington University psychologists Mark McDaniel and Henry Roediger. These two concluded that the most go-to way students study is by re-reading the material covered in class. Through their studies they found that rereading material doesn't improve a student's test results compared to a student that has only read the material once. These studies can be read about in their new book "Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning." In this book they also reveal ways to study that can help students learn, and with new semester starting all students will benefit from these five better habits.
1. Stop Rereading Course Material
A student's first read through course material was shown to increase their understanding of the subject matter greatly. Reading it a second time has not been shown to be a good way of forming lasting memories of the material. The studies done at Washington University by McDaniel and Roediger show that students would report that they felt like they learned more when rereading when in reality they didn't. Dropping this habit from your studying routine will only give you time for more effective methods of learning.
2. Quiz Yourself
After reading the material once, quizzing yourself with either questions in the book or that you made up can help form more permanent memories. This memory formation is due to the act of retrieving information being an effective learning tool. Asking themselves questions familiarizes a student with their material on a deeper level.
3. Draw and Visualize Information
A student can read about their course material and be relatively fine, but if they want to be even more effective at studying they can use visuals to help them learn. Drawing out a diagram or flowchart helps students actively learn. Active learning helps students form their own understanding of important concepts, and is very effective at helping them retain the information.
4. Use Flashcards
Plenty of students use flashcards so this might not come as a surprise. One mistake many of these flashcard users make however is that when they get a card right they will remove it from the deck. Studying flashcards they got right already has actually been shown to actually help students. This suggestion to study the same flashcards may seem contradictory to what was said earlier about rereading, but studying the same flashcards again and again is actually effective because it is an example of repeated information retrieval.
5. Don't Cram
Most of us probably cram before every test we have without studying any night prior to the night before the test. Cramming can be an OK way to learn information for a short period of time, but the information will probably fail to be retained. Not retaining information can be detrimental when it prevents students from remembering material for mid-terms and finals, but it can also impede there learning when they take the next level of the course. Spacing out studying by only studying a little bit each night is the most effective way of retaining information.