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5 Study Habits to Avoid

Written By Geoff Nixon . July 19, 2018

Study Habits Matter

Preparing for an assessment can mean added stress for parent and child. It can include arguments, tears, and frustration about what to review or where to find information. For some it’s often a lengthy and dreaded process in which the end result doesn’t reflect the tremendous time and effort involved. And the more this occurs, the less likely the student is to feel hopeful about the potential for success or interested in trying.

Whether it’s weekly spelling or vocabulary words, a unit test, or a final exam, knowing how to study is just as important as knowing what to study. For a number of us, the first step is saying goodbye to habits that continuously produce undesirable results.

Many common study habits may actually make it more difficult to learn and recall information. Identifying bad habits and replacing them with more effective ones can make a substantial difference.


Waiting until the last minute often adds stress to a situation. Trying to cram a lot of material into a short period of time will either result in not being able to cover everything needed or a very late night. Both scenarios mean exhaustion and additional stress are likely to follow on exam day, further impacting results.

Instead, start studying well before the test date. The material can be broken up into shorter daily study sessions. This may reduce stress and improve the likelihood it will be remembered later.


The allure of bright colors, prevalence of these items among school supplies, study sessions, and lectures, has most students thinking that running a highlighter across important information is all that’s needed to do well. They tend to color large sections instead of focusing on key words or the most relevant material. Students seldom revisit the highlighted text or slow down to consider its meaning while marking it. These tools are better left for organizational tasks like creating schedules or selecting examples to include in an essay or paper.

Instead, many educators suggest writing notes or questions in the margins of the paper and taking time to consider them afterwards. This may mean revisiting questions and finding answers using the text or other resources. It can also mean creating flashcards to study using the content noted.


Many students enjoy listening to music while working. Others are rarely far from a cell phone or electronic device. While music can help some students focus, songs with lyrics are often distracting. And a cell phone or laptop that’s easily accessible is likely to be checked periodically.

If music is preferred, pieces without lyrics are less likely to distract. Small electronic devices can be placed in a different room until studying is finished or a scheduled break. If there’s a concern about missing important information, allow students to check them during breaks.

Getting Too Comfortable

A study or work space should be somewhere that a student feels comfortable, but not too comfortable. Teachers ask students to sit up in class because it helps them focus. Working on a bed could lead to lying down or even nodding off despite the best intentions.

Space can be limited, especially when there are siblings or others around during study hours. But a few guidelines can ensure that most environments promote focus. If there is a TV in the room, it should be turned off. Television or other electronics in nearby or adjoining areas can be turned down enough to prevent distraction. Maintaining a seated position in a desk, chair, or even the floor, can also improve attention.


While memorization is necessary for some assessments, students are far more likely to recall and/or apply information, if they focus on understanding it.

Try asking your child to teach or explain a concept or problem to you when preparing for a test in order to further their understanding. Focus on patterns and relationships in spelling words, and use graphic organizers, such as word webs or concept maps, to help them connect subject material. Creating or taking practice tests is effective as well.

Just as habits take a while to form, they can take some time to change. Recognizing when behaviors occur, acknowledging the need for change, and making a plan for alternative responses will allow your child to maximize time and energy while studying.


Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

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