Best Way to Study

Is there really a best way to study? My primary answer is no. There’s no best way to study for everyone – there’s only a best way to study for you! That can even change over time or from class to class, depending on the material you happen to be learning at the time.

However, scientists are starting to study studying more often. Instead of just accepting age-old advice, like studying certain things in blocks is a good idea, or setting aside one specific place to study is helpful, science is starting to question these ideas to figure out what the best way to study really is. A New York Times article published in September 2010, “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits” by Benedict Carey showed that there are actually things we can know for sure about study skills and the best way to study. Here’s what the article said about what scientists are learning about study habits that have actually been proven to be successful:

Studying in different places helps

You might have heard before that having a single go-to study spot helps you study better, but it’s actually not true. In several studies, students who studied the same material in various locations remembered it better. We aren’t exactly sure why this works, but it seems that the brain makes subtle connections between the environment and what you happen to be studying at a given time. When there are more connections to go off of, you’re more likely to remember the material.

So pick a few different comfortable, well-lit places to study, and alternate where you study throughout the week.

Study different types of content in the same session

Left to their own devices, most students will study one type of content at a time until they’re done with the study session. For instance, when you’re studying for a math exam, you might first study one type of equation and then another. This, though, isn’t as helpful as mixing things up a bit. The best way to study math is actually to work on problems that use different types of equations at the same time.

This actually does make sense. When you mix things up more, your brain has to work harder to figure out not only how to apply an equation by which type of application to use. Since you’re more likely to have a mixture of problems on a test, you’ll be more well-prepared for the test if you study this way.

So, one of the best ways to study, whether it’s math or a foreign language, is to mix different types of related material together throughout your study session.

Testing yourself throughout the study session works

“Testing” has a scary connotation, but it’s actually one of the best ways to study. There’s some evidence that shows when you are tested on material and have to remember it, your brain actually rearranges connections, making them stronger and more logical. The harder you have to search for a piece of information on a test, the more likely you are to remember it easily the next time.

Self testing is one of the best ways to study. To make the most of it, test yourself at the beginning of a study session, which will help you see what you already remember and what you need more work on. Test yourself in the midst of a session to see how far you’ve come, and test yourself at the end of a session or even a couple of days later to see how well you’re recalling information.

Using old quizzes, questions at the end of the chapter, and tests to do self testing throughout your study sessions can be the best way to study, hands down!