Effective study and test preparation guarantees good grades in school. Educators know that certain methods of study work best. But few schools teach students the best ways to read, listen, and learn.
Take studying. Research has proven that it’s not how much time spent studying that counts, but what methods are used. In one important survey, students who studied more than 35 hours a week came out with poorer grades than those who studied less. Why? Because the second group knew how to study effectively.
Easy Ways to Help Students Study Well
Help your child, of any age, get more out of studying with the following tips excerpted from Study Smarts (University of Wisconsin Press).
- Take advantage of behavior modification. To make it work, ask “Junior” to study the same subject at the same time in the same place each day. After a short while, just putting himself in that time and place automatically puts him in the right subject groove.
Once the brain is trained to think French at a time-and-place cue, it no longer takes ten minutes to get in the mood for French. Your youngster saves time. He won’t require emotional energy to psych himself up for the subject. And experts say he’ll also remember more of what he’s studying.
- Allow your student to spend no more than an hour at a time on one subject. In fact, if it’s straight memorizing, she should stop studying after twenty or thirty minutes.
Here’s why. First, when you give someone a time restriction, they make better use their time. (Did you ever notice how much studying you used to manage to cram in during the 24 hours before a big exam? That’s why it’s called cramming.)
Second, psychologists say a person learns best in short takes. In fact, studies show youngsters learn as much in four one-hour sessions distributed over four days as in one marathon six-hour session. That’s because between study times, as a person sleeps or eats or plays a video game, the subconscious mind works on absorbing what’s been learned. So that time counts as study time, too.
- Give the student frequent rest breaks. Bring in some cookies and milk. Let him pick up that comic once in a while. Many specialists say that ten-minute breaks between subjects keep a youngster alert and his mind in top working order.
Dr. Walter Pauk, former director of the Reading and Study Center at Cornell University, advises his students to take a brief break whenever they feel the need instead of at set time intervals so they don’t end up clock-watching.
- Encourage your student to begin with the most boring or most difficult subject. Studying, like housework, is less of a chore if you work your way toward the easiest task or toward the one you like best.
- Advise your youngster to keep some space between study periods for courses of similar subject matter. Brain waves are like radio waves. If there isn’t enough space between inputs, there’s interference. The closer the subjects are in similarity, the more interference. More learning gets through if an hour of math is followed with an hour of studying Spanish or history, not physics.
- Learn your child’s sleepy times and keep him from studying during those periods. Research shows that everyone has a certain time of day for getting sleepy and enduring lapses in attention, despite our best efforts.
Encourage your child not to snooze if it’s not bedtime. It rarely makes students feel better. Instead, suggest running or playing ball or doing something else that’s active and can start the blood flowing to the brain. If he’s faced with a pile of schoolwork and there’s no time for a run, it’s helpful to take ten minutes to sort notes or neaten a desk.
- Most importantly, teach your youngster to study according to the type of course. If it’s a lecture course, studying is most effective if it’s done soon after class. The best way is to review, revise, and organize class and reading notes.
If it’s a course where students are called on to recite or answer questions, studying’s best done before class by memorizing and brushing up on the facts. Want to actively help the student? Prepare some questions as if you were the teacher and listen to the answers, even if you haven’t read the book. It’s a great way to help the material sink in and identify areas in which more work is needed. It’s also a fine, loving way to spend quality time with your youngster.
Study Smarts by Judi Kesselman-Turkel and Franklynn Peterson, from which the suggestions in this article have been taken, is one of eight books in the authors’ acclaimed series of brief, fast-reading school survival guides for high school and college students. Other title include Test-Taking Strategies, Note-Taking Made Easy, Research Shortcuts, Spelling Simplified, The Grammar Crammer, The Vocabulary Builder, and Secrets to Writing Great Papers. More tips to help with studying can be found at BooksThatTeach.com.