How to Build Study Habits That Last
Published on Oct 30, 2023. Updated on Oct 27, 2023.
We’ve all been there. You do an all-nighter to cram in every possible bit of information, but despite your best efforts, your grade isn’t as high as you’d hoped. It’s time to examine and make changes to your study habits. But where and how do you start?
Here are nine valuable tips to help you develop and apply effective study habits.
1. Determine Your Learning Style
While it's true that research has proven that learning styles aren't as important as we once thought, they're still a valuable tool in examining your learning preferences. The four learning styles most of us prefer are visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic (and most of us learn best using a combination of styles). That’s why getting to know yourself is important rather than comparing yourself to others and how they learn (because everyone’s experience is different).
Once you have a good idea of your preferred learning style, you can add some proven study methods to align with it. Here are some ideas:
- Visual: Make sure your environment is visually appealing and allows you to focus. Read in short intervals. Underline or highlight with bright colors, or write concepts on colorful index cards. And don't forget about watching videos! (For example, would you prefer to watch or listen to this content?)
- Auditory: Study with a friend so you can read out loud and discuss concepts. Consider recording lectures to listen to them later. Learners who prefer auditory learning are likely big fans of listening to podcasts and lecture recordings during their commute.
- Read/Write: Rewrite concepts using your own words. Adapt charts or graphs into words, or write down the steps in a process. These learners are often fans of making lists!
Kinesthetic: Use fidget toys while studying. Walk, stand, or pace while reviewing. Eat, drink, chew gum, or listen to music while studying. These learners are all about hands-on, visceral experiences.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match to make these study strategies your own. Over time, you’ll be able to find what works best for you and become more efficient. You might also find that your learning style changes as you make your way through your education and use different tools.
2. Get Organized
It’s also helpful to get organized at the beginning of each term. Use a planner, wall calendar, or app to plan out when you have exams, classes, and other obligations. You can also organize and plan for when you’re going to study or prepare for tasks coming up on your calendar, like joint projects or quizzes.
Want to get ahead? Osmosis has free nursing school and medical school study schedules ready for you to download. Choose a four-week or ten-week study schedule, depending on what best fits your needs and timeline (look for the green button to toggle between four- and ten-week schedules). The benefit of using our study schedules is that you begin the term organized and ready to take on each new topic. They're also great for when you’re starting a new program and just need to get back into the swing of studying.
3. Don’t Forget the Basics
So many concepts in health care build upon each other, so good study habits for health students help you build upon your knowledge. Consider going back to your notes often to give yourself a refresher. The better you understand the basics, the easier it will be for you to learn more complex topics as you get further in school and take more advanced classes.
4. Look at the Big Picture
While the basics are important, so is the big picture. You need to pass each test, but you also need a solid understanding of all the concepts and how they work together. Make the goal of your education to be the best clinician you can be rather than getting the highest grade. Your overall goal should be to figure out how to take care of patients, not just how to select the best answer on a test.
5. Practice Self Check-Ins
Taking a minute to check in with yourself can help you stay efficient. Reflect on what's been going well and what hasn’t. Take some time to review your study habits to determine how to change your study practice so you absorb information more effectively. Explore the other learning styles to see if you benefit from learning in different ways. Another great tip is to check your notes right after a test. You can highlight information in your notes that you were tested on to help reinforce concepts and review for cumulative tests in the future.
6. Connect with Community
Going through a medical, nursing, or health professional program is a unique experience that not everyone can relate to, and it can feel very isolating. Whenever possible, it’s essential to connect with other people in your program, as well as the Osmosis by Elsevier learning community. You can share your experiences and study tips and have downtime with people going through the same thing as you. And even if you don’t like to study in groups, occasionally checking in with a like-minded community can improve your mental health and help you discover study habits and strategies that work for you.
7. Don’t Forget Your Why
There are going to be days (or even weeks) when you question why you’re doing this. On those rough days, remember why you want to work in healthcare. Think about how excited you were initially and why you wanted to apply. Consider posting a related motivational quote or write down why you want to be a health professional so you can refer to these reminders later. Having support ready-to-go in your back pocket can provide you with a good pick-me-up exactly when needed.
8. Don’t Forget About Yourself
Don’t get so caught up in studying that you forget to have self-compassion and take time for self-care. It’s not always easy when you have such a busy schedule, but it’s imperative that you maintain a school/life balance for yourself along with taking breaks from studying. Be kind to yourself. Consider meditating, exercising, or watching your favorite show. Because if you’re so distracted by what you’d rather be doing while you’re trying to study, you’re not going to learn as much anyway. Take a break, do the fun thing, and then come back when you’re better able to focus.
9. Studying for the Long Term
Being in a medical, nursing, or health professional program is a marathon rather than a sprint. When you go in without a plan, it will be more difficult for you to succeed, and you’ll likely spend more time studying. Take advantage of the tools available to you. And while developing study skills takes time, it’s worth it when you find yourself learning more while studying less.
As you make your way through your program, don’t forget the bigger picture – your ultimate goal is to become a competent clinician, not a good test-taker. By implementing some study habits, you’ll be well on your way to success in your program and profession. And while effective study habits are some of your best tools for navigating the challenges and rewards that lie ahead, don’t make a bunch of changes all at once. Start with small, attainable goals and build from there.
Good luck learners! We’re rooting for you.
ContributorsPaige Randall, MSN, RN, CNE, Osmosis by Elsevier Nursing Question Writer and Editor
Kelsey Lafayette, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C, Osmosis by Elsevier Nursing Content Manager
- Osmosis by Elsevier webinar: How to Build Study Habits That Last