Whether you’re just starting undergraduate coursework, or starting to study for the LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or other graduate school admissions test, good study habits are integral to your success. Here are some tips to help you be effective while studying.
While some people can multi-task and watch television while studying, most can’t. Find a place that’s free of distraction. You’ll need some sort of table or desk, adequate lighting and a comfortable chair. Make sure that you have the tools you need at hand: paper, pencils, note cards, books, computer, printer, etc.
For some people, it’s the Internet. For others, chatting with friends. Some students study best with background noise such as television or music; others need complete silence.
The key to effective study sessions is to avoid the distractions that challenge you most. If your friends all study at the library, that might not be the best place for you to study if you can’t keep yourself from engaging in long chats. If surfing the Internet is a time killer for you, leave your laptop home or study in a place where you can’t get Internet access.
Take the time to figure out what challenges you face during study sessions and then find a space free of those distractions.
If you’re studying for a large test, plan regular times during the day for study sessions. Researchers have found that studying for shorter periods of time, more frequently is more effective than fewer sessions that are longer in length.
Schedule two or three 30 minute study sessions throughout the day and stick to your schedule.
Study both alone and with study partners for the best success. Sometimes you’ll need quiet, distraction free study. Other times, working with others is helpful. Do both.
Don’t attempt to blindly memorize facts; for many classes and tests, this isn’t effective. For instance, the LSAT will ask you many questions that cover your knowledge of concepts... not facts.
Focus on learning larger concepts of a subject first, rather than focusing on small details and facts. It’s more important to know the overall purpose and gist of the U.S. Constitution, for example, than to know the date it was signed.
Your professor may offer practice tests, or you may be able to find some that cover the subject you’re studying by looking online. The best way to test your knowledge is with practice tests. If you can’t find any practice test materials, ask a study partner to quiz you on the material.
Schedule your study sessions well before your test and be diligent about using that time to study. Don’t wait until the night before the test to start looking at the material.
The night before the test is a great time to review your notes and engage in a brief, final study session. However, it’s counterproductive to stay up all night studying. You’ll be exhausted and worn out for the test and will perform much worse than if you’d gotten sufficient sleep.