Study Smarter, Not Necessarily Harder!
Tricks for Maximizing Your Learning Efficiency
You all struggle to have a life while doing well in school. These tips help you
to maximize your learning time so that you can also have time for other
important activities in your life. REMEMBER! It's a fact that once information
is in long term memory, it stays in long term memory. The trick is to get it
into long term memory, and then retrieve that information when you need it. All
the strategies listed either directly or indirectly enhance your ability to get
information into long term memory storage. Start small in improving your
learning efficiency by trying one or two of these study tips and see if you
notice a change in how well you learn
Review within 24 hours
This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to improve your
learning. Studies have shown that you remember only 50% of what you read within
1 hour after you read it. (It's almost as bad when you hear it!) Reviewing the
information right away increases that retention significantly, imprinting it in
long term memory for better recall. Regular, spaced reviews (e.g. weekly &
monthly) mean that there's not so much to relearn (cram) before a test. The
information is already firmly implanted in your memory.
Use strategies that synthesize the information you take in
muscle is like your body muscles….."use it or lose it". You need to find ways to
translate the information you hear. That means, use strategies like filling in
category charts or tables, drawing diagrams, applying labels, or making flow
charts, minds maps, and flash cards to "digest" the information. Our minds go
numb when we just intake information in the same form over and over.
Have a designated place for studying and keep it organized
one place helps to condition your mind to be ready to learn. There's less
fussing around, less distraction, less procrastination, and you get "down to
business" quicker. Having an organized workspace also helps you more efficiently
and quickly start studying.
Find and develop your "structured" self
Even you "free spirit" types
out there can become more structured and organized. Without at least a loose
structure to our days, it is too easy to say, "Oh, I'll get to that later"…and
then never get to it. Don't make it a regular habit to make studying optional
depending on how you feel. (Remember the MBTI concept…you have many rooms in
your house (personality)….you just prefer some over others. That means you're
capable of operating in other personality modes; it's just not as comfortable.)
You can learn to be more comfortable being structured, and you will find it has
many rewards, not the least of which is better grades and more quality time to
do what you want.
Improve your attention during class (like using the synthesis strategies
After all, class time is set aside specifically for that
learning. Using it for anything else is probably wasting it. If you don't use
class time to start to learn the material, you'll have to make up that time
during other parts of your day, week, or semester…..cutting into your "free"
time. If at all possible, save the sudokus, crosswords, text messages, and
e-mails for another time (you know who you are!)
Learn about your "Learning Style"
(There are several learning style
assessment tools available online.) Then use your own favorite learning style(s)
whenever possible, but use other learning style strategies to reinforce the
information and make it more readily retrievable.
Test yourself on the information while learning it.
This is an
important function of a study group. You may think you've learned the material,
but when you're asked a question about it, you may find that you don't know it
as well as you thought. (I bet many of you have unfortunately discovered this
truth while taking an exam.) This happens particularly with people who go over
information in the same way every time. After a while, the process becomes so
automatic that no strengthening of the neuropathway happens. It's what is meant
by "in one ear and out the other". Nothing new registers.
If possible, skim new information ahead of time, noting important words,
pictures, definitions, and bold type
Skimming gives you kind of a
"skeleton" framework to hang new information on. It helps with the "synthesis"
that is required for long- term memory storage. When time is short however, and
you have to make a choice between reviewing what's been covered and skimming for
what's coming, probably reviewing should be your first choice for using your
Determine how you study best
Are you someone who can be efficient in short bursts and then need a short
break? Or are you someone can study efficiently for a few hours at a time? Is
your best learning time in the morning? Or are you a "night owl" who thinks and
learns best in the evening? Plan your day so that your use of time maximizes the
style that works best for you.
Deal with distractions
Make a "to do" list of your distractions, prioritize them, and get to them
during your study break or at another time that you have set aside to deal with
"tasks of daily living". Practice letting those things go until a designated
Unless you're REALLY SPECIAL, you probably need to study one hour outside of
class for every hour in class. How do your study hours stack up?
by Carolyn Wyatt, Ph.D., Psychologist, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, 2009
Need Additional Help?
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Counseling and Wellness Services offer free individual counseling for these and
related issues for veterinary students (WSU Veterinary Students ONLY). For more
information or to schedule an appointment call or e-mail:
Donna J. Scott, PhD
The information contained in these self help
documents is not to be used as a substitute for professional care.Neither the
authors, Washington State Universitynor the College of Veterinary Medicine
assume liability for injury incurred by following the information presented in
these self-help documents