The Seven Deadly Sins of Studying

Notebook and Pen

Studying like a boss is tricky business, so make the best of your study time by avoiding these study pitfalls.

  1. Having lots of tabs open. Distraction is not your friend when you’re learning, and especially not when you’re studying. Don’t believe us? Check out this article from the New York Times, where a study showed that people who were “multi-tasking” online performed 20 percent worse on a test then people who weren’t.

    The takeaway? Trying to switch between Facebook, BuzzFeed and your homework could turn a B grade into a D. Try blocking social media and email while you study to resist temptation.

  2. Cramming the night before a test. Overloading on information and stressing about meeting a deadline reduces your retention rate – making it more likely that you will make mistakes or forget key facts during a test. Instead, make a study plan like the one below. Remember, it’s better to spend 30 minutes a night studying for a week than five hours in one day. You can even take a day for a break!
    Sample Study Plan
    Monday - Study notes from class, 30 min
    Tuesday - Review class slides, 15 min; make flashcards, 15 min
    Wednesday - Study flashcards, 30 min
    Thursday - Take practice test OR review textbook, 30 min
    Friday -  TAKE TEST
  3. Jamming out while studying. Your favorite song can wait. Why? Music with lyrics is distracting, and songs with heavy beats will seriously impair your ability to focus. If you REALLY need to listen to music, try movie soundtracks, piano music, or even instrumental music. Services like Spotify have playlists dedicated to people who are studying.
  4. Checking your phone. Americans check their smartphones 8 billion times a day. That works out to 46 times each day for the average person. And if you’re between 18 and 24 years old, that number jumps to 74.

    Knowing what we know about multitasking (see #1 above), phones can be a problem if you’re really trying to get something done. Instead, try putting your phone in airplane mode or, better yet, turn it off.

  5. Studying in bed. Just don’t do it. Sleep will probably sound 10X better than reading a textbook, and studying in bed can make your sleep less effective. DON’T. DO. IT.
  6. Too many “breaks.” When you sit down to study you need to, well, study! Don't have snack breaks, phone breaks, nap breaks or other breaks too frequently. Study in half an hour blocks and then reward yourself with a 10-minute break. Move around or get a snack, and then sit down and refocus as soon as break time is over.
  7. Just reviewing notes. Yes, you can start by skimming over class notes, but when you study, take a holistic approach. Review notes by reading them out loud, writing them on flash cards, and creating rhymes or mnemonic memory tricks. Doing this will help you remember more and understand what you will be tested on in greater depth.

Now that you are older and wiser, stop procrastinating and start studying. Better yet, practice your new-found study abilities with an online course for high school or college credit!