The Top 11 Worst Ways to Study: Strategies That Won’t Get You an A

the 11 worse ways to study

After working with over 8,000 kids over the last fourteen years, I can attest to the fact that these non-study strategies are guaranteed to reduce academic success while causing stress, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem.

Kids are told that they need to study, but they are not told how, or what they might be doing wrong. Minimizing what keeps us from fully grasping the material is crucial for academic success. Your child shouldn’t have to go to battle every time they have a test coming up or an assignment due.

If your child is doing one of these things… good news; there are improvements they can make to make their academic career and studying much less stressful.

Here’s our rundown of the top 11 most ineffective study habits:

1. Don’t Multi-Task: You’re spreading yourself too thin

Multi-tasking is the art of doing a lot of things at once – badly.

Multitasking might seem efficient, but it’s not. Imagine your brain is a computer. When you multitask, it’s like opening a ton of programs simultaneously. Each program uses processing power, slowing everything down. The same thing happens in your brain. Switching between tasks constantly forces it to refocus, leading to mistakes and wasted time.
Research backs this up. When you single-task, you get better quality work done in less time.

2. Don’t Cram: It’s only temporary

If you do this you guarantee that your memory will be as short-lived as a Snapchat.

Cramming may help with last-minute memorization, but it falls short of fostering a deep understanding and long-term retention of information. Short-term memorization doesn’t stick around as long as a deep understanding of the material, resulting in knowledge that evaporates almost as quickly as it was acquired.

3. Don’t Skip Breaks: It’s a surefire way to burnout

Skipping breaks during study sessions is a one-track road to burnout. After an extensive period of focus, your brain will start grouping details together, glossing over words, and losing momentum.

Just as binge-watching shows can lead to a blur of content, non-stop studying blurs critical information together. Still, there are good and bad ways to take breaks. If your child is passing their 10-minute break on social media, it could be doing more harm than good to the rest of their study session.

4. Don’t Skip Taking Notes: A missed chance at knowledge retention

Not taking notes is like expecting to win the lottery without buying a ticket – hope is not a strategy!

Effective learning requires an active approach, and taking notes is a powerful strategy. Just listening passively lets information flow in one ear and out the other. Note-taking forces you to engage with the material, process key points, and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. This creates a valuable resource for future reference – a cheat sheet your future self will thank you for when it comes to revisiting complex concepts and acing that upcoming test.

5. Don’t Study in a Distracting Environment: Wait…what was that?

Studying in a chaotic spot? Might as well bring a book to the gym for some ‘quiet reading’.

Choosing a chaotic study environment is counterproductive, as distractions will take center stage over your work. It’s like trying to read a book in the middle of a gym—highly distracting. Finding a quiet, organized space dedicated solely to studying is essential. The fewer distractions, the better.

6. Don’t Refuse to Ask for Help: Why Struggle?

The only bad question is the one not asked.

Students often hold back from asking for help when they struggle in school. This might be because of shyness, fear of being judged, or even just pride. But the truth is, asking for help is a sign of strength! It shows a willingness to take steps to learn and improve.

Encouraging our students to self-advocate is an important step in their growth toward independence. It’s much better to ask for assistance than to wrestle with a problem alone.

7. Don’t Passive Re-Read: The more I read, the less I remember

Reading and re-reading notes or a text is like hoping to win a marathon by watching it on TV.

Simply reading material over and over without actively engaging with the materials will not get you anywhere. Active study techniques like summarizing information, creating flashcards, or teaching the material to someone else are far more effective in achieving deep learning.

8. Don’t Start Without a Goal: Where are the checkpoints?

Not setting goals is like playing darts in the dark. You might hit something, but it probably won’t be your target.

Without clear goals, studying lacks direction and purpose. Having some type of goalpost or benchmark is a good way to check in with yourself and make sure the study session is still productive and that you’re not lost in the material, etc.

9. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute: Guaranteed stress

Waiting until the last minute to get something done is like trying to catch a train by running after it’s already left the station.

Procrastination leads to unnecessary stress, panic, and regret. Delaying studying or starting an assignment until the night before it’s due promises stress, anxiety, and an undesirable result. Planning ahead is key. If the test is on Friday, decide how you’ll study Monday through Thursday.

10. Don’t Neglect Sleep and Exercise: The essentials are key

Skipping sleep and exercise is like expecting a phone with 1% battery to last the day – ambitious but bound to shut down before noon.

Both sleep and physical activity are essential for cognitive function and overall well-being. And the number of sleep hours matters, too!

11. Don’t Forget to Use a Planner: Your brain can only remember so much

D​​on’t think that because your assignments are posted online, that they are planned and prioritized for you. They are not. Those due dates might be scattered across different platforms, resulting in important tasks lost in the shuffle. A planner, whether digital or paper, is your central command center, helping you consolidate information, visualize your workload, and strategize how to tackle it all effectively.

Final Thoughts: Study Smarter, Not Harder

The key takeaway for students, educators, and parents is the importance of adopting effective study strategies that prioritize focused learning, active engagement, and well-being. By avoiding these eleven pitfalls, students can enhance their academic performance and achieve their educational goals more efficiently.

Remember, the brain, much like any muscle, responds best to smart training, not just heavy lifting. Give the brain what it needs, and the rest will follow.

Need help overcoming these 11 worst study habits?

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The Top 11 Worst Ways to Study: Strategies That Won’t Get You an A
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