Why and How I Changed My Study Habits

One June day, I staggered into my high school classroom to take a final exam in United States History II. I had made my usual desperate effort to cram the night before, with the usual results. I had gotten only to page seventy-five in a four hundred page textbook. My study habits in high school, obviously, were a mess. But in college, I’ve made an attempt to reform my note- taking, studying, and test-taking skills.

As I took notes in high school, I often lost interest and began doodling, drawing Martians, or seeing what my signature would like if I married the cute guy in the second row. Now, however, I try not to let my mind wander, and I pull my thoughts back into focus when they begin to go fuzzy. In high school, my notes often looked like something written in Arabic. In college, I’ve learned to use a semi-print writing style that makes my notes more understandable. When I looked over my high school notes, I couldn’t understand them. There would be a word like “Reconstruction,” then a big blank, then the word “important.” Weeks later, I had no idea what Reconstruction was or why it was important. I’ve since learned to write down connecting ideas, even if I have to take time to do it after class. Taking notes is one thing I’ve really learned to do better since high school.

Ordinary studying is another area where I’ve made changes. In high school, I let reading assignments go. I told myself I’d have no trouble catching up on two-hundred pages on a fifteen minute ride to school. College courses have taught me to keep pace with the work. Otherwise, I feel as though I’m sinking into a quicksand of unread material. When I finally read the high school assignment, my eyes would run over the words, but my brain would be plotting how to get the car for Saturday night. Now I use several techniques that force me to really concentrate on my reading.

In addition to learning how to cope with daily work, I’ve also learned how to handle study sessions for big tests. My all-night sessions in high school were lessons in self-torture. At around 2:00AM, my mind, like a soaked sponge, simply stopped absorbing things. Now, I space out exam study sessions over several days. That way, the night before can be devoted to an overall review rather than rote memorization. Most important, though, I’ve changed my attitude toward tests. In high school, I thought tests were mysterious things with completely unpredictable questions. Now, I ask instructors about the kinds of questions that will be on the exam, and I try to “psych out” which areas of facts instructors are likely to ask. These practices really work, and for me they’ve taken much of the fear and mystery out of tests.

Since I’ve reformed my study habits, note-taking and studying are not as tough as they once were. I am beginning to reap the benefits of my diligence. As time goes on, my college test sheets are going to look much different from the red-marked tests of my high school days. Also, my 4.0 grade point average (GPA) will be proof of my efforts to improve my note-taking, studying, and test-taking skills. This practice will help me as well as I enter my chosen profession and I need to prepare adequately for projects, reports, and other activities. I feel more ready than ever to tackle the challenges placed before me.

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