How to Improve Your Study Habits
Maybe you are an average student with an average
intellect.You pass most of your subjects. You occasionally get good
grades, but they are usually just average. You are more interested in
hiking than in history, and in sports than in scholarship. The fact is
that you don't study very much.
You probably think you will never be a top student.
This is not necessarily so, however. Anyone can become a better scholar if
he or she wants to. It is true that you may not be enthusiastic about
everything that you study, but by using your time properly you may improve
your grades without additional work. Here's how :
1. Plan your time carefully. When you plan a trip, one
of the first things you must do is to make a list of things, to take. If
you don't you are almost certain to leave something important at home.
When you plan your week, you should make a list of things that you have to
do. Otherwise, you may forget to leave enough time to complete an
important task. After making the list, you should make a schedule of your
First fill in
committed time-eating, sleeping, dressing, school, meeting, ete. Then
decide on a good, regular time for studying. Be sure to set aside enough
time to complete the work that, you are normally assigned each week. Of
course , studying shouldn't occupy all of your free time. Don't forget to
set aside enough time for entertainment, hobbies , and maybe just
relaxation. A weekly schedule may not solve all your problems, but it will
force you to realize what is happening to your time.
2. Find a good place to study. Look around the house
for a good study area. Keep this space , which may be a desk or simply a
corner of your room, free of everything but study materials. No games,
radios, or television! If you can't find such a place at home, find a
library where you can study. When you sit down to work, concentrate on the
subject! And don't go to the place you have chosen unless you are ready to
3. Scan before you read. This means looking a passage
over quickly but thoroughly before you begin to read it more carefully.
Scanning a passage lets you preview the material and get a general idea of
the content. This will actually allow you to skip less important material
when you begin to read. Scanning will help you double your reading speed
and improve your comprehension.
4. Make good use of your time in class. Take advantage
of class time to listen to everything the teacher says. Sit where you can
see and hear well. Really listening in class means less work later. Taking
notes will help you remember what the teacher says. When the teacher gets
off the subject, stop taking notes.
5. Study regularly. When you get home from class, go
over your notes. Review the important points that your teacher mentioned
in class. Read any related material in your textbook. If you know what
your teacher is going to discuss the next day, scan and read that
material, too. This will help you understand the next class. If you do
these things regularly, the material will become more meaningful, and you
will remember it longer.
6. Develop a good attitude about tests. The purpose of
a test is to show what you have learned about a subject. The world won't
end if you don't pass a test, so don't get overly worried. Tests do more
than just provide grades; they let you know what you need to study more ,
and they help make your new knowledge permanent.
There are other techniques that might help you with
your studying. Only a handful have been mentioned here. You will probably
discover many others after you have tried these.
Some kind of planning is essential. For one thing it
reveals whether you really have enough to say on the topic you have chosen
while there is still time to change to another topic. It is also important
because it stimulates your ideas and helps to fix them in your mind
Without some notes to help you, you may find that you begin writing with
several ideas in your head but you forget some of them as you are writing.
When you have chosen your topic, and perhaps have a
general idea of your theme, make quick short notes of all the ideas that
come into your head.Remember that these should be notes-words or
phrases-not sentences , which would slow you down. As you do this you will
find that new ideas will come to you, for one idea leads to another. This
should not take more than ten minutes, for in an examination you have no
time to waste.
If you have not yet decided on your main theme , you
can do so now, and then on the main idea of each paragraph. You may have
to rearrange your ideas, to decide which paragraphs they will fit into,
and which ideas will be left out altogether.
It is for you to decide how detailed your plan should
be. If you are good at writing, and have had plenty of practice, probably
only a few brief notes will be necessary, but if you are not, then you may
require a more detailed plan. But remember that everi the best writers
need to make some notes if they are going to produce a well-organized
piece of writing. You will of course be given marks for the arrangement of
With your plan in front of you, you should be able to
write your composition. There should be no need to write a rough verseon
first, then correct it and make a final copy. This is a waste of time.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about studying. Most students have not
been taught the principles behind really effective working. Above is a
graph showing the amount a person learns against the number of honrs he
works in a day. If he doesn't do any work, he learns nothing (point 0). If
he does an hour's work he learns a cerain amount (point 1 ).
If he does two
hours' work he learns about twice as much (point 2). If he does more work
he'll learn still more (point 3). Now, it he tried to do 23 1/2 hours'
work in 24, he'll be so exhausted that he'll hardly remember anything:
what he learns will be very little (point 4). If he did less work he'd
learn more (point 5).
Now whatever the exact shape of this curve, it must
have a crest. Point X is the very maximum anyone can learn in the day. And
this represents the optimum, the best, amount of work to do. It is the
best possible compromise between adequate time at the books and fatigue.
Fatigue is an absolutely real thing; one can't escape it or try to ignore
it. If you try to, if you press yourself to'work past the optimum (and any
fool can prop his eyelids up and do 14 hours a day ) , you can only get on
this downward slope and achieve less than the best-and then get exhausted
and lose your power of concentration.
The skill in being a student consists in getting one's
daily study as near the optimum point as possible. I cannot tell you what
the optimum is. It differs with the type of work, it differs from person
to person, andeven in the same person it varies from week to week. You
must try to find your own. Every day you study, bear this principle of the
optimum in mind. When you feel yourself getting fatigued, if you find
yourself repeatedly reading over the same paragraph and not taking it iri,
that's a pretty good sign you've reached the crest for the day and should
Most ordinary students find their optimum at about five
hours a day. Yours may be a little more or a little less-but if you get in
five hours' good work a day, you will be doing well.
Now. what are you doing with yourself when you aren't
working? Before examinations some students do nothing at all except sit in
a chair and worry. Here is another misunderstanding. Peop~e too easily
think of the mind as if it worked like the body, it does not. If one
wanted to conserve physical energy to cut the maximum amount of firewood,
one would lie flat on a bed and rest when one wasn't chopping. But the
mind cannot rest. Even in sleep you dream, even if you forget your dreams.
The mind is always turning. It gets its relaxation only by variety. That
is what makes mental rest.
When you've finished your optimum hourage you must
stop. You must not then sit around in the chair thinking about the
work-that only tires without any learning. You must get out and do
something. It doesn't matter what-anything so long as you are actively
doing something else but work.