The Three Study Strategies That Aren’t Really Helping You (And You Probably Have Done Them All!)


Keep calm and… stop highlighting? | Source: ShutterStock

Who here has a highlighter sitting on their desk right now? Well, you may want to put it away because I don’t think it’s going to like this news all that much.

Psychologists looked at the effectiveness of ten common “learning strategies” and their findings are kind of shocking. Why? The three methods that ranked the worst in terms of helpfulness are three things that I did all through school. The least effective of them all? Highlighting.

I remember highlighting being very big in school, though I didn’t really grasp it right away. When I was 11, I thought you were just supposed to highlight the entire page, because, as I told my teacher, why would they print sentences that weren’t important? Maybe though in my young age, I was just rebelling against a system that told me to highlight, when in my heart, I knew it wasn’t the most effective way. Still, I kept going back to the highlighters because it made me feel like I was drawing when I was studying which was usually nice. It was all a disguise!

Other low-ranking methods include re-reading and summarizing. So apparently me skipping a concert my senior year to re-read chapters before my test maybe wasn’t the best way for me to spend my time? My regrets have multiplied.

If you’re freaking out though about how to study now without your trusty highlighter, the psychologists also offered up two of the best learning strategies. The first is one I admit I have trouble with – spreading out your studying over time (read: do not cram!) in order to extend how long you remember the info. Also, taking practice tests (flashcards worked well too!) was another “high utility” method that had a high pay-off when it came to learning the material.

Figuring out what study methods work for you is important, and as this new study shows, the learning strategy that will be best for you may not necessarily be the “popular” one that everybody does. For me, making up songs was always my go-to study method. If I read something, I would then make up a song to help me remember it.

They basically all went to the same tune of the only song I had managed to learn how to play during my piano lessons, but I did make up a great one about ancient Chinese dynasties once that was SIX MINUTES! That’s like power ballad length. Anyway, here is my favorite pop-culture example of the song studying strategy brought to you by the ’90s gem that is The Babysitter’s Club movie:

So awesome. Look, I think if you really feel like highlighting material helps you learn, than I say go for it. I joked about my time being better well spent, but it’s not like my use of the highlighter ruined my GPA.

I think an important thing to take away though is there may be strategies out there that will help you even more, and for those of you who have always kind of felt like highlighting or re-reading was ineffective for you, I’d take this study as a chance to explore some new studying strategies so that you can be your best-performing you!

Were you surprised by these findings? What are the learning strategies that work best for you? Do you have a fun study strategy to share with other girls? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Jellytotssssss

    One of my best friends gave me a great idea for revising. Put sticky notes with keywords on things that you use everyday (like your mirror, your diary, even your light switch) then everytime you go to use that item you read your sticky note and remember it!! It worker a treat for me 😀 Maybe give it a try??? Hope that helps 😛