study skills for high school students

An “A+Guide to 7 Critical Study Skills for High School Students

thestudypro Study Skills

Did you know that good study skills for high school students can not only improve grades but can also improve self-esteem?

Recall questions of both types are a way to engage with your notes, help divide them into smaller chunks of information and also to start the studying process.    

1. Study Actively

Simply re-reading material and notes over and over is not going to cut it. Make the most of your study time by studying actively. 

One way to study actively is by creating recall questions from your notes.  Recall questions are a way to turn information you have in your notes into questions that will be used as your study guide.  Using recall questions also creates a plan for what and how to study for the test.  Recall questions are also a great way to check your understanding of information.  

You will want to create two types of recall questions:

1.  “Who, What, When…” Recall questions that will answer who, what, when, where, why, and how about the information in your notes.. 
2.  “Explainers…” Recall questions that are from the directions you have been given in your work on this topic.  Examples would be:  Explain the…Describe the….Label the….. List examples of…..Name/ Order / List…Compare/ Classify…Connect

Recall questions of both types are a way to engage with your notes, help divide them into smaller chunks of information and also to start the studying process.    

2. Stretch It Out

Study in little chunks over longer periods of time, rather than cramming it in right before an assignment deadline or the night before a test.

Research shows that studying the same number of hours stretched out over a longer period of time improves retention of the material and leads to better long-term memory. This “spaced” practice can feel difficult due to an initial forgetting of knowledge—reacquiring that knowledge takes effort.  However, this is exactly where and how we are getting out of our comfort zone and building your new skill of studying!

Plus, this approach will save you a mountain of stress on the night before the test.

3. Find Your Ideal Study Environment

Studying in the right environment improves efficiency. You will want to study in a space with lots of natural light, where you can work on a hard surface, free from distractions, and where you have all the supplies you need in easy access.  

Beyond that, find the space that works for you. Maybe you need to study in a library, where everything is very quiet, and there’s very little foot traffic around you.

Maybe you like to study in a public park, where you can sit in the grass and hear the natural environment around you.

Perhaps you don’t care where you are, as long as you can play your favorite music (ideally without words) over your headphones.

Try a few different study spaces, and take note of how productive and focused you are in each space. Use these clues to help you determine what kind of space you need to be in to get the most out of your studying.

4. Structure Your Time

This is a key skill related to executive function. Prioritizing your tasks will help you to make the most of your limited study time.

This is a key skill related to executive function. The key is to PLAN your tasks to help you make the most of your limited study time.  And remember, a “list” is not a PLAN!

The teacher gives you the DUE date, but it is your job to plan when you will DO it. You may have been taught to put assignments on the day it is assigned but when you flip to the next week (when it is actually DUE), you have already “lost” it.  This is why you need a planner because your teachers only give you the DUE date and you have to plan the rest! 

Use the “To Do” vs. “Due” approach where:

– “To-Do” is when you are going to do it.                 

– “Due” is when it is due.

As an example, if you are given a DUE date for a Vocabulary Test, you will write that on the day it is DUE.  Next you will write each of your “TO-DO’s” (e.g. use the words in a sentence, practice with synonyms, pictures, etc.) on the days leading up to the DUE DATE.

By using “DUE” vs. “TO-DO”, you have a roadmap to help you get started each day. You get all of that out of your head so your brain can focus on the work you need to do vs. remembering that you have to do it.

5. Focus On One Thing at a Time

This is a trap that many people fall into. They think that by doing multiple things at the same time, they’re getting more done in the same amount of time than they would if they focused on a single thing.

However, recent studies show that this isn’t the case. When you think you’re focusing on multiple things at the same time, you’re actually quickly switching back and forth between tasks. All of this task-switching tires out your brain, makes you work slower, and can lead you to make mistakes that you wouldn’t make if you focused on a single thing.

When you’re studying, focus on one subject for a predetermined amount of time. For example, the Pomodoro Technique encourages you to spend 25 minutes of focused attention on your task, followed by five minutes of rest. Complete this cycle until the task is complete.  Then, put that subject away, and study a new subject. This will minimize the amount of energy your brain spends on switching between tasks and will let you hone in on whatever you’re studying at the moment.

6.  Identify When You Can Work

You can remove friction by knowing the time you have each day to work. This type of planning is the first way you can start to take control of your learning. Preview your weekly schedule using a 24-hour calendar and find the times that you are free to work.  These are your “work windows”.  You will block times that are spent in school, sleeping, with your family, in activities, playing sports, or at regular appointments. (DON’T INCLUDE: the time to play x-box, and DO INCLUDE: enough time to sleep).  By pre-planning your work windows, you can feel more in control. You will eliminate the stress that comes with last minute realizing you don’t have the time you thought you did. 

7. Take Time to Rest

Sleep is important for memory and other cognitive functions. All the studying in the world will not help you if you aren’t also taking care of your mind and body.

Build time into your schedule to relax, hang out with friends, and spend time on hobbies and activities that you do purely for fun. Schedule a full night’s sleep into your day, the same way you would with a work responsibility or a study session.

Taking this time away will help you come to your next study session refreshed, recharged, and ready to tackle your work.

More Study Skills for High School Students

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