How to be a Better Student in 5 Simple Steps

Image by Tulane Public Relations, Flickr

Image by Tulane Public Relations, Flickr

Everyone wants to be a better student, and we’ve got five easy steps to make sure you’re doing your best!

Step 1: Go to class. This is the easy part, as most students do this regularly.

Step 2: This may sound a little crazy, but unless you absolutely need your laptop, leave it at home. Why? Because laptops are the gateway to distraction. The temptation to multi-task — also known as checking Facebook or Twitter, playing a game, or basically doing anything unrelated to the lecture at hand — is overwhelming, and at some point you will be sucked into doing it (I know from personal experience). A 2013 study published in the Computers & Education journal found that students who multi-task during lecture retain, on average, 11% less information than those students who are fully focused on the lecture. In other words, it can affect your mark by a whole letter grade! Additionally, not only does your laptop distract you, it can also be a distraction for students around you. The same study found that students seated near laptop users retained even less information from lectures than the laptop users themselves!

Step 3: Find a seat away from students with laptops and write out your notes with good old pen and paper. Doing this will keep you focused on what the professor is saying much more than typing on a computer screen.

Step 4: To go above and beyond, take those hastily scribbled notes and rewrite them neatly when you have spare time. Rewriting your notes should help preserve the information in your memory and it will be useful for future studying. Underline or highlight the most important points and keywords so that key concepts can be picked out quickly later on.

Step 5: Use your notes to study for an exam (obviously). However, simply reading them over won’t cut it. It is through writing and speaking that most people are best able to recall information. This is where cue cards come in. Cue cards are your friend – maybe your best friend. On one side of the card, write down questions that you have generated using your notes. Whether simple or complicated, create a question for anything you need to remember. On the other side of the card, write the answer. Next, ask yourself the questions and write out your answers on a different sheet of paper. Check if you were right (no cheating!). If not, do it again until you nail it. Rote memorization isn’t fun, but it will help you attain academic success. Doing this alone is helpful in improving your recall, but to mercilessly crush the exam you must speak the questions and answers from the cue cards out loud. This is what really improves your memorization of the material. Writing out answers is slow and your mind can get distracted, but by repeating the solutions to yourself out loud, you become able to recall the answer quickly and efficiently. Whichever technique you decide to use, studying is all about grinding out the material and the more time you put in, the better your results will be.

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