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11 Bad Study Methods to Avoid at College

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College life comes with unique challenges. One of the most critical challenges that students aim to master is studying effectively. All students think they are studying thoroughly, yet, after assessment, some students get better grades than others. Does that mean that those students are more intelligent than you? Well, that isn’t only the case!

The main differentiating factor between the toppers and an average student is the way how they study. Most students simply study without any plan or strategies. Knowingly or unknowingly, many bad habits lead to long-lasting consequences when it comes to studying.

Now, what are these bad habits?

Let us check out eleven study methods for college students that hold them back from reaching their full potential.  You better not do any of these!

1. Studying without a plan

If you do not have any idea about what to study, how long to study, and how much to study, it is a sheer waste of your effort. Without the necessary guidance to pull them back on track, studying without a plan gradually becomes a habit.

In college, YOU are responsible for your learning. So, you need to handle every task responsibly.

What you should do is start by creating a routine and following it religiously. The ideal way to create this routine is by balancing your studies with other work. That way, you will have a clear idea about what you must study today. Before going to bed, make a to-do list with brief notes about what you should do after waking up the next day.

Here’s how you should make a to-do list –

  • Capture every details
  • List down everything
  • Organisethe list according to priority, due date and workflow
  • Make it actionable
  • Write verbs first, followed by details
  • Always include a deadline
  • Break big works into smaller chunks
  • Batch similar tasks
  • Celebrate your progress
  • Triage the list at the end of the day
  • Keep your phone silent while working
  • Track what don’t need to do
  • Identify what is holding you back

Sticking to this note will help you provide a clear roadmap of what you have to do, and you don’t need to waste any more time.

2. Studying while doing other activities

In college, students enjoy new-found independence and develop bad habits while studying. Many of them watch television or chat with their friends while studying. This may seem normal to a layman, but this kind of “multitasking” can prove to be costly. It has been observed, in many cases, that chatting with your friends or watching your favourite series while doing the assignments can make you less productive.

Managing something and paying attention to a task are two different things and yield different results. So, if you always keep managing something, you will never be able to focus fully on a task, thus delaying the result and compromising effectiveness. Try to focus on only one thing. Either you study or take a break and spend a few minutes chatting with your friends before resuming the task with full focus. If you feel bored while studying, listen to some white music instead of watching a film. This will help you build concentration and also uplift your mood.

3. Making notes without understanding the material

As a high school student, you probably had to take notes from what was explained on the board. Then you had to study from these notes. However, that same technique can land you in trouble in college. In the colleges, the classes and the courses are much more advanced and complex than what they had to learn in school. So, if you plan on making notes without understanding the concept, brace yourself for a hard landing later on.

Always try to listen to the lectures and understand the “W” questions behind the topic. Understanding the material clears any doubts instantly and also promotes the retention of knowledge. On the other hand, if you get too engrossed in writing the notes, you will never be able to make any sense of that information anymore. So, if you are doing this mistake, change your study method, and first understand the material and then make notes of it.

The idea way to maintain a balance is by listening to the professors while they deliver a lecture, and jotting down only the important points in bulleted format, instead of writing long sentences. Once you have all the main points in front of you, you can create long notes in your free time based on these pointers. You should go through these tips if you are unsure of how to take notes quickly during a lecture –

  • Don’t write down every word
  • Pay attention to what your professor is saying
  • Underline, capitalise or highlight important areas
  • Use abbreviated words
  • Don’t get distracted
  • Ask questions in case of confusions

Compare your notes with your classmates to ensure you haven’t missed out anything or haven’t made any errors.

4. Studying in bed

Unhealthy study habits like sitting in bed to study may look harmless, but can cost you in the long run.

Firstly, studying for long hours and sitting on the bed develops a bad posture. Moreover, sitting and slouching on a soft surface leads to chronic lower back and neck pains. It also has been discovered that studying in bed or doing homework can drastically reduce the focus of the students. This is logical because we unknowingly associate the bed as a place for comfort and sleep.

So, studying on a table and chair always helps students to maintain better focus while studying. If you feel lazy and sleepy while studying, you should know that it is time to change your studying area.

5. Reading books without understanding

College students spend long hours sitting in front of books and reading in groups or individually. Some of them are fast readers and can finish an entire chapter in a day. However, if you ask them about something from that chapter, they will most likely fail to answer it. This happens because they read the books for the sake of reading. They aim to finish the book as quickly as possible while completely overlooking that they also need to understand them for their exams. To avoid such problems, students must know reading comprehension techniques.

