You may have heard the advice: Spend two to three hours per week studying for each credit hour of class you’re taking. But are all study hours created equal? The University of Indiana found a positive relationship between higher GPAs and both hours spent studying as well as quality of study time (specifically use of different learning methods).
The conclusion: More isn’t always better. Cramming for 20 hours before a test won’t guarantee a higher score, but spending time studying in addition to practicing good study habits can have a positive effect on your grades.
Ready to start studying efficiently? Implement these best-practice study tips from students around the country to sharpen your game next semester.
Have a warmup routine
“I always like to have a warm cup of coffee or tea near me, so I feel comfortable while studying. I will also have a warm drink with me during tests to create a calming atmosphere and relieve any pretest jitters I may have.” —Lindsey Koch, University of Colorado class of 2019
Find alternatives to the textbook
“I often compile a study guide that consists of all the material on an exam in a way that makes sense to me (usually in the form of an outline). I’ll use the study guide to determine which parts of the material I’m less confident about. If the material is more comprehension than memorization, I sometimes research videos that enhance my understanding of the subject. If I don’t understand a concept after looking through textbooks, videos, and notes, I’ll often reach out to fellow classmates to collaborate. And when I’m still not able to comprehend the material, I’ll make an appointment with my professor as soon as possible.” —Brigid Brennan, Elon University class of 2018, Duke University physical therapy program class of 2021
Create a specific to-do list
“Instead of writing something broad like ‘Study physics’ in my planner, I write down specific tasks, like ‘Read the chapter 12 summary and review the related assignments.’ I need a more defined approach to lessen the ambiguity of studying and the small, reasonable tasks help me prevent some procrastination.” —Mallory Woodruff, Washington University in St. Louis class of 2022
Don’t skimp on sleep
“I always make sure I get at least six hours of sleep at night, even if it means missing out on some studying. I’ve noticed that lack of sleep affects my test performance negatively.” —Brian Oram, University of Massachusetts Lowell class of 2022
Plan, prioritize, prepare
“I keep a detailed planner that includes study time on my to-do list. Creating a routine has been crucial for studying for a midterm or final exam. I then prioritize more difficult classes and spend more time dedicated to those subjects. I’ll take breaks to stretch or do yoga, but sometimes breaks can also include just studying more enjoyable material for a bit before diving back into the difficult material.” —Claire Darrow, Middlebury College class of 2022
Gather the troops
“It’s a good idea to make some friends in your classes and create a study group with your peers. I find it easier to master concepts when I go over them in a small group rather than in a large lecture.” —Walker Franklin, University of Colorado class of 2020
Let it all soak in
“Class is often a balancing act of writing good notes versus digesting the material. Usually, I jot down quick notes in class and mostly focus on listening to the lecture. Then, I’ll rewrite the notes nice and neat in preparation for the exam. It allows me to review all of the material while allowing myself to fully understand what it is saying.” —Kaitlyn Barthell, University of Colorado class of 2021
“Sometimes college has a stigma surrounding it that everything has to be last minute, but if someone starts studying 30 minutes to an hour every night five days before the exam, it will really make a difference.” —Andrew Hart, Roger Williams University class of 2021
“When I plan to sit for hours to study, I’ll set a timer for 45 minutes and place my phone and laptop on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ After the 45 minutes are up, I normally take a seven to 10-minute break. In that time, I get up and stretch, I make sure I have snacks to ‘reward’ myself and I check social media. After that, I set another timer for 45 minutes and start my next study session.” —Sabrina Gonzalez, University of Florida class of 2020
Keep the dream alive
“I go to the library, put in my headphones, listen to orchestral music, and study for 20 minutes at a time with 10-minute breaks. If I find motivation waning, I’ll pull up photos or articles about my dreams (whether that be places of work, grad school, or otherwise) and refocus my drive.” —Sabah Kadir, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill class of 2019
Let the beat move you
“To help focus, I like to listen to lo-fi beat music because it doesn’t have many lyrics and keeps your mind on track. I never pull any all-nighters before the exam because I believe sleep allows your brain to organize and absorb the information you learned the day before. On the day of the exam, I make sure to eat breakfast to keep my body fueled.” —Jens Meyer, Virginia Tech class of 2018