Even the most dedicated students can find themselves daydreaming and not engaged while studying. Sometimes, there’s just so much new information that it becomes overwhelming and you don’t know where to start. Other times, it’s hard to concentrate due to distractions, like noise or wandering thoughts. But keeping on top of your studies by setting a regular study schedule and using strategies to actively engage and interact with written material will help make your study time meaningful and productive.

Set up a study space

There’s a general assumption that the perfect study space is a specific quiet room or space where you can work free of distractions. While limiting distractions is still important, there’s quite a bit of evidence that changing up your study space can help you with your memory. There’s one oft-cited piece of research to this effect, a 1978 study called Environmental context and human memory, that outlines five experiments where researchers studied the difference between recall performance in people who studied in the same environment versus switching it up. The study found that when the environment was changed during the study process, recall performance improved. There’s been more recent research that’s found similar results, as well. In other words, changing up your scenery can help you improve your memory and concentration.

Use a study technique

Studying is more than just memorizing information. For studying to be effective, we need to be able to comprehend what we are reading and recognize the meaning behind it. This is called active reading. One study technique, called SQ3R, is aimed at maximizing reading comprehension with five steps.

  • Survey
  • Question
  • Read
  • Recite
  • Review

You start by identifying the important information in a text, focusing on things like headers, bolded words, summaries, and diagrams to give you a bird’s eye view understanding of the topic. Then, you formulate questions, in your own words, based on what you know so far from the first step. Then, you focus on reading the information and underlining the text that answers the questions you created. It helps to answer those questions in your own words, instead of just copying answers directly from the text. From here, you recite, which means recalling out loud as much as you remember. Finally, you can review. The SQ3R method suggests keeping your review period to only about 5 minutes.

There are other study methods available that use slightly different techniques than the SQ3R method, but all are focused on helping you better understand what you are reading and learning.

One great way to enhance your understanding of the material at BCC is by referring to the recorded webinars. “Some people don’t realize how helpful these are,” says BCC’s student Advisor, Kelsey McGuinty. “But they are a great resource to review. I’ve found it helps students’ understanding of the material to have an instructor talk about the content in their own words.”

Space out your study time

Last-minute cramming is something that every student understands. It’s easy to let yourself fall behind on reviewing course material and then think you can learn everything in the two or three days before the test. According to the American Psychological Association, decades of research show that if you space your study time effectively, it improves your long-term memory.

“One of the biggest conversations I have with students is that they run out of time,” says McGuinty. “Time management is so important. Put study time in your schedule and be consistent with your studying.”

For instance, if you estimate it will take you 10 hours to read through course material, you’re better off studying for 2 hours a day over 5 days rather than studying 5 hours a day over 2 days. Ideally, you’d want to space out your studying even more, but you have to determine what works for you based on academic deadlines, life commitments, and other factors.

“The other important thing to be aware of,” McGuinty continues, “is that everyone has a preferred time of day for studying that works with their brain. This could be early morning or late at night, whichever works for you.”

Let yourself be a learner

A common occurrence that McGuinty faces with students is the perceived notion that they can’t make mistakes, because they are already professionals in their industry. “Let yourself be a learner. You’re going to get something wrong and that’s OK,” McGuinty reassures. “You don’t need to be a perfectionist even if you’ve been in [your] industry for a long time. Take off the advisor hat and put on the student hat, because they are different things.”

For example, McGuinty relates the CFP program to the standard learner’s driving test. “If I tried to take the learner’s test now, even though I’ve been driving for years, I’d probably fail,” McGuinty laughs. “The learner’s test, like the CFP exam, is written based on the textbook, not real life. It’s important to remember that.”

Find a study buddy

Having someone to bounce ideas off of and hold you accountable is a great way to ensure your academic success. “Finding someone in the same course as you that you can connect with is good, but they could also be an accountability partner outside of your industry,” says McGuinty. 

If you’re having trouble finding someone to keep you accountable for your studies, McGuinty says that she can help. Set up an appointment with her and she can help keep you accountable by setting up scheduled calls.

Talk to your Instructor or Student Advisor

You have support all around you during your studies. Your instructor is available to answer any questions you may have and provide assistance with the course material. Your instructor’s contact information will be available to you once you start your course or program. Your student advisor is another resource available to you that can help you with more than just keeping you accountable for your studies. Kelsey McGuinty can discuss your eligibility to enter a program or course, discuss your learning path, provide study tips, or just offer general support. Book a call with her here.

Effective studying depends on you

Whether you’re taking a full program at BCC or earning your CE credits, effective studying habits will help you be successful. Good study habits benefit you in your career as well by laying the foundation for continuous learning.

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