10 Study Habits to Avoid

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4 min read

As you continue to move up in your educational career, it’s essential that your study skills grow along with the complexity of your studies—and you’ll learn that there are certain study habits you should avoid. If you’re struggling in subjects that used to be second nature, or feel like you’re underperforming, take a critical look at your study habits.

Some poor study habits to avoid include pulling all-nighters and using distracting study spaces, but below we delve into a more comprehensive list. The following are 10 study habits to avoid:

1. All-night cramming sessions

If there’s one habit to eliminate immediately from your study repertoire, it’s cramming. An hour a night for a week leading up to a test will likely be much more effective than staying up all night the evening prior to your test. A full night’s sleep can serve you incredibly well on test day, far better than anything you may have managed to review while staying up until the crack of dawn instead.

2. “Multitasking”

Certain studies have shown that multitasking does not have good effects on productivity. What you’re really doing is task-switching, which often results in wasted time and poor efficiency. Focus on completing one task at a time in order of importance, and you’ll spend less overall time studying and do so more effectively.

3. Studying with music or the TV on

In the same vein as above, distractions like TV or music with vocals can impede concentration. If you feel you must study with some sort of background noise (which can work for some people), try switching to classical music, or move your study spot to a cafe or library. However, if you find you are one of the many who needs silence, ask family members or roommates to help accommodate you with designated “quiet hours” around your living space.

4. Studying with friends

Some group study sessions can be beneficial, but only if you’re on task and not primarily socializing. Take an honest look at whether the members of your study group are helpful or just distracting, and reprioritize accordingly.

5. Poor organization

Not being able to find your notes, study materials, or list of assignments can both discourage you and just make studying plain difficult. Make sure you have a separate notebook for each class, and staple any syllabi, assignment instructions, or other loose papers inside. Make use of an online calendar or planner to note homework due dates and test dates.

6. Procrastination

It’s true that some people work better under pressure with deadlines, but often, procrastinators don’t leave enough time to complete the project, leading to less than ideal work. Make an effort to read through the assignment as soon as it’s received and properly estimate the time and materials needed. To really tackle procrastination, break the assignment down into small chunks and assign artificial deadlines for each chunk to ensure you complete the final product on time.

7. Poor in-class engagement

Sometimes, the root of poor performance is failing to absorb the material in the first place. Time spent learning during a class you have to attend anyway is free time you save later. Learn to take good notes by restating the lecture and reading materials in your own words as you write, and review notes nightly. Make sure you ask questions during class as well—this will help you clarify things ahead of time that you may otherwise get confused by later.

8. Avoiding issues with difficult subjects

Even the most gifted student will eventually face a subject that doesn’t come naturally. But successful students don’t give up the first time they experience difficulty. Claiming you’re just “bad at math” won’t get you an A, but admitting you’re struggling, asking for help, and putting in the extra effort might. Identify the best form of assistance, whether that be online tutoring, practice tests, or stopping by to meet with your instructor outside class.

9. Not using active study strategies

One of the most common ways students study is by re-reading notes and texts and highlighting them. Unfortunately, doing just this and nothing else isn’t necessarily the best tactic. Consider supplementing this strategy with more active ones: quiz yourself on topics, rewrite your notes and reading assignments in your own words, write trial essays, and find other ways to actively engage with the material to help retain it better.

10. Poor environment

When all else fails, try changing your surroundings. Make sure you’re comfortable and have good lighting. Keep water and snacks nearby. Eliminate distractions like social media or non-school related to-dos. Sometimes the stress of physical discomfort or other responsibilities can interfere and make focus impossible. Finally, try to keep your desk clean and organized. Here are some things you might want to keep on your desk:

  • highlighters
  • post-its
  • index cards
  • extra pens and pencils
  • all necessary folders and notebooks

If you’ve recognized any of these poor study habits in yourself, do what you can to eliminate them and replace them with more effective alternatives. Learning how to learn is often half the battle in reaching your potential.

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