Studying 101: 3 Popular Time Wasters for Studying

Studying is a key part of succeeding in our current education system. This is because much of it is focused on exam assessments.

These assessments, like the 11+ exams, SATs exams, GCSEs, Entrance exams, Transfer tests, and A-Levels, all require students to retrieve the information they have previously learned.

Ever feel like you’ve blanked on a test?

Feel anxious preparing for exams?

This means you need some stronger studying methods and a good dose of mindfulness.

Luckily for you, Bettering Youth blends academic tutoring with emotional wellbeing coaching. We’ve supported hundreds of students through the exam process and we know how to help you manage your exam anxiety.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing a Studying 101 blog series covering all ways to maximize your studying. Today, we’re starting with what NOT to do…

Be sure to click the links below in the table of contents to access the other parts of this Studying 101 series.

Table of Contents:

  1. The study habits that are counterproductive (I dish the deets on why)
    1.1 Re-reading
    1.2 Highlighting
    1.3 Summarising/Making notes
  2. How to remember more: Encoding
    2.1 Chunking
    2.2 Mnemonics
    2.3 Self Referencing
  3. The study methods that do help
    3.1 Spaced Repetition
    3.2 Blurting
  4. Organising your time
  5. How to overcome Performance anxiety
  6. Dealing with anxiety
  7. Building Boundaries Around Exam Season

Let’s start with the methods that students love, but are actually not helpful:

1.1 Re-Reading

Studies show that students love to reread as part of their study routine

Research Articles you can read for more: Carrier et al 2003, Hartwig and Dunlosky 2012, Karpicke et al 2009, Kornell & Bjork 2007, Wissman et al 2012, Callender & McDaniel 2009

Why is re-reading not helpful:

The evidence:

“Based on the available evidence, we rate rereading as having low utility… although rereading is relatively economical with respect to time demands… when compared with some other learning techniques rereading is also typically much less effective. The relative disadvantage of rereading to other techniques is the largest strike against rereading and is the factor that weighted most heavily in our decision to assign it a rating of low utility” Hartwig and Dunlosky 2012.

“A wealth of research has shown that passive repetitive reading produces little or no benefit for learning. Yet not only was repetitive reading the most frequently listed strategy, it was also the strategy most often listed as students’ number one choice by a large margin” Jeffrey D Karpicke, PHD American Psychological Association

In lamens terms:

Re-reading the textbook, while generally time effective, isn’t as powerful in terms of remembering because it doesn’t work on strengthening your ability to retrieve the information.

Therefore, it’s easy to ‘blank’ or have the answer ‘on the tip of my tongue’, if this is the only method you use.

Instead of re-reading, try retrieval studying:

Blurting is a fantastic way to practise testing your brain’s ability to recall what you have just learned. It will also identify what your brain hasn’t remembered or what you need to review again.

studying 101: how not to study

1.2 Highlighting

Studies show that students love to highlight as part of their study routine.

Research Articles you can read for more: Bell & Limber 2010 Lonka et al 1994 Nist & Kirby 1989 Cioffi et al 1986 Gurung et al 2010 Dunlosky et al 2013

Why is highlighting not helpful:

The evidence:

“On the basis of the available evidence, we rate highlighting and underlining as having low utility…. In most situations… highlighting does little to boost performance… it may actually hurt performance on higher-level tasks that require inference making.” Dunlosky, 2013 Association for Psychological Science

In lamens terms:

Highlighting is more of a safety blanket than an effective studying tool.

It makes you feel like you’re doing something, but your brain won’t retain the information more simply because it was highlighted in a fluorescent colour.

Instead of highlighting, try flashcards:

We highlight because it’s important and we want to increase the chances of remembering. This is especially the case with concrete information (dates, names, facts).

If you want to increase your ability to remember it, take the time to write it down on a flashcard, or in an app like Anki, and practise spaced repetition.

1.3 Summarising / Making notes

Studies show that students love to summarise as part of their study routine.

The evidence:

“On the basis of the available evidence, we rate summarisation as low utility. It can be an effective learning strategy for learners who are already skilled at summarising, however, many learners (including children, highschool students and even some undergraduates) will require extensive training, which makes this strategy less feasible” Association for Psychological Science Dunlosky

In lamens terms:

Being able to summarise key information takes practise in order to be effective.

Therefore, why risk not being an effective note taker and waste time? *unless you’re willing to put in the time to learn how to take notes and summarise effectively, this option isn’t the best route.

Instead of note-taking try making questions:

In order to really be active in your study sessions, we need to engage with the text: making predictions, finding connections, making inferences.

As you read, jot down questions that you think will be asked of you in the exam or that will help you retrieve the information that you’re reading.

3 Popular Time Waster for Studying that you won’t use again!

I hope that this blog on how you can improve your studying habits and stop wasting time is helpful.

Regardless if you’re preparing for a GCSE exam, Year 9 transfer exam, 11+ exam, or SATs exams… knowing how to study effectively is an empowering way to help lower the anxiety.

If you’re keen to learn more about effective ways to study, then be sure to check out our other blogs in this Studying 101 series.

You’re also welcome to get in touch if you’d like a Maths or English tutor to support you along your journey.

GCSE English course
Join English GCSE tutor, Anna to learn more about unseen poetry, English literature and English writing

11+ Exam resources:

The Eleven Plus (11+) guide: Where to Start in Preparing for Entrance School Exams

What is the 11+ Entrance Exam? The Eleven Plus Explained

How To Make The 11+ Word List Stick: 14 Word Games

11 Plus Papers: 4 Common Mistakes and how to Solve them

Everything you need to know about the CEM 11+ exam: 2021-22 edition

Why you Need an Independent School 11+ Tutor

Everything You Need to Know: Independent School 11+ Journey!

Top 5 Tips From An 11+ Maths Tutor

Everything you need to know about the GL 11+ Assessment: 2021-22 edition

SATs Exam resources:

Navigating Year 6 SATs Successfully with Wellbeing In Mind

Navigating Acceptance and Resilience: A Guide for Parents Post-Entrance Exams

Empower Your Child’s Mental Health: 7 Tips for Exam Success

Eight ways a tutor helps your child succeed

GCSE exam resources:

Top 3 Practical Tips to Smash your GCSE Exams

GCSE and A-Level Assessments: How to Trust Teachers to Award Marks


Everything You Need To Know To Successfully Pass Your GCSEs

4 Steps to Overcome Performance Anxiety: Ace your next test

Studying 101: 3 Encoding Skills You Need To Know

Tutor GCSE English

Meet Anna, Our English GCSE tutor in Windsor and online

Anna is an experienced English teacher and senior examiner for the AQA and EdExcel boards. She runs our GCSE English revision courses and a fantastic English tutor for KS3-KS4

studying techniques
Studying techniques are not all created equal… Some of the most popular techniques are actually ill-advised!

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  1. Pingback: Studying 101: 3 Encoding Skills You Need To Know - Bettering Youth

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