Making the Most of Study Time
by Lenore Lambert
Studying in the right environment and setting realistic goals and expectations for yourself can help you handle homework successfully.
You may have heard another student say, "I really don't study much, but I get great grades!” While it’s true that some students manage to absorb their lessons and ace their tests without the slightest struggle, most students must learn to manage their time and study habits effectively in order to bring home grades that reflect their best effort. The habits of successful students aren’t complicated – they only need consistent and thoughtful application. The following tips will help you develop better study habits for better grades.
Study in a space that is free of distractions. Studying requires concentration. Create a study area that is free of clutter – keep it neat and organized so that your study tools are nearby, and things that may be distracting are put away. Your study area might be the dining table, a corner in the den, or a desk in your bedroom. Be sure that the place you chose for your study area is one where you’ll be comfortable and able to accomplish your study goals. Also keep in mind that for some, a quiet environment is essential, but for others, some music or other background noise or activity might actually help the study process.
Studying and homework doesn’t have to be done in one big “chunk” of time. Forty-five minute to one hour study sessions are appropriate for teens and preferable over long cramming sessions, although assignments for some classes may require that entire amount – just for that class. You may want to plan for more than one study/homework session per day in order to complete all of your homework. Taking time each day to complete homework and to review and study will also alleviate the stress of trying to do everything in one or two long sessions each week. It is appropriate to set time limits on studying, keeping in mind that overdoing can be as ineffective as underdoing. You will need to find the balance that is right for you.
Plan what to study. Tackling homework and studying in disorganized manner may lead to unfinished assignments and gaps in what has been reviewed for a test. It is important to keep track of what is due, and when. If necessary, ask your teacher when tests are coming. A planner or calendar can make a big difference in this area.
Study with a goal in mind. This concept goes with planning what is to be studied during a particular study session. Prioritizing becomes essential here, and your planner or calendar will be an essential tool. Your goals should reflect your priorities. For example, if a test is coming up very soon, you will probably put more focus on reviewing for that test, than preparing for a test that hasn’t yet been scheduled. A goal could be as simple as learning and memorizing vocabulary words and their definitions for a biology test. It could be completing an outline for an upcoming essay. Maybe the goal will be to develop confidence in working quadratic equations. Daily study goals should be challenging, but realistic.
Use the weekend for reviewing notes and class materials. Weekends often become a catch-all time for studying, but they shouldn’t be devoted only to study. When you have spread your studying out over the week, you will find that you probably won’t have to devote so much time to studying during the weekend. A balance of recreation, relaxation and homework/study time is desirable.
The challenge of completing homework assignments and studying for tests increases as students enter middle school and high school. Developing and maintaining excellent study habits is the first step to handling these increased expectations.
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