bad study habits

4 bad study habits that will wreck your grade

Katie Azevedo good habits, productivity, study skills, study tips

bad study habits 1
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By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.

Some bad study habits are easy to spot. For example, not studying at all, or studying in front of the T.V. Obviously.

But some bad study habits are actually really popular – and at first glance might seem like good study methods. These, in my opinion, are the worst ones: we get our hopes up, think we are doing something right, and then get super bummed when our grade doesn’t reflect the work we put into “studying.”

Below are four of the worst study habits that you need to stop doing now. Yes, I know they are popular and you like them and your friends do them too. But they don’t work, so stop. (Said with love.)

Bad study habit #1: Re-reading your notes and textbook

Reading is passive. That means that the information we read essentially washes over us unless we do something with it.

If you spend your study sessions reading through your notes, you’re wasting valuable time and likely not learning much. Or if you’re studying vocabulary by reading through lists of words and definitions – you’re, again, not going to remember much.

Stop passively rereading your notes and books, and start actively working with the material. (Sorry if that sounds teacher-y. I’m a teacher, so, yeah.) You have to WORK with the information and THINK about it before you’ll ever learn it and ultimately recall it when you need to.

What you can do instead:

  • Quiz yourself: Here’s how
  • Teach someone else the material
  • Make blank study guides and fill them in
  • Re-write the material into another format, like an image or a timeline or other graphic
  • Re-write your notes

Bad study habit #2: Studying for long periods of time

Epic study sessions and all-nighters are nothing to brag about. In fact, they’re a sign of poor time management.

If you are “studying” for more than an hour, you’re likely only actively studying for a portion of that time. In that 60+ minutes of “studying,” you were likely checking your phone, Googling something, or getting a snack. The little distractions add up.

If you try to study for more than an hour straight, your brain will work against you and look for distractions.

Read more about this strategy here – worth it – trust me.

Also, know this: Our brains best remember information from beginnings and ends. We forget the stuff in the middle. One long study session only gives you one beginning and one end. This is a phenomenon called the Serial Position Effect.

What you can do instead:

Bad study habit #3: Waiting too long to start studying

As explained in bad study habits #2, it’s best to study in short, frequent intervals because of the Serial Position Effect. But you can only study in short, frequent intervals if you start studying early. You absolutely must use spaced repetition when planning your study sessions.

I know, I know. My students often complain that they don’t want to start studying too early because they’re worried they will forget what they learned.

My response? If you forget what you learned, then you didn’t really learn it. Right, though?

Also, one of the most critical parts of the learning process is a thing called recall. Recall is our deliberate effort to actively access information from our brains. (Kind of like searching through a filing cabinet for a piece of paper.) When we spread our study sessions over the course of several days or weeks, we give our brains multiple opportunities to recall the information from day to day. THIS IS LEARNING.

Here’s more on why you need to forget info to learn it.

What you can do instead:

  • When you’re planning your week or making your homework schedule, don’t forget to schedule in time for studying, in addition to more tangible homework-y things.
  • Begin the study process immediately upon learning you’re having an upcoming test. Even on day-one, start at least gathering your materials.
  • Study for 15-20 minutes a day, every day, leading up to your test.

Bad study habit #4: Studying with a group before studying by yourself

It’s always best to study in a group after you’ve studied the material by yourself.

Think of a group study session as a final step in your preparation. You should study as much as you can by yourself before getting together with others so that you can use the group study session to refine what you know or help clarify the parts that you don’t know.

If you study with a group too soon, you can mistaken what they know for what you know. This can give you false confidence.

What you can do instead:

  • As you study by yourself, keep an ongoing list (an actual list on a piece of paper) of questions you have, material that you don’t understand, information that you’re missing, and other things that you need help with.
  • Bring this list with you to your group study session to get answers from your group members.

Bad study habits can be hard to break, but breaking any bad habit is easier when you have something to replace it with. So take a close look at how you’ve been studying and see if you can adjust any of your methods that are not working.

Your time is valuable. Spend it doing the right thing.

Worried about your GPA? Here’s how to raise it.

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