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“The best way to make studying a habit is to make it a normal part of your daily routine,” says Pam Gordon, PhD, development faculty for the University of Phoenix College of Humanities. “Higher education is rigorous. You should always set aside time each day devoted to completing assignments and studying material. An hour a day is a good start, but more is better.”
Different people learn in different ways, and there is no “one size fits all” study solution, according to Amelia Boan, product director for the Center for Writing Excellence. “Studying can happen in many different ways,” Boan says. “Some people learn visually, others by listening, still others by hands-on methods. The trick is to find what works best for you and do it consistently. Sometimes combining multiple approaches, like reading material out loud, can be quite effective.”
Learning styles can also differ according to the type of material you’re studying — for example, an auditory learner of language might be a visual learner of math. Adapting your study habits to reflect your own personal learning style will yield better results, according to Boan.
Many consider “cramming” the night before the exam a college rite of passage, but it’s not a good way to learn, according to Vicky Hatch, PhD, an adult-learning expert with the Center for Writing Excellence. “In an adult-learning environment, students not only have to know the facts, they have to think critically about them,” she explains.
Hatch recommends first of all that students review assigned materials on a daily basis. She also suggests taking advantage of student discussion groups and related media materials, such as those offered by the University’s free media library, to get multiple perspectives on coursework.
Who says studying has to be dull? “I like to use fun acronyms to help my students learn,” Gordon says. “My favorite one for studying is MURDER — which means Mood, Understand, Recall, Digest, Expand, Review. Getting into a good study mood is especially important.”
Hatch agrees with Gordon’s advice about using creative mnemonic devices while studying. “If you have something that you need to memorize, try setting it to music,” she says. “Whenever you need to remember the information, you can just sing that song.”
Instead of waiting until test day to see how much (or how little!) you’ve learned, get in the habit of testing yourself, Gordon recommends. “As you’re reviewing material, make a list of test questions for yourself, then go back later and use those questions to test your knowledge retention. In order for you to apply knowledge, it has to become second nature.”