5 Research-Backed Study Practices

Study Tips

Written by Sarah

Tutors can help students to use effective studying practices that can help them to learn and retain for long-term.

Many people are of the view that to become a straight-A student, you need to spend a lot of your time studying. However, research shows that straight-A students study for less time when compared to their peers. The catch is that in this short time, they study more effectively.

By sharing research-proven practices with the students, tutors can help their students to study more effectively, resulting in more comprehension and less time spent studying.


In the present times of social media and many digital disruptions, students, just like everyone else have become used to multitasking. However, multitasking can never be successful because in such a case, a lot of time is wasted on switching between different activities, and the brain has to restart and refocus for every new activity.

The formula is, work accomplished = intensity of focus X time spent. If a student is studying for AP Chemistry, however, keeps checking their phone and scrolling through their Newsfeed will naturally have a low intensity of focus, maybe a 2. Even though this student spends 4 hours with books, their work accomplished is merely an 8.

Conversely, if a student focuses only on AP Chemistry and is not distracted, then they will have a high-intensity of focus, like a 10. Even if this person studies only for an hour, they will learn more than their classmate who studied for 4 hours.

Generally, highly successful students avoid multitasking. They don’t do low-intensity work with frequent disruptions; rather, they do higher intensity work without disruptions, even if it is for shorter periods. They study effectively, which results in better achievement.


Unsuccessful learning methods

A lot of students use learning methods, which not only take a lot of time but also give the impression of proficiency. They feel they have learned everything for a test, only to forget it within a week because their learning methods were never effective.

Some of the unsuccessful learning methods are:

Spending too much time studying

Highlighting chief concepts and then going over

Going over notes

Reading a text again and again

Spending too much time studying one subject and repeating sentences again and again to learn them (massed practice)

Going over one topic again and again before starting with another topic (blocked practice)


High intensity study habits

According to the researchers, the below given methods when included in students’ everyday study routine, enhance sustainable long-term learning. These practices are not easy and need effort and patience. Moreover, in the beginning, the learning results might appear to be lesser than what is achieved with unproductive learning practices. However, in the long-term, these techniques are much more effective.

The book, ‘Make It Stick’ recognizes quite a few research-proven studying practices.

1. Pre-test

Students can enhance their future learning by answering questions even before they start learning. It does not matter even if the answers are incorrect, as according to the research pre-testing is better than spending the equivalent amount of time studying.

2. Spaced Practice

Students should be encouraged to space out their study sessions and focus on a topic for a short period and then focus again after some days. This process has been shown to enhance retention and is more effective than massed practice. The book, ‘How We Learn’ points out that spaced practice might look difficult in the beginning because students might keep forgetting, and retaining that knowledge takes practice.

Students can create flash cards, which can help with the spaced practice and self-quizzing is valuable. These flash cards should be put in different piles. The cards that students can answer should be put away to review 3 days later; the cards that were answered with some difficulty should be put away to review 2 days later, and the ones answered incorrectly should be reviewed the next day.

3. Self-quizzing

In the present times, standardized testing, is seen as something negative, however, in reality, it is a kind of active recovery practice. Ask students to prepare their own test questions. While making these questions, they should think about the types of questions that can be asked on a quiz or test by a teacher. These quizzes must be included in study sessions, where even the questions that the students believe they know should be answered.

4. Interleaving practice

Students use blocked methodology, where they can study a certain kind of problem as a group until they gain expertise in it. Students can also use a more useful process where they study a set of problems, which are not the same but just related. For example, they can do a mixed set of math word problems having varying questions on addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. As these problems don’t require the same strategy, they are more effective than doing the same problems one after another.

5. Rephrasing and reflection

It happens to the best of us that we read a certain text and don’t remember all or some points from the text. Students should be made to use intentional learning strategies so they can combat this problem. These strategies comprise recounting what is learned, thinking how they would explain what they have learned to a 6-year-old, and reflecting on and asking questions.

study habits

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