5 Study Tips to Set You Up for Success

Posted: April 25, 2018 8:00:00 AM CDT


By: Regan Taubenheim

In order to avoid any extreme cases of “stud-dying” with finals just around the corner, I have provided 5 simple and easy-to-follow study tips. Following these tips will decrease the chances of meltdowns or college dropout thoughts the night before your next big exam. In some cases, no number of tips in the world will save you from the complete stress that accompanies the rigorous study demands some classes require. Unfortunately, your grades will not improve on their own; it will require accountability and self-motivation starting today. These 5 tips have worked wonders for me, so I hope one - if not all - will help you, too!

1. Find a Go-To Study Location

For starters, find a quiet, well-lit area that is available to you whenever you need to study. It is important to limit distractions, such as other reading materials, your phone, friends, food, and television by keeping them out of the area (Coon & Mitterer, 2016).

2. Avoid the Stress of Cramming by Using a Spaced Study Session Method

The night before a big biology exam, you will most likely find me trying to cram months of material into my brain in the little time I have left. This method of studying is short-term and unreliable. A more efficient way to prepare for tests is by “spaced practice”. “Spaced practice consists of a large number of relatively short study sessions” (Coon & Mitterer, 2016, p.8). Studying small amounts over the course of several days is more beneficial than long, uninterrupted study sessions the night before. Psychologists say the spacing method is effective due to the forgetting and retrieval components, which help “cement the new knowledge in place” (Winerman, n.d.).

3. M N E M O N I C S

According to psychologists, “A mnemonic is a memory aid that can link new information to a word, idea, or image that is more familiar and easier to remember” (Coon & Mitterer, 2016, p.8). I remember being taught the colors of the rainbow/spectrum with a mnemonic in kindergarten: ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet); this is a perfect example of a mnemonic memory aid because it goes to show the effectiveness of something I learned over a decade ago.

4. Simple Self-Testing Practice

For some students, testing can be the most helpful source of studying. Taking a practice test before the real exam is a great way to knock off some rust and determine what you still need to work on. There are many ways to test yourself, such as using flash cards, designing a Quizlet, working on a study guide, daily note quizzes, etc. Keith Lyle, a psychologist at the University of Louisville, tested his undergraduate statistics class by ending each class session with a short-answer quiz over the material delivered that day. The other section of Lyle’s class was not given the daily lecture quizzes. At the end of the year, he collected data showing that the students who received the quizzes significantly outscored the students on midterm exams who did not receive the quizzes (Lyle & Crawford, 2011).

5. Learn, Relearn, and Learn Again

The final tip tends to be the most problematic for students because there is a level of difficulty in studying material repeatedly over time in an effective manner. According to the American Psychological Association, “It's the process of learning, forgetting, retrieving and relearning that eventually registers the knowledge in our long-term memory” (Winerman, n.d.). Therefore, it is easier to turn to cramming and simply being able to recognize information rather than being able to recall, fully understand, and apply the material. Becoming a professional at studying is an important skill to master before going to graduate school. By that time you are no longer aiming to pass the tests or get good grades, you are trying to retain information you will need for the rest of your life. Keep in mind, no one was ever punished for overlearning, so it is always better to know too much rather than not enough.

“Grades depend as much on effort as they do on intelligence.”
-Coon and Mitterer, 2016, p. 7

With that in mind, you might as well put in efficient, quality work rather than spending hours looking over material that you will not remember a week from now. These practices will help you become a better student now and better employee in the future.


Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. O. (2016). Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Lyle, K. B., & Crawford, N. A. (2011). Retrieving essential material at the end of lectures improves performance on statistics exams. Teaching of Psychology, 38(2), 94-97.

Winerman, L. (n.d.). Study Smart: Make the most of your study time with these drawn-from-the-research tips. Retrieved February 11, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/study-smart.aspx

By: Regan Taubenheim

Category: Psychology, Natural and Social Sciences, General

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