Self-Help Study Myths
Most of the self-help study myths that we tend to believe come from well-meaning people. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them any less myths. In the field of study, for instance, what usually happens is this: A person finds a technique that works for them, and helps them improve their grades. They then spread the word that this is the definitive way for everybody to improve their test scores. But it doesn’t work like that. In fact, learning is a very individual thing. So let’s spend some time dispelling some of the most common myths about studying that you might actually believe–but which are not always true.
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Myth Number 1: If I study hard enough to get all “A’s,” then I won’t have time to have fun or anything else.
The truth: getting top grades in all of your classes takes real work and time. However, it’ll be possible to make time for other things. In fact, many people have found that taking time for yourself is an important part of doing well in school. That’s because if you don’t spend some quality “Me” time, you’ll quickly burn out–and your grades will suffer. Suggestion: Plan out your day and your week in one- or two-hour chunks, and pencil in some time to relax or have fun. By organizing your time, you’ll find that there’s still plenty of time for study.
Develop good study habits Make a study plan Manage your time
Myth Number 2: Cramming Never Works.
Even we have at times spoken out against cramming–and for good reason. Much of what you “learn” during those last-minute marathon study sessions, you’ll quickly forget. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no value to it at all. You WILL do better on your test than if you hadn’t studied at all, and you WILL likely remember a few points that you studied, even after the test. Suggestion: Plan your study time so that cramming is not necessary. But if you fall short and still haven’t prepared before an important test, then go ahead and cram. More on how to cram
Myth Number 3: I study better at the last minute or under pressure.
People who believe this myth say that they can only concentrate on the class material when the pressure is on. The truth: These people have simply never developed the discipline to study on a schedule rather than procrastinating. Suggestion: Divide your study time over a period of days and weeks, so that there’s not that much to learn when it’s time for a test. Here is how to make a study plan
Myth Number 4: It’s essential that you study every day, without exception.
This might sound true, but it’s not. There’s room for a day off every now again. Once again, it comes down to developing a good study schedule, that you write out on paper, and follow.
Myth Number 5: “I’m using that cutting-edge study-while-you-sleep method.”
This idea is known as either sleep learning or subliminal learning. The idea is that you can listen to recordings as you sleep and your brain will absorb the material. Some people have claimed to learn entire foreign languages through subliminal recordings. However, there is not a single study that shows that this “sleep learning” method works. Try it and you might blow your 4.0 GPA. Suggestion: Never risk an important grade on an untested study / learning method.
Myth Number 6: People forget material that they study too much.
This myth is patently absurd. Reviewing material again and again never causes someone to forget something. Need proof? Think about this: If you review your phone number or address over and over, do you think you’ll forget it? Of course not! This idea comes from the fact that test anxiety sometimes makes you forget material that you thought you knew–but which you didn’t. Suggestion: Make sure you know the material well, several days before test day, and there’s less chance of you freezing up on the test.
Myth Number 7: Some people do better on tests if they don’t study.
This is somewhat related to myth number 7, in that it tries to make you think there might be a danger in studying. In truth, it’s just a perfect excuse for those who are lazy and just don’t want to study. The truth: In almost all circumstances, people do better if they’ve studied for the test. Suggestion: The only time you should test this theory is if you have several tests coming up at the same time, and you don’t have time to study for them all. Then, make sure that you concentrate on studying for the test that gives you the most trouble.
Myth Number 8: It’s absolutely essential that you find one place to study, and always do all of your studying there.
The truth is kind of mixed here. It’s helpful to have a spot that is your “study spot.” That’s because having such a place helps you to develop both the study habit and the study mindset; as soon as you sit in that spot, you feel like it’s time to study. However, experts now are saying it’s beneficial to sometimes mix up where you’re studying. It helps prevent study burn-out. Suggestion: Create a study spot and go there most of the time, but when study fatigue sets in, try going to the living room or to the local coffee shop or even the library.
Myth Number 9: You should never study more than one subject at a time.
The truth: Although, when it’s time for a test, you’ll probably want to focus exclusively on the subject at hand, many people are finding it helpful, as a general rule, to mix up your courses. Keep a few notebooks open at once, and then study for 15 minutes in one, then move to another, and then another, and then back to the first. Suggestion: Try this “multitasking study” approach and see if it works for you. If not, you can always go back to one subject at a time.
Myth Number 10:
Study skills can’t be learned. According to this myth, you’re either a good student or you’re not. And that’s simply false. Learning even just two or three new study strategies can make as much as a letter grade difference on that next big exam. Suggestion: Keep learning how to learn.
Myth Number 11: I should study absolutely everything that’s in the textbook or that was discussed by the instructor.
The truth: Only a small portion of the material is included on any test. The key, then, is to figure out what was important enough that it will be included on the test. So how do you do this? You learn to pick up on certain clues.
– When the instructor repeats a point several times, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
– When the textbook bolds or italicizes a key point, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
– When the instructor makes a point of emphasizing something that the book emphasized, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
– When the instructor writes information on the board or on the overhead, it’s a clue that it might be on the test.
Myth Number 12: By studying for several hours at a time, I’ll outperform the other students.
The truth: It’s more efficient to study for 45 or 50 minutes at a time and then take a short break. The whole reason that most classes are broken into 50 minute units is that professional educators have determined that this is the maximum amount of time that the brain will receive information without needing a break.
Myth Number 13: Math questions are always either right or wrong.
In fact, there are a few instances in which it’s not that clear. For instance, things get a bit milky when you’re studying probabilities. Probability says that if you roll a six-sided die six times, that the number 5 will show up once and no more. However, reality says that sometimes, the 5 will not show up at all, and in other cases, it might show up two or three times. More on Math Questions.
Myth Number 14: You must have total silence in order to study well
Not true. It’s true that many people are very sensitive to any sound or visual distractions. Others, though, find it easier to study if they have soft music playing. In fact, some studies have shown that listening to classical music can actually improve the student’s learning. Pros and Cons of coffee shop studying
Myth Number 15: Everyone learns the same way
Educators have known the truth about this for decades: Everyone learns in a slightly different way, and requires different study techniques to take advantage of these differences. Do yourself a favor and use Google or Bing to research “learning style.” See if you can find your own unique learning style, and begin studying in ways that capitalize on it. More on Learning Styles
Myth Number 16: Multiple choice strategies will dramatically increase your exam score
The truth is somewhere in the middle on this one. No, there is no evidence that merely by mastering certain question-answering techniques that you’ll receive a significantly higher score. However, there is evidence that if you’ve studied the material, then learning a few techniques will give you extra confidence and could boost your score by an important few points. More on Multiple Choice Strategies.