Some of the most widely-used reading comprehension techniques are –

  • SQ3R
  • PQ4R

All these techniques follow multi-step processes, like surveying, questioning, reciting, and reviewing, which improve the comprehension skills of students.

6. Studying for long hours without any breaks

A misconception among students is that the more they spend time in front of their textbooks, the higher the chance of getting a good grade. However, there is no point in spending ten hours with your books, without any break, if that does no good to you.

In fact, slogging like this without breaks is an entirely wrong habit for studying. Even if you have exams the next day, you must never glue yourself to your books. Studying without a break has never been helpful to anyone. Rather, that way, you will feel burned out, and your health will get affected. Studying continuously at a stretch drains the capacity of the body to recover. It also hampers the retaining capacity of the mind. So, take small breaks in between studies to refresh your mind.

Experts have developed various study methods to help students break the monotony and rejuvenate themselves. Some of the popular study techniques that are widely used are –

  • Pomodoro
  • Flowtime
  • Animedoro
  • Time Blocking
  • Time Boxing
  • Eat the Frog
  • 52/17 Rule
  • Eisenhower Matrix
  • GTD Method
  • Seinfeld or Don’t Break the Chain Method

All these techniques differ slightly from each other but serve the one common goal of not letting the students get drained out after studying for long hours.

7. Reading but not retaining the information

What is the point of studying hard if you cannot retain that information after the class?

Eventually, you would have to revise the same materials multiple times. But with back to back exams, would you be able to afford that much of time?

So, it is advised to follow certain techniques to retain what you are learning. Studying the material in study groups and discussing them will help you retain data because of better engagement. You can dedicate an entire weekend to revising what you have learnt through the week to boost retention. You can use flashcards as constant reminders and also engage in some practical work rather than just memorizing the theory.

8. Cramming

After graduating from college, students spend most of their semester engaging in other activities other than studies. They join several clubs and spend too much time on campus only to realise that the exams or the due dates are almost upon them. As a result, they end up cramming a ton of information which eventually gets lost in their short-term memory.

Many studies have also shown that pulling all-nighters and cramming study materials never works. In fact, it only stresses them out and leads to hypertension and anxiety attacks. Thus it makes the learning process much harder. So, instead of leaving everything for the last days, study throughout the whole semester. That way, you will make gradual improvements and will never have to cram at the last moments.

9. Skipping subjects that seem boring or tough

Your college courses cannot be all interesting. There will be some subjects that you don’t like to study. But you certainly cannot skip the class or neglect the subject. All these subjects contribute to your final grades, and you cannot run away from them indefinitely. Instead of skipping these subjects, you can try to make them interesting.

For example, if you struggle with mathematics and you keep skipping it all the time, you will never be able to get better at it. Instead, if you can learn new techniques to make the subject seem interesting, you will gradually gain interest in it. Once you start liking it, even the toughest problems will seem easier, and you can keep bettering yourself with relentless practice.

The mantra is to give yourself enough time to learn any subject that you feel is tough or boring. If you don’t feel comfortable with the teaching style of one teacher, change your teacher. You can also watch various videos on the internet and make yourself better instead of skipping them.

10. Not expanding your knowledge

Most students don’t show the proactiveness to learn beyond the suggested study materials. As your learnings remain limited to these few books, they don’t get the chance to expand their knowledge. They don’t get curious to learn and explore new things. They keep believing whatever they are said in class and never check any references to understand how reliable that information is.

Gradually, they forget how to look at things from a different perspective and believe that it is the only way to solve a problem. So, irrespective of the credibility of the professors, students should always strive to expand their knowledge. They should browse through various blogs, websites and textbooks to understand if the information they are learning is updated or not. As they gain more knowledge, they can come up with new questions, ideas and new ways to solve them.

11. Depending on classes to compete a subject

Although it is the responsibility of the professors to do so, colleges work differently. Most of the time, professors explain the entire chapter by summarising it. So, it becomes the responsibility of the students to complete what the professors have left hanging midway.

So, shed this habit of depending on someone else to finish any specific chapters or subjects. There are several online resources that students can access (at time for FREE) to learn about it. So, instead of depending on anyone else, as college students, you should always finish your own courses. You can always consult your professors if you get stuck somewhere. But showing them that you are capable of learning something on your own paints a positive picture in their mind. Moreover, learning and understanding a chapter makes your brain sharper and develops you into an independent learner.

There are several different yet effective study methods for college students that help them to become the best students in their classes. However, to be a topper, following the best study techniques will never be enough. At the same time, they should know about the bad habits that hold them back. In this blog, we have discussed eleven bad habits that we found the most common. Is there any other bad habit that you can think of? Let us know and get study help from top rated experts at

Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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