The 6 WORST Ways to Study for Tests

By Danni White on July 31, 2017

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Most of us don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about our study habits or lack thereof until a low score on a critical exam knocks us into reality or a threatening “thou will not pass unless” warning shocks us straight. We turn over the bad grade or obsess about the warning for days and weeks on end, all the while trying to make sense of the very blurry lines between outright procrastination and our potential.

I want to say here that stellar grades and A1 test scores are not the sign of intelligence. Several studies indicate that students with average grades and test scores do just fine in landing excellent jobs. And we don’t have to look far to hear about the student who made straight-A’s and had the highest SAT scores who ended up being a complete fool.

You can sit in a classroom for hours on end each day but ultimately, learning is individual. What you get is most of the time up to you. Teachers can only work their tails off to a certain extent to teach their students in accordance with set standards for curriculum. But we have to take it upon ourselves to process information, take extra time to study, and be responsible for our own education.

One thing is certain: poor study habits have a negative effect on academic performance. Some of your high school study habits may serve you well in college, but it is a big mistake to think that they all will perfectly translate and get you through those sometimes turbulent but always worth it four years. If you’re going to go to college, you might as well develop some good study habits along the way.

So, with that said, here are the WORST ways to study and some tips on how to change them.


We all already know this but most of us do it anyway. Cramming is not a study tactic. It is a tactic of procrastination that is stressful and ineffective. Even for the fastest brains, these short and speedy study sessions don’t give your brain enough time to process all the information so you can access it during class time or test time.

Instead of cramming, set specific times to study — 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour at a time. When you’re done with the first session, take a brief break and think about what you have read or heard. Then come back and start the next session. This will reduce anxiety and boost long-term memory.


Sleeping is probably not as important as studying, but it is a very close second. You’ve probably heard since you were a child that if you do not sleep, you will not feel rested and will eventually get sick.

In 2012, UCLA professor of psychiatry Andrew J. Fuligni, UCLA graduate student Cari Gillen-O’Neel, and colleagues found that sacrificing sleep to study is counterproductive.

“No one is suggesting that students shouldn’t study,” Fuligni wrote. “But an adequate amount of sleep is also critical for academic success. These results are consistent with emerging research suggesting that sleep deprivation impedes learning.”

So, get adequate sleep each night.


If you’re not one of them, you will be surprised how many students do this. They spend hours a few days before the test frantically running around the library looking for information and just grabbing textbooks, internet sources, handouts, and videos, stacking them on the desk, and attempting to go through them.

Stacking a bunch of books on your desk or opening a bunch of screens on your computer does not make you look smarter and won’t help you pass any test. It’s simple and logical: you will not learn anything by osmosis. Instead, start managing your time and read what you’re supposed to read all along so you can be ready when the time comes.


Some students highlight or underline what they read. Heck, I’m one of them. But there have been many times I have such a book and didn’t quite remember even the gist of what I had just read. Even research shows that highlighting does not exactly help you remember things. In fact, most of us highlight what we read when we’re reading something for the first time and don’t quite know what is important enough to remember.

Instead, read the information and then go back and note or highlight the important parts so you can simply review without having to reread the information.


I’ve been there. A big day is coming up in five days and so on day one and day three, you pull an all-nighter. On day two and day four you get about four hours of sleep. Pulling all-nighters on a regular basis can be fun at times, but can put you in serious danger of not being focused enough on what is important.

Instead of pressing for time, try to improve your learning and memory capabilities by setting and sticking to a regular sleep pattern.


I’m not one to beat up on caffeine. It is nothing for me to down a cup or two or three or four cups in one day. I don’t recommend it all the time but too much caffeine can boost your adrenaline levels and increase your stress.

When stress is heightened, your level of focus is disrupted and you can even become too hyper and disengaged from the task at hand. Sometimes, if you need to stay awake, water, vitamin water, or coconut water can work just as well.

Danni White is a developmental psychology graduate student at Liberty University. She works in the digital publishing, media, and technology industries. After this degree, she will go on to work on a PhD in social psychology in which she hopes to do research on perception and social cognition’s impact on human behavior. She hopes to apply this research in corporate HR departments and community-based organizations. In her otherwise limited spare time, she blogs, writes and reads. She loves coffee, sports, music, cooking, meeting new people, and binge watching Netflix.

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