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Knowing How to Study: sub-module 2 of 4 of studying and test-taking

This module will explain some of the ways that you can improve your study habits. It is useful to learn good study habits and techniques in order to make the most out of your studying. Learning how to study can help you study more efficiently.


  • Turn off your phone.Don’t use texts and calls as an excuse that you are needed elsewhere.
  • Have a plan.Plan when you will study so you don’t end up cramming at the last minute.
  • Be realistic.Ask yourself: How will a small bit of procrastination affect your stress levels, anxiety, health and overall success?
  • Plan for YOU.Tailor your study plan to accommodate how you learn best.
  • Remember your goals.Relate your studying to real-world consequences. How will this knowledge help you in the future?

Other Resources

Study Strategies

How to Get the Most Out of Your Study Time

Watch the video below to discover some strategies to make your studying more effective.

Six Strategies for Effective Learning

These strategies optimize learning by leveraging cognitive principles that enhance memory retention and comprehension. By spacing out study sessions, actively recalling information, and elaborating on concepts, learners engage in more effective encoding and retrieval processes. Utilizing these techniques leads to deeper understanding, improved long-term retention, and better academic performance.

In this tutorial we will explore these six strategies to help you discover which one works best for you!


The six strategies are:

  • Spaced Practice Distributing study sessions over time rather than cramming all at once.
  • Retrieval Practice Actively recalling information from memory through techniques like self-testing or quiz-taking.
  • Elaboration Explaining and expanding upon material in your own words, connecting new information to existing knowledge.
  • Interleaving Mixing different topics or types of problems during study sessions to enhance learning.
  • Concrete Examples Using real-life examples or tangible instances to illustrate abstract concepts.
  • Dual Coding Combining verbal information with visual representations to encode information in multiple formats for better retention.

Information in this tutorial is based off:

Avoid Cramming! Study with Spaced Practice

What is Spaced Practice?

Spaced practice (or distributed practice) is like feeding your brain little nuggets of info over time instead of force-feeding it all at once. It's the difference between studying for an hour every day for a week versus cramming for seven hours straight the night before a test. Basically, it's giving your brain some breathing room to absorb and retain information better.

Watch the video below to learn about spaced practice and how it can help you retain information.

How to Use Spaced Practice?

Spaced practice involves spreading out your study sessions over time rather than cramming all at once. Here's how to do it:

  • Plan AheadStart planning early for exams, and set aside a little bit of time every day. Five hours spread out over two weeks is better than the same five hours all at once.
  • Review RegularlyReview information from each class, but not immediately after class.
  • Increase the SpaceAfter you review information from the most recent class, make sure to go back and study important older information to keep it fresh. For example, review material after one day, then after three days, a week, two weeks, and so on.
  • Stay Consistent Stick to your study schedule and make spaced practice a regular part of your routine. Consistency is key to maximizing the benefits of spaced practice.
  • Monitor Progress Keep track of your progress and adjust your study schedule as needed based on your understanding of the material and your performance on practice tests or quizzes.

Go Quiz Yourself! Study with Retrieval Practice

Retrieval practice is basically flexing your brain muscles by recalling stuff you've learned, like quizzing yourself or trying to remember key points without peeking at your notes. It's like a mental workout that helps you remember stuff better in the long run, kind of like doing reps at the gym for your memory.

How to Use Retrieval Practice?

Using retrieval practice is straightforward and adaptable to various learning situations. Here's how you can incorporate it into your study routine:

  • Create Practice Questions Make flashcards, write quiz questions, or generate prompts related to the material you're studying. These questions should cover key concepts, definitions, and important details.
  • Test Yourself Regularly Set aside dedicated study sessions where you actively engage in retrieval practice. Answer the practice questions you created without referring to your notes or textbooks. This could involve verbal recitation, writing out answers, or using online quiz platforms.
  • Feedback and Review After attempting to answer the questions, check your responses for accuracy. Identify any areas where you struggled or made mistakes. Use this feedback to guide further study and focus on weak areas.
  • Spaced Retrieval Incorporate spaced practice by revisiting the same practice questions over time. Space out your retrieval practice sessions, gradually increasing the intervals between each session. This reinforces memory retention and strengthens recall over the long term.
  • Apply Active Recall Instead of simply re-reading your notes, actively recall information from memory. Challenge yourself to remember key concepts and details without relying on external cues. This process of actively retrieving information enhances learning and retention.
  • Mix Up Topics Intersperse retrieval practice sessions by mixing questions from different topics or subjects. This encourages the brain to make connections between related concepts and promotes deeper understanding.
  • Use Various Formats Experiment with different formats for your retrieval practice, such as written responses, flash cards, verbal recitation, or online quizzes. Find what works best for you and incorporate a mix of methods into your study routine.

By consistently incorporating retrieval practice into your study routine, you can improve retention, comprehension, and recall of the material you're learning.

Dive Deeper! Study using Elaboration

Elaboration in studying involves explaining and expanding upon information in your own words. It helps deepen understanding by connecting new material to existing knowledge and experiences. By actively engaging with the material and creating meaningful associations, elaboration enhances memory retention and promotes better comprehension.

