Students and professors suggest most effective studying habits

With finals approaching, professor says sleep should come before cramming.

A recent blog post by Stop Procrastinating lists numerous studying techniques that students said were effective in combating issues such as procrastination, distractions and cramming.

Stop Procrastinating, an internet service that blocks potential distractions, conducted a survey among 3000 students and compiled its results in an infographic. Syracuse University professors generally agreed with the studying tactics reported in the post.

According to the infographic, students said studying with friends was only effective when quizzing each other. Aerospace Engineering Program Director Professor John Francis Dannenhoffer III agreed, but said group study in general is important for learning, especially for bouncing off ideas and understanding problems. Additionally, studying with other people can be beneficial for auditory learners who need another person to explain a topic to them.

“If you kick everyday, you don’t have to do extra kicks the night before the match.” -Aerospace Program Director Professor John Francis Dannenhoffer III

“If in fact everything could be done individually, there is no advantage to being on campus,” Dannenhoffer said.

Professor Melissa Chessher, chair of magazine journalism, agreed, but said students have to choose study partners carefully in order to maximize group studying time and minimize distractions.

“If you have a team that knows the rules and abides by them, it can be beneficial. But otherwise it’s not,” Chessher said.

Sport management Professor Rick Burton said friends and other people can be one of the biggest distractors, although Stop Procrastinating listed the internet, listening to music, watching television and messaging as “most damaging during study time.” Burton said that while he encourages productive group studying, it can often times be very hard to study when surrounded by other people having fun. Instead, students have to seek out quiet places on campus so that studying won’t become a social event.

Chessher said it is important for students to separate themselves from technology as much as possible when studying.

“It’s more than just putting your phone down or closing your laptop … I think you have to physically separate yourself from your devices because the temptation is just too powerful. The more distance you can create, the more successful I believe your studying sessions will be,” Chessher said.

Some 67% of students also said that studying in smaller periods with breaks “helps brain process information,” according to the infographic. Burton, Chessher and Dannenhoffer all agreed and said cramming was an ineffective way to study.

Dannenhoffer said sometimes cramming can be effective for short term memory use, such as having to remember the first 20 digits of pi for an exam. However, cramming is generally not advised for material that students actually need to know and understand, he said.

Burton said that cramming is really just a measurement of a student’s time management skills.

“Have (students) been putting it off, putting it off, but now they have to speed read 100-200 pages of text? Now there is no choice but to cram,” Burton said. “I think cramming is very dangerous, but it’s a function of whether a student thought in advance.”

Yet if a student had the choice to cram or sleep, Chessher said a student should always choose sleep. Stop Procrastinating listed sleep as one of the eight sources of improvement for concentration and study.

“Sleep allows your brain to kind of take out the garbage and reset and refuel, and if you don’t sleep, it’s just like showing up with a head of garbage,” Chessher said.

Burton and Dannenhoffer agreed and said sleep and other factors of personal well-being, like eating and exercise, are very important when preparing for an exam.

Above all, though, Dannenhoffer said the most effective way to study is to study a little bit of every subject every day.

“If you kick everyday, you don’t have to do extra kicks the night before the match.”


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