You might be wondering why I’m writing about studying techniques in the middle of the semester. But let’s be completely honest with ourselves. This is around the semester when we start to slip back into our bad habits. It’s just so easy to stop trying, but studying shouldn’t be about effort. It can feel like a chore, but studying is more like maintaining habits than a chore. It’s like going to the gym every day or brushing your teeth in the morning. It’s not something we should think about. It should just be. 

Me telling anyone that studying should be a habit when in school is the same as the pot calling the kettle black. I am THE biggest procrastinator on the planet. I know, you probably think you are, but you’re not. There is only one other person in my life that has come close. But you had never felt more alive than leaving a 20-page research paper for the two days before it was due. (And that was in middle school.) I would leave all of my reading assignments for the last possible minute in college. I have the innate ability to know precisely how long an assignment will take me, and then I add an extra 20 minutes for any printer failure I may encounter. 


Why are study techniques important? Why should you make them a habit? Outside of caring about your academic career and your GPA, changing your perspective on studying from a chore to something more akin to maintenance can help alleviate stress, improve your overall success in school, make learning far easier, and help you retain knowledge more efficiently.

Study Techniques

There are plenty of ways to study. There are a thousand apps that you can download to help keep things organized, stay focused, and take notes, but those things are only good if you keep up with them. It’s the equivalent of signing up for a gym membership and never going. Setting a study routine is just the beginning.

Pro Tip: Exercise Before Studying  

It’s shown that exercise before studying can help in many ways. It helps increase energy levels and fight off fatigue. It’s a catalyst for brain function and improves memory. And exercise has been shown to reduce stress and improve your mood, which is never a bad combo when studying. 

SQ3R Method

The SQ3R method is a reading comprehension technique to spot the important parts of a passage and help retain the information better. It’s an acronym for the five steps in reading comprehension and leads to more effective studying. 

  • Survey – Basically, you should skim read your assigned chapter and take note of the headings, charts, and images.  
  • Question – Start to think about questions based on the assigned chapter. What is it about? Do I know anything about this already? What was clear, and what was confusing? 
  • Read – The fun part, read the whole chapter and find the answers to your questions.
  • Recite – Summarize in your own words what you read. Try to remember key information and major points covered in the chapter. 
  • Review – Quiz yourself on the chapter and take note of what you did and didn’t retain so you know what you need to work on more for later study sessions.  

PQ4R Method

The PQ4R method is very similar to the SQ3R method. The PQ4R method helps with memorization and understanding of concepts. It is also an acronym.

  • Preview – Like a survey, skim the basics of the content assigned to you so that you have a general idea of the subject.
  • Question – This is also the same as the question section of SQ3R. Start to think about questions based on the assigned chapter. What is it about? Do I know anything about this already? What was clear, and what was confusing?
  • Read – Read the whole chapter a section at a time and find the answers to your questions.
  • Reflect – Did you find the answers to your questions? If not, then go back and read the chapter again to see if you can find them.
  • Recite – Summarize in your own words what you read. Try to remember key information and major points covered in the chapter.
  • Review – Look over the content of the chapter one more time to answer any more questions. 

Retrieval Practice

As the name suggests, retrieval practice is a studying technique based on remembering information and concepts later. It’s a way of reinforcing recollections over recognition. What good is the information in your head if you can only remember when given a specifically worded question you memorized on a study guide for that specific test? 

  • Flashcards – Make and use flashcards. Not only does writing them out by hand help you learn what it is you are studying, but they also help when you go to quiz yourself. (tip: when quizzing yourself with flashcards, they become more effective studying tools if you write the answer down before you flip to check if you are right.) 
  • Make questions – You should know how your professor likes to do tests. Are they a short answer kind of person or multiple choice? Do they like to use true and false questions? Based on how they test, you should formulate questions you think will be on the test.
  • Practice tests – Honestly, if a professor gives you a practice test and you don’t utilize it, you don’t want an A. Those questions will be on their test in some capacity most of the time. 

Leitner System

The best studying is habitual and not a cram session the night or morning before a test. The Leitner system is a studying technique based around flashcards. (Again, I emphasize the importance of handwritten ones and not one on Quizlet you found.)

The Leitner system involves boxes for your flashcards. The first box is information that you should study every single day. Box two is every other day. Box three is every four days, and box 4 is every nine days. In some instances, and with heavy classes in details and jargon, you might add more boxes that get reviewed every two weeks or every month.   

Maintenance vs. Chore

No matter which way you look at it, studying sucks. It’s usually never fun and takes way longer than we would like, but it’s also the key to academic success. If you are like me when I was in high school and think you can get by without studying, you are in for a rude awakening. There is so much information to digest in college that relying on your bad studying habits for high school will only come back to bite you in the a**. So learn to break those bad habits now before it’s too late. 

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