February 10, 2017

How Do You Study?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Are you studying smarter, or spending lots of time that accomplishes relatively little? Do you have those oh-so-familiar moments of reading your text and waking up to realize you have stared at the same page or paragraph for way too long without really seeing it? Or do you skip the readings, thinking you can get by without them?

Well, of course, from my perspective as a professor, your notes, textbook, and other readings are important for the learning process to occur. We choose those readings carefully, so that once you read them, digest them, and can apply whatever gems of knowledge are in them, you have gone a long way towards developing an effective sociological imagination.

There’s a lot of research out there about how we learn and what strategies are most effective. Basically, the more active you are in your studying process, the more you will learn. Being passive and just reading quietly isn’t enough for most of us to really learn from what we read. Taking notes in class, yet never looking at them again, isn’t useful for retaining information so that it’s useful in future situations.

Here are some suggestions for studying smarter, not harder:

  1. Do you have enough time to study, for each class that you take? The general guideline for college is at least 3 hours of study for every unit of class – thus if you have a 3-unit class, you should schedule 9 hours to study for that class. Taking too many classes, especially if you are working or have family responsibilities, will result in not having the time you need to process and practice what you’re learning.
  1. Do you study with other people or just by yourself? When you read quietly with yourself, it’s important to have the space to approach the material on your own. However, leaving it at that is not enough. Make sure to share what you’re reading and learning in class with others – your family and friends, colleagues in the same classes, tutors, the professor and if applicable, your teaching assistants. The more people you talk to about what you’re studying, the more you are working with that material and, thus, more likely to remember it. If you can explain something to someone and they understand what you’re saying, then you’ve learned it! Everyone and anyone is a potential study partner.
  1. Along similar lines, are you using the resources in your class and on your campus? Tutoring, Writing Centers, and meeting with the teaching assistants and professor in office hours or student drop-in hours are not just for people who are struggling with the class. Every student can benefit from all of these services. Just sharing what you have learned reinforces it and conversations can illustrate how to extend your knowledge and application of the material.
  1. What do you do when you make mistakes or otherwise experience failure? Do you use that as a learning moment or do you want to give up and quit the class or higher education? My advice is to embrace failure. If you stop and analyze what went wrong, you might not make that mistake again. We learn by making mistakes, so the key is to keep at it. We learn to walk by falling a lot, getting back up, and, eventually finding our balance and putting one step in front of another – academic learning is a similar process.
  1. How do you prepare for a test? Do you get a good night’s sleep, keep hydrated, have your notes organized, study with colleagues by giving each other potential questions? If not, give those a try, they might be useful.

Reading Apprenticeship, Cornell Notes, and many other techniques can be very useful – seek them out and see if they work for you. Self-regulated learning, is also a fascinating topic to investigate. What other techniques have you used to study smarter?


In general, I study like about 3 hours and tried get a good night sleep and I always stayed hydrated and sometimes I will listened on what the professor is saying that is going to be on the test. Also I listened what my friends that say some important information that their want to know is to ask questions you do know or you don't know. My notes is sometimes organized, but I used some notes taking to see what people have in their notes and what don't have any important information in my notes.

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. This was really worth a read :)

I really liked this article because I always thought if you study by yourself you’ll be more focused but I have learned that, for myself, I learn a lot more when I can speak to others about it. I think many students can learn from Sally Raskoff’s advice because she comes from a professor's point of view and she has hundreds of students that she can base her knowledge off of. She gives very good tips that I think every student could learn from and better themselves as a student.

I'm a Freshman in college and I'm still learning how to learn in class and online. I tend to study by myself because I thought I can could focus more without any distraction. But reading your article made a lot of sense. Having a study group or talking to a friend or a family member can make things understanding and we both could learn. Balancing work and school can be stressful but I tend to study as much as I could. Getting enough sleep and being organized is important.

Studying for me at first was a ticking time bomb preparing to explode. I am a returning student after years in the work force. My first semester back in school was kinda overwhelming. With work and school in was starting to stress but then I realized how to manage my time for studying,work and sleep. I eventually stopped working to devote more time for school. I starting rereading and make little notes to help me stay on track. Creating the study schedule that i have allows me the needed time to study and get the adequate rest needed daily. Breaking my old habits and rescheduling my time frame helped me to stay on pace to continue to make good grades and accomplish my goals.

Great this article is very helpful. Thank you for the valuable information.

I fully agree with this article. One of the main reinforcements for this article would be to continue improving study habits, because I promise once your intellect begins to build the study skills are key factors to the continuing academic career.

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