Effective Study Methods No One Tells You About


How do you study? Are you like many other students who highlight and reread text over and over? Research has shown that these methods, although very popular, are not the most effective ways to study.

In my last year of college, I took a cognitive science class where I learned about relationships between cognitive psychology, biology, anthropology, computer science, linguistics, and philosophy. One of the most useful things I learned that semester was written in two pages in the textbook as “Something to Consider”. Something to consider?! This simple but effective information should be shared to students all over the world who are mistakenly wasting their time highlighting and rereading their textbooks!

This list, according to the Cognitive Psychology textbook, is the most effective way of studying. Let me know what you think!

1. Elaborate:

  • Think about what you’re reading and give it meaning by relating it to other things that you know. This helps your brain transfer the information you’re learning into long-term memory.
    • Associate and relate images 
      • Ex:// Dessert is spelled with two s’s because you want to eat more dessert. Desert has one s because it’s barren.

2. Generate and Test:

  • Create material(make up test questions) and self test(answer the questions). Active involvement with the material is a powerful way to remember the information. 
    • Great for encoding (acquiring information and transferring it into long-term memory)
    • Self-testing indicated what you know AND increases your ability to remember what you know later.

3. Organize:

  • Make outlines and trees. Chunking material increases memory by relating information to other information to make the material more meaningful, thus strengthening encoding.
    • Chunking: small units (like words) can be combined into larger meaningful units, like phrases, or even larger units, like sentences, paragraphs, or stories. 
      • For example, in order to memorize a random chain of letters like “CIAFBIUSANSA”, rather than trying to memorize each letter, you can chunk them into groups of “CIA”, “FBI”, “USA”, and “NSA”. This makes memorizing information much easier.

4. Take Breaks:

  • Break your study time into smaller sessions.
    1. Spacing effect: The advantage in performance caused by short study sessions separated by breaks from studying.  
  • Don’t cram and try not to procrastinate.
  • SLEEP!!!!

5. Avoid Illusions of Learning:

  • Rereading- Reading and rereading material results in greater fluency (repetition causes reading to become easier and easier), but it doesn’t necessarily mean you memorized it.
    • Familiarity effect: Tendency to interpret familiarity from rereading as indicating that you know that material. Fluency≠memorization
  • Highlighting- Although it seems like elaborative processing because you’re taking an active role in your reading, it often becomes automatic behavior that doesn’t require deep thinking about the material. 

6. State of Learning:

  • Try to put yourself in the same state of testing when you are studying because people tend to remember information in the similar states. Put yourself in a foreign place where you are not comfortable to mimic the setting of your test or presentation (aka don’t study on your bed).


Congrats on getting through this post! I hope this list will help you in your future tests! Send it to friends in need, and good luck!

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