At this time of the year, the school session is almost half-way through for most of you. Studies are in full swing and exams are around the corner for many. Homework, assignments, tests and whatnot have made you all get into the study groove.

But still, studies don’t become easy just because you have been attending school for years, and giving exams and tests countless times. Coursework remains tough and also gets tougher with each passing grade.

To handle all the problems one faces in studies and learning, you all must have tried different methods and your parents, teachers and friends must have also shared with you different tips to help you do well.

There are as many dos and don’ts of studying as probably there are students in the world, because different things work for different people.

So technically, there is no secret of success in studies — because hard work is the only way to success and that is no secret! But, as there are always buts after any definitive statement, there are many other things that influence our success in a good or bad way. And, again, what may be a good way of learning for one person may not work for another, and what may be bad for one person may just be the only way that another person can study and do well.

Learning is an individual experience. What you get out of the effort you make is, most of the time, up to you. If you are doing things that help you in learning, you will realise that it works for you.

But the problem lies in the study habits that don’t work for you or are generally considered as poor study habits. And by the time you realise they don’t work, it will be kind of too late as you would have gotten poor grades by then.

So let’s look at some of the ways in which students study that are considered to be the wrong approach to studying, which help little in learning.


We have all turned to cramming a few things to clear tests and exams. However, it is considered to be a bad study tactic since what we cram can’t be retained for long by our brain because it has not been processed by it. Meaning, without understanding a topic, we cannot hope to remember it for long.

It is better to give more time to a certain topic you are trying to learn. Study for half an hour or so at first. Let your brain absorb the information, then take a short break and come back to it and start learning again. Research shows that memory is more enduring when material is reviewed days or even weeks apart.

Cramming puts one under a lot of anxiety to learn something fast. But by trying to understand something and giving yourself more time, there is less pressure on you and you are bound to learn it more effectively. However, you can’t always do this the night before an exam so you need to start your preparations earlier.


I have to confess, when I came across this particular point in my research, I was surprised because this is one thing that I had been doing for the longest time. But when I read about it in detail, I realised that experts are right in saying that highlighting stuff in books may not always help as much as we think it does.

Research shows that 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. So we may highlight things that are not very important, which we may get to know later on.

So it is better to read the information/notes/book first to understand the whole topic first. Then you can go back and highlight and write notes on those parts that are actually important and useful for a quick review later on.

Lack of sleep

Sleep is the first thing most of us give up when exams and tests are near or the next day. But if one is not rested and the mind is not fresh, it will not perform well, no matter how well-prepared a student is.

Also, sleeping for short intervals instead of the full length of sleep we require each night, is also not very refreshing, like when some students sleep for three to four hours at a time at night and sleep again during the day.

So, get enough sleep each night, whether on regular school days or exam time.

Messy surroundings

A student’s room or table is usually a mess when exams are near. All kinds of books, notes, pens and papers are littered everywhere. This could be because we want everything to be within reach and because there is no time to tidy up the place.

A messy surrounding or study area does not have a very calming and positive effect on our brain and senses. Our thoughts tend to get as cluttered as the study table, it gets difficult to think straight and this adds to the stress.

Try and study in a neat and soothing place. Before sitting down to study, tidy it up a bit by removing unnecessary things, make your bed, put away all the clothes that should be inside the closet. Open the window and curtains, let some fresh air and light come in.

Make sure where you sit has sufficient light. I always felt sleepy in low light so I would make sure I study in bright light. A couple of puffs of a soothing air freshener will add to the calming effect and, trust me, it will improve your learning experience.

While poor study habits have a negative effect on academic performance, at the end of the day, your focus goes a long way in making any method effective or ineffective. So try and stay focused on your target — good marks — and you will sail through smoothly in any exam. Good luck.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 23rd, 2019