How to Use Elaboration?
  • Understand the Material Before elaborating, make sure you have a solid understanding of the material. Read through the text or lecture notes and identify key concepts and main points.
  • Ask Questions As you study, ask yourself questions about the material. Why is this concept important? How does it relate to other concepts you've learned? What are some real-life examples that illustrate this concept? Find the answers in your class materials and discuss them with your classmates.
  • Explain in Your Own Words Take the information you've learned and explain it as if you were teaching it to someone else. Use simple language and try to relate the concept to things you already know or have experienced.
  • Create Analogies Use analogies or metaphors to help clarify complex ideas. Compare the new concept to something familiar to you or create a visual representation to aid in understanding.
  • Connect to Prior Knowledge Relate new information to what you already know. How does this concept build upon or contradict what you've learned before? Making connections to prior knowledge strengthens memory retention.
  • Practice Active Engagement As you go through your day, make connections to the ideas you are learning in class. Actively engage with the material by writing summaries, creating concept maps, or discussing the topic with peers. This helps reinforce your understanding and solidify the information in your memory.
  • Review and Reflect Periodically review your elaborations and reflect on your understanding of the material. Identify areas where you need further clarification or where your explanations could be improved.

By incorporating elaboration into your study routine, you'll deepen your understanding of the material and improve your ability to recall and apply it in various contexts.

Switch it Up! Study using Interleaving

Interleaving in studying involves mixing different topics or types of problems during study sessions. Instead of focusing on one topic at a time, interleaving encourages switching between related concepts or skills. This approach enhances learning by promoting connections between different topics and improving the ability to apply knowledge in diverse contexts.

How to Use Interleaving?
  • Identify Related Topics Determine the various topics or concepts that are related to the subject you're studying. These could be different chapters in a textbook, related theories, or types of problems.
  • Mix Topics During Study Sessions Instead of dedicating separate study sessions to each topic, interleave them by switching between topics within the same study session. For example, alternate between solving math problems involving different concepts or reviewing vocabulary words from different chapters.
  • Focus on Connections Pay attention to how the topics relate to each other and look for common themes or underlying principles. This helps in building a deeper understanding of the subject matter and strengthens connections between different concepts.
  • Practice Retrieval Use interleaving when practicing retrieval by mixing questions or problems from different topics. This challenges your brain to actively recall information from memory and enhances long-term retention.
  • Vary Practice Methods Experiment with different study methods and practice techniques while interleaving topics. This could include solving problems, reading, writing summaries, or engaging in discussions. Varying your study approach keeps your learning dynamic and reinforces your understanding of the material.

By incorporating interleaving into your study routine, you'll develop a more comprehensive understanding of the subject and improve your ability to apply knowledge across different contexts.

Make Connections! Study with Concrete Examples

Studying using concrete examples involves using real-life instances or tangible scenarios to illustrate abstract concepts. By providing context and relevance, concrete examples make complex ideas easier to understand and remember. This method enhances learning by connecting theoretical knowledge to practical applications, fostering deeper comprehension and retention.

How to Study Using Concrete Examples?
  • Identify Concepts Identify the abstract concepts or theories you're studying that could benefit from concrete examples.
  • Find Relevant Examples Look for real-life instances, case studies, or anecdotes that relate to the concepts you're learning. These examples should help clarify and contextualize the abstract ideas.
  • Link Examples to Concepts Clearly explain how each example relates to the concept you're studying. Highlight the key similarities and connections to ensure understanding.
  • Apply Examples Use the examples to reinforce your understanding of the material. Visualize how the abstract concept applies in different contexts by referring back to the concrete examples.
  • Create Your Own Examples Generate your own examples to deepen your understanding and test your comprehension of the concepts. This active engagement enhances retention and application of knowledge.
  • Review and Reflect Periodically review the examples and reflect on how they enhance your understanding of the material. Assess whether the examples effectively illustrate the concepts and make adjustments as needed.

By incorporating concrete examples into your study routine, you'll enhance your comprehension and retention of abstract concepts, making your learning experience more engaging and effective.

Use Your Words... and Images! Study using Dual Coding

The dual coding method of studying involves combining verbal information with visual representations to enhance learning. By pairing words with images or diagrams, learners create multiple pathways for processing and retaining information. This approach utilizes diagrams, charts, images, or other visual aids alongside written or spoken explanations to reinforce understanding and memory recall.

How to Use Dual Coding?
  • Identify Key Concepts Determine the main ideas and concepts you're studying that could benefit from visual representation.
  • Create Visual Aids Develop visual representations such as diagrams, charts, graphs, or illustrations that illustrate the concepts. Ensure that these visuals are clear, concise, and directly related to the material.
  • Combine Visuals with Verbal Information Link the visual aids to the verbal information by incorporating labels, annotations, or captions that explain how they relate to the concepts. This reinforces the connection between the visual and verbal representations.
  • Use Dual Coding During Review When reviewing the material, actively engage with both the verbal and visual components. Study the written or spoken explanations alongside the visual aids to reinforce understanding and memory recall.
  • Create Mnemonics or Mental Imagery Use mnemonic devices or mental imagery to further enhance dual coding. Associate visual representations with memorable phrases or vivid mental images to aid in retention and recall.
  • Practice Retrieval with Dual Coding Test your understanding of the material by actively recalling information using both verbal and visual cues. This strengthens memory retrieval pathways and reinforces learning.

By incorporating dual coding into your study routine, you'll improve your comprehension, retention, and recall of the material by engaging multiple cognitive processes simultaneously.