Let me guess: you looked at the blog topic and thought, study skills? CLEARLY, I know how to study and study well; I wouldn’t have made it to graduate school if I didn’t. Well….maybe, maybe not. Graduate school is different than college, with the demands being different and most likely, your life circumstances are different, too – you might be raising a family, you might be also working full-time, or you might have other, more time-consuming obligations than you did when you were younger. All of this means you might need to adapt your studying to study smarter, not harder.
Don’t cram your studying. According to cognitive psychology, it’s been found that shorter blocks of studying over a period of time help you retain the information better than if you spent one long cram session. For instance, over the semester, if you had 5 study sessions of 3 hours each, that would be more effective than a 15 hour cram session over a weekend.
Practice time management. You have a busy life – school, work, family, obligations: managing it efficiently and effectively is key. Schedule regular times to do work and to study, and stick to it as if it’s non-negotiable.
Make note-taking count. When reading textbooks, a lot of students highlight so much material that it’s hard to parse out what’s most important. Taking notes on the material is like summarizing the most important information. After each section you read, think about what you’ve read, and what the most salient points are – and then write it down in your own words. Not only will this force you to think critically about the information and make sure you understand it, but it will help you remember it later on.
Think about your study session setting. Are you studying on your bed or on your comfy couch? Is the television on in the background? Do you eat a big meal right beforehand, or are you pulling all-nighters? All of these things can negatively affect your studying and retention of material. While you want to be comfortable while you study, don’t be too comfortable that it’s easy to doze off or daydream. Sit in a chair that supports your back. A big meal right before a study session can make you sleepy – small meals or snacks are best, along with lots of water to keep you hydrated. Take breaks every hour or two to avoid burnout and give you a little brain refresher. During these breaks, breathe deeply and go for a short walk, if possible. This will help stave off fatigue and get oxygen to your brain.
Find a study group or support system. Find a study buddy or study group, in addition to your solo studying. Mixing it up can help pull you out of a stagnant schedule, and talking about the material can deepen your understanding and solidify the information in your memory. If you’re having trouble with studying or anxious about it, many schools have study skills groups or school anxiety groups, either through the counseling center or the academic resource center. These can be immensely helpful to assist you in getting through any impasses.
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