Advice from the Other Side: Study Skills

Happy Friday, Terriers! It’s the perfect time of the semester to have a little talk about one of the most important set of skills that you need to succeed academically: study skills. Not only will perfecting your study skills help you achieve your goals here at BU, but this will also help you retain important information that you’ll use throughout your careers. Think about it—you’re making a huge investment so that you can learn information that will help you land a job, right? Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually remember the things you’re learning right now ten years from now? The only way to retain the information is to acquire the appropriate study habits now!

Change the way you think about studying

If you have an exam coming up, how early do you usually start studying? Two days beforehand? A week beforehand? Two weeks beforehand? Unfortunately, if you start at any of these times (even two weeks beforehand!) what you’re doing doesn’t qualify as studying—it qualifies as cramming. In order to retain information and reach a level of deep, foundational understanding, you need to do something with what you hear in lecture that same day or you’ll completely forget the information. You need to review your notes after class, and you need to take time later in the day to go over all of it again. If you’re doing this every day, you establish a routine that involves a cumulative review process. If you study in this way, then a week before the exam you’ll just do more of what you’ve already been doing! If you cram, you’re essentially re-learning everything directly before the exam and losing it all as soon as the exam is over. This causes a great deal of stress and you’re also wasting a great deal of your education. Try something new with consistent review!

One strategy does not fit all

Your best friend may study best in her room and swear by flash cards, but just because those methods work for your friend doesn’t mean that they’re perfect for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different study spaces and methods. Do you need complete silence or do you prefer ambient noise while you study? Do you need to be alone or do you work best with an accountability buddy? Find out the answers to these questions! You also want to avoid solely relying on passive study methods. Passive study methods include reviewing your notes, readings, flashcards, etc. You need to mix in active study methods as well, which can include devising practice questions for yourself, teaching others concepts in study groups, and active reading (wherein you notate the text and ask yourself questions while you read). Again, it’s not an exact science, so don’t be afraid to shake up your usual routine (especially if you’re not seeing the results you want) and experiment with something new.

Always remember that the goal of all of this is to learn, not memorize, so that you can apply what you gain in college for years to come!

Sarah Farkas blogs for Advice from the Other Side from the BU Educational Resource Center (ERC). 

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