Over the course of our academic careers, many students have developed both good and bad study habits. Many of these habits are highly effective at achieving high grades. However, some learned study habits are often extremely detrimental to our learning, resulting in the opposite of its intended effect. There are 15 of the worst study habits that students should avoid.
Not planning ahead Not learning from your mistakes Cramming Memorizing but not understanding material Not asking for help Studying late at night Multitasking Disorganization Procrastination Not getting enough sleep Studying with distractions Studying in the wrong place Studying with the wrong groups Eating the wrong foods Consuming too much energy drinks or caffiene
Not Planning Ahead
No matter what you’re doing, to be effective you have to have a plan. Having a written schedule is key to becoming a successful student. The important part of creating your routine is consistency and having a schedule that you can maintain throughout the school year.
When creating a study schedule first write down all fixed commitments such as classes, appointments, and extracurricular activities. Once finished you can dedicate a specific block of time to uninterrupted studying. A good goal to aim for is having 1-2 hours of study time each day. However, adjust this according to your needs. Typically, your schedule will evenly distribute all subjects throughout various days, to help build long-term memory.
Many mediums exist to aid you in creating a study schedule, such as Google/Outlook calendar, agendas, apps, etc.
Not learning from your mistakes
This is an extremely bad habit that many students make routinely. Whenever you do a practice test or receive feedback on a test, assignment, or exam you should always review your work and learn from your mistakes. See where the gaps in your knowledge lie and adjust your future studying according to what you learned.
Many students immediately throw away old tests and assignments. If you fail to make a plan on how to improve you have planned to fail on your next test. At the end of the day, everyone will make mistakes. However, it’s what we do when we’ve made mistakes that define us. Take a look at what Dian Laufenberg, a high school teacher, said about embracing failure and learning from mistakes.
Cramming is an extremely unproductive and bad study habit. And yet so many students still choose to do so.
Studying is only effective for students if we are able to process and retain information. This can only be accomplished through shorter, more productive, study sessions. Long cramming sessions can often be counterproductive as it results in our brain being unable to retain specific aspects of the information learned. This often leads to a false sense of understanding the material.
We are not saying that students shouldn’t study leading up to the test. Instead, we are saying that leaving all studying to the last minute is bad. Students should have a proper understanding of all aspects of the material being covered far in advance of the actual test.
Memorizing but not Understanding Material
Purely memorizing information is an extremely slow and relatively ineffective way to study information. On top of this people tend to more easily forget information they have memorized once they no longer need it.
Instead of just memorizing also try to understand the material being taught. Apply the material you have learned to real examples. Connect new information to other information that you have already learned. By making connections between old and new information it becomes so much easier to remember and recall material.
Not Asking for Help
So many students have gotten into the habit of not going to their teachers when they need help. Often they are too scared to ask for help when they need it and see their teachers as daunting to approach.
The truth is your teacher is the best resource for information. They know what material needs to be tested and how they want you to go about learning it. Teachers also want to see their students to succeed and are often more than happy to help students work through difficult problems and provide feedback.
We recommend that you come prepared with notes on what you want to discuss and work through with your teacher. Keep your notes clear and concise so that you can make the most out of both your and your teacher’s time.
Studying Late at Night
It is extremely common for students to lack time, especially during midterm/exam season. On top of this, we know that learning is not the only aspect of one’s life. However, condensed study times often lead students to attempt to pull all-nighters.
Unfortunately for students, sleep is a basic need of the body and is required for proper functioning. Cognitively sleep is important in allowing for the processing and retention of new information learned during the day. Students who lack sleep are usually only able to recall general aspects of information.
We recommend studying during the morning when your brain is the freshest and most energetic.
It often seems extremely easy to multitask during different tasks. However, it is a proven fact that multitasking results in less productivity when compared to focusing on one task. The human brain is designed to complete one task at a time, not multiple.
Furthermore, it has actually been shown that humans inflate our perceived ability to multitask when our true abilities are not reflective of this.
Don’t try to multitask, especially when doing something as important as studying
Almost all of the best students have organized their materials, notes, and tests into well-formatted and easy-to-access ways. By organizing the material we learn we are able to easily review lecture materials and notes from specific topics. Additionally staying organized can help in many other ways including reducing stress and improving sleep.
With online applications such as google drive it has become even easier to separate content by subject, unit, and topic. Others prefer to use hard copy methods such as binders and folders. Use the organization method that works best for you.
All students have procrastinated at one point or another, waiting to complete tasks until the last minute. However, the best students have learned that getting work done daily is one of the best study habits there is.
When you leave a project to be completed at a later date, further tasks can pile up and make the work ahead feel even more daunting. This is a vicious cycle that can lead to rushed and poor quality work, resulting in bad grades.
