It’s a common workplace saying to "work smarter, not harder." Well, sometimes the same is true for studying for college classes. Instead of creating stack after stack of index card flashcards, or pulling round after round of all-nighters, realize that there might be better and more effective ways to study.
First, acknowledge that few students actually enjoy studying. They might enjoy learning in general, but trying to cram hundreds of facts in your head gets dull very quickly. That’s why you need to make it fun. Form a study group, have everyone pitch in some snacks and make studying a group effort. Having friends present will make studying more enjoyable—just make sure that your study group is focused on the material rather than just goofing off.
Another good habit to get into for effective studying is routinely visiting your professor before tests during his or her office hours and asking for his or her study recommendations. Most professors will respect that you are taking the initiative and will give you some helpful hints beyond what you will get in class. Don’t expect to get a play-by-play of the test questions from your professor, but you can definitely expect to get at least an idea of what material to focus your efforts on.
Studying a little bit every day is also a good habit to get into. Every day after class, quickly look over your notes and highlight anything that your professor seemed to especially emphasize. Also, don’t put off your assigned reading until the last minute. If you absorb a little information each day, it won’t be such a mental burden when test week rolls around.
When studying for hours at a time for a big test or final, be sure to take a 10- to 15-minute break every hour to give your mind a rest. If you don’t, you’ll soon find that your mind will start wandering or that all the words on your notes will begin to look like gibberish. And what good is nonstop studying if you’re not absorbing the material?
Finally, realize that not all college exams are short answer or multiple choice. Prepare yourself for essay-style questions by truly understanding the material, not just memorizing facts. When studying, make sure you are not only learning the answers to questions, but also learning the material to the point where you could explain the concepts to someone else if you needed to.