Why Studying in College Should Involve More Than Just Reading


If you have a big test coming up in one of your college courses, you're most likely planning to do some reading as part of your studying process. This blog post will tell you how to take your studying to the next level.

Beyond the Words

The way that you study for your college tests and final exams is probably pretty set in stone: you read your study guide, you read your class notes, maybe you even re-read your textbooks if you're feeling adventurous. However, there are many different styles of studying, other than reading, that you can incorporate into your study process - and they're well worth pursuing. Here's why.

A college student reading to study

Research Shows Reading Is Not Enough

According to Mark McDaniel, co-author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, re-reading is not a particularly effective way to study. ''We know... from a lot of research,'' he says, ''that this kind of repetitive recycling of information is not an especially good way to learn or create more permanent memories. Our studies of Washington University students, for instance, show that when they re-read a textbook chapter, they have absolutely no improvement in learning over those who just read it once.'' Simply put, you can't extract much information by reading something more than once.

Learning Styles Differ

Another reason why reading doesn't necessarily suffice as a study strategy is because it might not be a good fit for your personal learning style. Some people simply process information better when they encounter it visually, verbally, or kinesthetically. To that end, we recommend experimenting with different ways of interacting with the information that you're studying to try and define the one that resonates best with you. Some options include:

  • Explaining the facts to a friend out loud
  • Drawing related pictures, charts, and diagrams
  • Making models
  • Recording yourself reading the material and listening to it afterwards

A college student studies by drawing

Active Is More Effective Than Passive Learning

Finally, it's worth mentioning that reading is not a very active form of learning. That's why it's so easy to fall asleep while doing it. Instead of passive studying, try an option that requires you to use more of your brain and to be more awake and engaged.

We recommend:

  • Writing a ''practice test'' based on the exam content. Studying with a friend can make this approach even more effective, as you can swap practice exams afterwards to test yourselves.
  • Creating and using flashcards, making sure to review the ones that you got right the first time around.
  • Making connections with the information you already know, like thinking of a relevant example from your life that relates to what you've learned.
  • Doing further, independent research on a test topic.

A college student studies with flashcards

Whichever options you choose, know that you're increasing your likelihood of success every time you increase your repertoire of study strategies. Good luck!

If you're looking to earn affordable college credits on your own time in a way that engages multiple learning styles, check out's College Accelerator.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
May 2019
college college success

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