Avoid These Bad Study Habits When Getting Ready for Finals

Posted by Pat Delorean

bad study habits

Now that exam time has arrived, you’re ready to buckle down and study more fiercely than ever. However, you need to be sure that there’s a method to your madness. Some of those “classic” study tips you’ve heard are ineffective at best and detrimental at worst. Check our list of six bad study habits that you should take care to avoid.

Listening to Music While You Study

Maybe your parents played “Baby Bach” for you when you were little. Or you otherwise grew up connecting classical music with intellectual stimulation and stress relief. While music can be therapeutic under the right circumstances, listening to tunes while studying is likely distracting you—even if you think it’s not.

It makes sense to avoid vocal music, but instrumentals can disrupt your thought process with their rhythm changes. Additionally, some songs may stir up memories that send you into a daydream. Better to study in quiet. If you depend on sounds to cover background noise, try listening to a rainstorm or waves crashing on the shore.

Meeting Up With Your Study Group

Study partners and groups have their place; they can keep you motivated throughout the semester. However, at exam time, you’re better off flying solo. You’ll be taking your tests on your own—not as part of a team. So learn to rely on processing material in quiet.

Using Only One Study Method

For many test-takers, studying means reading… and reading… and reading. But that’s only one way of implanting information into your grey cells. To beat boredom and burnout, use different methods of reviewing the material at hand.

Try creating an outline or mind map as you read. Writing key points improves comprehension and retention—as long as you don’t waste your time rewriting everything.

You might also create flashcards. Not just for English and foreign-language vocab, flashcards are also great for math equations, atomic characteristics, significant dates in history, and much more.

Finally, especially if you’re an underclassman, see if you can find a YouTube video that reviews the subject matter you need to study. Somebody’s silly song or wacky presentation may register with you better than your instructor’s lectures did.

Refusing to Take a Break

Barreling through your study session might make you feel proud, but it’s likely doing nothing for your actual learning process. By reading for hours on end, you’re probably doing more harm than good.

While you may dread losing a few minutes of study time, giving your brain and eyes a break is a smart strategy. Coming back to your materials refreshed may help you understand something you struggled with before.

Cramming the Night Before

Reviewing everything right before a big exam may help you pass. However, it’s not a great tactic if you actually want to learn the material. Stuffing too much information into your brain won’t necessarily get those concepts into your long-term memory.

Splitting up your studies into even two days makes a significant difference in your ability to retain data. Taking time to review what you studied the day before will enhance your understanding. Of course, ideally, you should spread your sessions out over several days—preferably an entire week.

Studying in a Casual Environment

During the semester, studying while lying on your bed may have been sufficient. However, exam time is when you really need to ramp up your efforts. You’ll want to make every minute of your study session count.

The best way to do that is to go somewhere that allows you to concentrate 100 percent on what you need to do. Reserve a study carrel at the library early on. You’ll have very few distractions at the library.

Nobody intends to prepare poorly for finals. Many students follow these habits because they don’t know any better. Regardless of what you’ve been told, rest assured that you’ll excel at exam prep if you cut the above behaviors out of your repertoire.

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