How to Make a Smart Study Routine

Identifying study strategies that work for you is perhaps the best way to boost your grades in your classes this year. Many students fall into the habit of using the same study skills for different disciplines and not changing the ways they study as their academic careers progress. Other students equate the amount of time spent in front of an open book with the amount of quality studying they did—and these students are sometimes shocked to find that their grades don’t reflect the time they spent “studying.” If it’s time for you to re-examine your study habits, check out these tips on how to make a smart study routine:

1. Ditch the distractions

If you study with music on, your phone next to you blinking incessantly with texts, and the TV on in the background, you’re probably not studying as effectively as you could be. Eliminate any extra time in your study routine by creating a good study environment. Four hours of distracted, low-quality studying is inferior to two hours of high-quality, focused attention on your work. Don’t make the mistake of simply equating time spent studying with the quality of your learning and understanding. Turn off your electronic devices until you’ve reached your study goals for the day and you might be surprised at how much better you retain the information you’ve reviewed.

2. Make a plan

Too many students intend to start studying early, but then find themselves cramming in the day or two leading up to an assessment. Adjust your study plan by looking ahead. Put your tests on a calendar and plot out dedicated study time in the weeks leading up to an exam. By scheduling your study time early, you’ll avoid making the plans that would usually take the place of studying and force you to cram later on.

3. Read actively and do practice problems

Simply reading your textbook is not the same as actively engaging with the material. As you study, highlight or underline important text, make margin notes, and ask yourself questions. By “talking with” the text as you read, you’ll reinforce the material in an active way and get more out of your study efforts than you would with passive reading. If you’re studying a subject that has problem-based assessments, make sure you are taking practice tests throughout your studying. Remember that active studying that includes problem-solving and note-taking can further your understanding of a topic more than passive studying.

4. Ask questions

Many students see studying as a solitary act and do not intend to have contact with their teacher in the days leading up to a test. Instead of shutting yourself out from your teacher, TAs, and other students as you study, develop questions as you go through the material—and follow up on asking them! Reconcile any confusion you have by approaching your teacher, TA, peers, or even a tutor. Think about the benefits of group study and form a group that meets a week before the test to answer questions with classmates. Moreover, go to any office hours or extra help sessions your teacher might provide. Additional input as you study can help you go from understanding the material to mastering it.

Now that you have these tips, implement them into your routine! Remember: a smart study routine (not just a longer one) is key to academic success.