If possible, get lectures and homework done the day they are due. This won’t always be possible, but it definitely helps.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
It is well known that the recommended amount of sleep for teenagers and young adults is between 8-10 hours! Yet many students sleep well under that amount. Choosing to study in excess, while forgoing sleep, is a bad study habit that can harm one’s daily performance.
Getting good sleep is proven to help students feel more alert and energized and also plays an important role in memory consolidation.
It is also important to sleep at a consistent time every day so your body builds a habit and maintains your circadian rhythm.
For those who have trouble sleeping, we recommend staying away from bright lights, such as electronics, at least 30 minutes beforehand as lights can disrupt the synthesis of melatonin, a sleep regulation hormone.
Studying with Distractions
Many students completely underestimate the effect distractions can have on their ability to study.
Attempting to concentrate on an important task with the lure of online activities, such as social media, is extremely difficult. This is made even harder by the phone alerts that students get on a daily basis. Once we have obliged our curiosity we often spend hours of our day in a rabbit hole of TikTok videos and YouTube recommendations.
Even checking your devices periodically for a few minutes can negatively affect your performance when studying.
Being able to focus on the task at hand can help increase your studying efficiency, so don’t let distractions get in your way. To help avoid distractions we recommend a few easy tips:
Turn off Your Phone!
Think about turning off your phone, keeping it on silent, or even putting it in another room when you are studying. When the object that can distract you is out of sight it is out of mind. This way you don’t have any temptations coming your way while you are working.
We understand that in this day and age, even more so with COVID, the internet has almost become a necessity. Yet we still recommend taking some time to unplug and try studying using textbooks, paper, and a pencil. This can help you get the peace and quiet you need to concentrate.
Use Helpful Apps to Reduce Distractions
You aren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, person who gets distracted when trying to accomplish tasks. That’s why programs have been created to help completely remove the temptation of online distractions. These programs can block access to websites and applications for a preset amount of time. You would not be able to use your devices even if you want to! Some of these apps include:
Studying at the Wrong Place
On the topic of lessening distractions, the place you decide to study can hugely impact your ability to concentrate. By creating a study environment free of distractions you increase your ability to focus on the work at hand.
Some common study spots used by students include libraries and designated university campus steady spots. For those looking to study outdoors consider going to a local park or recreational center.
We recommend that you choose a place to study that is well lit which helps preserve your eyesight and decrease strain and eye fatigue. If you plan on studying around other people try to establish rules. For example, ask the people you live with to stay quieter and not disturb you when you are studying. In addition to this, when studying from home we recommend that you create a separate study space for your work to help you get in the right headspace and keep your workspace organized.
Studying with the Wrong People
Studying within groups can help boost your productivity. Even some of the hardest undergraduate programs and professional schools in Canada, such as McMaster Health Sciences, understand the value of group work. Working within a group can help you get new perspectives on topics you are struggling with and give you the chance to test your knowledge by potentially teaching it to others. Group work is all about helping each other succeed!
However, many people assume that all group study sessions will be successful when this is simply not the case. Studying with groups is just as likely to provide a distraction as it is to aid you. Make sure to pick a group that has the same motivation as you and wants to see everyone succeed. These group members should also be willing to find ways to support each other during challenges that may arise while studying.
If you are finding that your study group is constantly off-topic and discussing irrelevant things it may be better to have them as friends, rather than study partners. Additionally, if your group members also have bad study habits you run the risk of those habits rubbing off on you.
Eating the Wrong Foods
Everyone jokes about how the “stereotypical” university diet is ramen all day. But overconsuming poor quality foods is a bad study habit that can actually negatively impact a student’s academic performance.
The saying “you are what you eat” is absolutely true. Eating healthy has been shown to improve your mood and learning. Having a good source of energy is proven to support our body’s daily function.
If one eats the wrong nutrients it is likely that they will tire more quickly, negatively impacting their ability to concentrate and effectively study.
Consuming too much Energy Drink and Caffiene
It has become extremely common to see students drinking coffee every morning and energy drinks to study late into the night. While it is true that these drinks can help stimulate the brain and improve concentration in the short term, their long-term effects can be detrimental to one’s health.
Everything should be used in moderation and drinking caffeine and energy drinks once in a while is okay. However, if we consume these drinks in excess we will become more resistant to their effects. This results in many consuming even more drinks to get the same effect, a vicious cycle. Additionally, using these drinks in excess can lead to things such as sleep deprivation, headaches, and cardiac arrest.
If you have to use these drinks, use them in moderation. Additionally, try to delay your use of these drinks until you are as old as possible. That way you haven’t built up a resistance to their effects when you need them most.
There are many bad study habits that students of all levels have unknowingly adopted. Without first identifying these bad study habits and then removing them we cannot improve our grades.