Study Strategies

Lesson Content

Inquire: Study Habits


Studying is not something professors recommend students do for fun. It is a serious skill that, if practiced and used well, can save students from stress and sleepless nights. This lesson will cover effective study environments and include in-depth looks into study techniques to make the most of a student’s study time. Technology can be a great help in studying efficiently. This lesson will cover ways to use technology for good and avoid abusing technology.

Big Question

What strategies can be used to successfully study for a college course?

Read: Effective Study Strategies


Studying is not just something professors recommend students do for fun. It is a serious skill that, if practiced and used well, can save students from stress and sleepless nights. This lesson will cover effective study environments and include in-depth looks into study techniques to make the most of a student’s study time.

Best Environments for Successful Studying

One of the best parts of studying is finding a great study spot. This decision can actually have a huge effect on the effectiveness of the work it takes while studying. When looking for a study space, it helps to try to find the space that feels comfortable, but not necessarily relaxing. Too often, students study from the comfort of their bed or couch. This leads to falling asleep while studying, but also has negative impacts on the brain. When the brain learns that “bed=studying,” it will be harder to fall asleep when “bed=sleep.” An ideal spot will keep the student awake and alert, but also be free from distractions. A library, coffee shop, bench in a park, or even in a friend’s backyard might be the perfect place to study.

The best environments have three things in common: quiet, minimal distractions, and helpful surroundings. A quiet place is important to find so loud noises do not disturb the studying process. When looking at the accommodations in a study location, check that there are few distractions. Places with loud music, televisions, or foot traffic can all distract a student during the study process. Choosing a location is not only about avoiding distractions; it is also about seeking out useful resources. Places with access to whiteboards or research resources make for great study locations! Most colleges have places like these set up in the library on campus.

Elaborative Rehearsal

Elaborative rehearsal is a way of remembering information by drawing a pathway between new information and old information that is already known. This is an incredibly effective way to place information into the long-term memory. A student can do this by taking the new information they would like to remember, and thinking about how that information is related to information they already know. For example, if a student wanted to remember which student loan cost less money when repaying the loan, subsidized or unsubsidized, they might opt to simply remember the phrase, “Subway is the way to go!” By remembering “subway,” they can remember that subsidized loans cost less in the long run. Another way to practice elaborative rehearsal is to teach. When a student sets out to teach information, the teaching student ends up having to learn the information in new and deeper ways.

Self-Reference Effect

People remember information better when it can somehow relate to their own personal experiences or memories, known as the self-reference effect. This is the reason people can remember their own birthday easily, while it may be difficult to remember other dates on the calendar. Another example is remembering a PIN number. Usually, people set a four digit number that has some meaning, like the year of their high school graduation. This makes it easier to remember because it matters to them.

Mnemonic Devices

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sallie! Does this sound familiar? Hopefully, if you learned this, you know exactly what the first letter of each word stands for. Many learn this mnemonic device to help with order of operations in math (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction). A mnemonic device is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval in the human memory. When a student needs to remember a list, a set of steps, etc. they can create their own mnemonic device to help them remember. Simply gather the first letter of each word in the list, then create a different word that is easier to remember. If the student can get the first letter, they will probably be able to remember the whole word! Bonus points if the new word relates to the list one needs to remember. (For example, remember Subtraction and Sallie because one knows a person named Sallie who just Subtracted a lot of weight!)

Group Sessions

DecorativeStudying alone is not always the best way to go. Accountability can help ensure that studying is most effective. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, teaching someone information can help the teacher learn the information better. This means that having friends or classmates to work together with can make studying much easier. Although, it is necessary to make sure the group session stays productive. If the group starts to get sidetracked, make jokes, play games, or look at their phones, it is important to take a break and come back once people have had a chance to refocus. It is also important that each person has a solid grasp on information, or access to materials that can provide a good understanding of information. If someone gets the information wrong and teaches the rest of the group the wrong information, it can result in harm to the entire group.

Celebrating Accomplishments

Let’s face it. Studying can seem quite boring, and a lot of the time, it is. To stay focused, it is important to take breaks and celebrate accomplishments. For instance, if a student is studying a list of vocabulary words, the student should set out to study the words in groups. Once one group has been finished, it is time to take a break. The student can even reward themselves with a favorite snack or five minutes playing a game on their phone. The reward should be fun and enjoyable, but something that will not make the student lose track of time and end an otherwise successful study session.

Reflect: Studying with Technology


Do you use technology to help you study?

Expand: Using Technology to Study


Technology can be a great help for efficient studying. This section will cover ways to use technology for good and avoid abusing it.

Helpful Technology

Several websites have been made to create flashcards for students. These websites allow groups to share resources and collaboratively create study content together. They can also make it easier to include reference materials in the answer side of the flashcard.

Another way to use technology is by recording lectures. Be sure to get permission from the professor before recording a class, but if the professor allows it, recording a lecture makes for a helpful resource when creating study materials after class.

A simple, but extremely helpful phone app to get is a to-do list app. When bogged down with several assignments, due dates, and other responsibilities, listing everything in one place can clear your mind. Additionally, students will usually have this to-do list with them, whereas a paper planner might not always be on the student.

Part of being successful when studying is ensuring you get good sleep. Something that can help with quality of sleep is a blue-light filter app. There are several apps like this on the market that will dim a phone or tablet screen and reduce or eliminate the amount of blue-light emitted. This can be beneficial because blue-light can reduce the amount of melatonin produced in the body.

Harmful Technology

Not all technology is helpful for studying. One of the biggest dangers that comes from using a phone or laptop is how easy it is to find non-study material. A student is only one click or tap away from social media, messengers, games, or any number of distractions that can kill productivity. A main reason to schedule in reward times is to better ignore the temptation of distractions. Once a student has mastered the use of technology in studying, it becomes much easier to study and therefore much easier to succeed in college.

Check Your Knowledge

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Lesson Resources

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Additional Resources and Readings

22 Science-Backed Study Tips to Ace a Test

An article providing several ways to improve study skills

Focus & Concentration: Crash Course Study Skills #5

A Crash Course video with tips on focusing while studying

Studying for Exams: Crash Course Study Skills #7

A Crash Course video with tips on studying for exams

Exam Preparation: Ten Study Tips

An article providing several ways to study more effectively

Making Mnemonics

An article providing ways to make mnemonic devices when studying

Lesson Glossary


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Content License

Lesson Content:

Authored and curated by Alexander Amos for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA 4.0

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