healthy study habits

Building Healthy Study Habits

Posted on by Dr Tony Steele Posted in Common health issues

There are certain words that cause panic for students, and “Exams” is probably at the top of the list. Once the end of term comes around, students all over the UK begin to up their caffeine intake and get studying. Some dream up crazier and crazier schemes to stay awake for longer.

The goal of these pre-exam sessions is for students to cram in as much information as possible the night before, and attempt to stuff their brains with six months’ worth of content in 8-12 hours. While this is common practice in universities throughout the world, cramming is not an efficient way to retain information. It can even have harmful effects on your health.

End of year exams can be a struggle, but they do not have to be that way. So what can you do to survive the university experience, keep your grades up and truly learn?

Study every day

The first step to building healthy study habits is to make it part of your daily life. Studying is not a form of punishment, it is a way to reinforce the topics reviewed in class.

Studying is also not something that should be saved for one week of every term. Ideally you will be able to develop a habit of studying on a regular basis. Even 30 minutes a day to review the course material can make a huge difference. This leaves you with time to engage in social activities and by the time exams roll around, you will have a deeper understanding of what to review in detail.

Open communication

Your teachers are there to help you learn. Do not be afraid to ask questions and find out their office hours if you need personal assistance. It is better to ask questions and clear up all doubts than risk missing questions on the exam.

Having an open line of communication with your teachers can really help you increase your understanding of the subjects.

Take a note

Taking notes effectively can help you organise information in a way that makes it easier to retain. As a general rule, if it is in the text book you do not have to make a note of it (for that it is often better to highlight). What you can do, however, is take notes during the lecture and try to cover everything not mentioned in the book.

Proper note-taking is not about writing everything the lecturer says. It is about picking out the most important points of the lecture, making connections with previous knowledge and recording concepts you are not familiar with. You can then research these concepts at a later time. Learning is not just about memorising, but also absorbing knowledge and understanding its meaning.

When taking notes, write them as messages to yourself. Record the information in a way that you will understand later. Explain the main points, concepts and ideas in your own words and include as much detail as you can.

What is your learning style?

Not everyone learns in the same way, and it is important to identify how you personally retain and understand information. Your time at university or college is all about getting to know yourself, and a big part of this is understanding how you tick in terms of your learning style.

Visual learners will have better results if they read the material, whilst auditory learners prefer to hear things said out loud. If you are having problems with a certain subject, try switching your study tactics to achieve better results. You may need to record lectures to listen to later or expand your note-taking to include diagrams.

Once you have a good idea of which techniques suit your learning style, make them the central focus of your studying routine.

Where to go

Finding the right place to study is another very important factor in making it work. If you have a television, videogame console and noisy housemate, for example, studying at home may be a bad idea.

Go to your university library or a quiet coffee shop and only take along the materials you want to study; no distractions and no books from other courses to make things seem overwhelming.

The easier it is for you to focus, the more productive your study session will be.

Nourish your body and mind

This concept is simple: a healthy body is the foundation for a healthy mind. If you want your brain to be in top shape for your exams then you need to take care of your body throughout the year.

Nutrition is important. Make sure you are getting the right amount of fruits, vegetables and other food groups. Whilst all-night study sessions are popular with certain crowds, sleeping 7-8 hours per night might help you feel sharper for that particularly difficult exam. Before you start each study session, make sure you’ve had a proper meal and are well hydrated. This will help your concentration and allow you to avoid cutting your session short due to hunger or thirst.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed while studying or if you cannot seem to read another chapter, take a break, go for a walk and allow yourself to relax; even if it is just for a few minutes.

Stay positive

It is always good to maintain a positive attitude and this can be especially true if you’ve got a rigorous course schedule to contend with.

If you have a challenging class and you keep telling yourself you are going to fail, you probably will. Try to keep in mind that if you have made it all the way to university you have already achieved a great deal- keep going!

Always believe you can pass a class, regardless of how difficult it seems. If you make your best effort and dedicate enough time to it you will see better results than if you engage in catastrophic thinking. Far too many students spend more time worrying about how they are going to study and pass the course than actually studying.

Study with friends

If possible, join a study group or study with friends. This can make it easier to find answers to your questions, and also makes studying a social occasion. Instead of something you have to sacrifice your social time for, it can be something to look forward to.

You will want to make sure, however, that the people you are studying with have the same goals. If you feel they are going to present more of a distraction than a boost, it is probably better to study alone or with one other like-minded person. If you are all working towards the common objective of passing that exam, then go right ahead!

The trick to academic success is constant effort and building regular studying habits. If you make studying part of your daily life, exams will not seems as scary. You will be giving yourself the best chance at high grades and create fonder memories of your time at university.