Best Study Methods: 3 Techniques Every Student Should Try (2023)

Going back to your college or high-school days how would you describe your study methods? Ineffective, stressful, and accompanied by a severe lack of sleep?

For me they certainly were.

You see, I was a huge fan of the highlighter. I believed that going through every reading assignment armed with a full pack of Sharpies was the best plan of attack. Red, blue, yellow, orange, purple, pink – my textbooks always looked like something out of Art Attack.

My class notes also received the same, colorful treatment.

Once they were colored in, it was simply a case of re-reading them over and over again until the information “stuck”. This process continued right up until the early hours before my exams.

However, time and time again I’d find myself in the exam hall staring down at a blank piece of paper, pen in hand, struggling to piece my thoughts together. I just couldn’t understand it.

Why was this happening to me? I must have gone over my notes 1000 times leading up to this exam yet I couldn’t put together a structured answer. When studying I’d never bothered to try and actually recall the information from hand (as I was being asked to do now) because well, the information “stuck”, right?

Well, in my case not so much…

This always got me wondering, where did we learn these tried and tested “best study methods” anyway?

Typically, students are never taught how to incorporate scientifically-based study techniques into their learning routine. Instead, they spend endless hours (as you probably did too) bunkered in a library persevering with a highlighter.

What’s more, as students progress from high school to college, to post-secondary education, they are increasingly responsible for regulating their own study routines. This continues into the workplace, with new hobbies, or any recreational activities we decide to pursue – along with the bad study habits we picked up as undergraduates.

The good news is there are a few proven best study methods (backed by science) we can immediately incorporate into our learning routines.

The bad news? Our trusted sharpie is not among them.

(Video) The ONLY 3 Study Hacks Everyone Should Know - Science Proven Techniques

Table of Content

  • 3 Scientifically-Backed Study Techniques
    • Microlearning
      • Why is it so effective?
    • Spaced Repetition
      • Why is it so effective?
    • Retrieval Method
      • Why is it so effective?
      • Putting it into practice
  • Conclusion

3 Scientifically-Backed Study Techniques

There’s been a lot of high-quality research done by cognitive and educational psychologists over the years to uncover the absolute best study methods. And, after years of analysis, experts widely agree upon 3 study techniques which are easy to implement and are proven to induce long-term learning

They are:

  1. Microlearning
  2. Spaced Repetition
  3. Retrieval Method


Imagine you recently moved house, and your partner has been nagging you for weeks to finally clear out all the boxes and clutter in the garage.

But the thought of it absolutely terrifies you. To say the garage is a complete mess would be putting it kindly. You’ve got a real job on your hands if you’re ever going to get it done.

However, bit by bit (or box by box) you slowly but surely start to make headway. There’s finally a bit of space to move around in and before long, a tidy and organized garage stands before you.

Microlearning is this “box-by-box” approach to studying/learning.

At first glance, the concept might seem far too complex to fully understand, let alone recall from memory. But, after breaking it down into bite-size pieces learned at regular intervals, what once seemed a complex idea suddenly becomes clear.

These short, bite-sized pieces can be studied in almost any format, from infographics, short videos, audio snippets, tests, quizzes, etc. The important underlying component is their brevity – they should be delivered in activities somewhere between 10-15 minutes in duration.

Why is it so effective?

A Journal of Educational Psychology study found that students learn and retain more information when they have access to short, bite-sized content that can be consumed at their own pace, compared to traditional classroom study sessions.

This is because Microlearning reduces the effects of mental fatigue associated with long study sessions – especially those that creep into the early hours of the morning.

By studying in shorter bursts, students can better grasp important concepts, take a break, and refresh their memory before moving on to the next point.

(Video) 10 Study Techniques Every Student Should Try

Combined with spaced learning and the retrieval method (we’ll get to those shortly) microlearning can be a great study technique for passing information from your short-term memory to long-term memory bank and truly getting it to stick!

This is one of the reasons why ThePowerMBA is taught using the microlearning method.

In today’s fast-paced world most students don’t have time to sit down in one spot and dedicate a day (or even half-day) to studying.

With the advent of mobile technology and the internet, they can now access material in different formats through the mobile device of their choice (smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) and importantly, at their own pace.

Seeing as many post-secondary education students are taking supplementary online courses alongside a full-time job, this really is one of the best study methods currently available to them.

Spaced Repetition

As you can probably guess by its name, spaced repetition is a study method based on “spacing” out short sessions over a set period of time before “repeating” them again. This helps keep your on-going study sessions engaging and ensures what’s learned is committed to your long-term memory.

Why is it so effective?

Have you ever come across or heard of the term forgetting curve?

It’s a theory first put forward by a German psychologist named Herman Ebbinghaus at the tail end of the 19th century. He suggested that humans have both a “learning curve” and a “forgetting curve”.

The learning curve plots the time taken for someone to first understand and then master a given concept or activity (you’ve probably come across the common expression “a steep learning curve”) whereas the forgetting curve plots the time taken for learned information to pass from memory.

Best Study Methods: 3 Techniques Every Student Should Try (1)

The spaced repetition method uses Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve and results from several of his self-studies to identify the perfect time between study sessions and exactly when old material should be reviewed.

Do it too early, and you’re not really making the best use of your time. Do it too late, and the information will be forgotten and you’ll have to restart the learning process all over again. It turns out the best time to review previous material is just as you’re about to forget it.

But how do you know when you’re about to forget something?

(Video) What do top students do differently? | Douglas Barton | TEDxYouth@Tallinn

Well, after years of further research Polish researcher Dr. Piotr Wozniak finally created a computer algorithm that identified the sweet spots.

Best Study Methods: 3 Techniques Every Student Should Try (2)

Of course, not everyone has the same ability to recall information from memory (as it comes a lot easier to some than others) so try starting out with the recommended intervals:

1st repetition – 1 day
2nd repetition – 10 days
3rd repetition – 30 days
4th repetition – 60 days

Another benefit of the spaced repetition method is that each time the material is reviewed, it requires less study time before it’s committed to memory.

Best Study Methods: 3 Techniques Every Student Should Try (3)

These findings hopefully provide enough evidence to get last-minute cramming removed permanently from your study method repertoire! Especially in post-secondary education where students often pay for their own courses.

To defeat the forgetting curve and ensure the material learned sticks, try applying a combination of both spaced repetition and microlearning. While spaced repetition provides a timeframe for your ongoing study routine, microlearning offers a great delivery method of short, bite-sized nuggets of content.

Retrieval Method

Another one of the best study methods students should consider is the retrieval method.

This technique requires students to dig deep into the memory bank to “retrieve” previously learned information, without additional cues. This could be something watched in an online class, read in a textbook, or notes taken from a lecture.

The key to the retrieval method is allowing a little time for forgetting the information before trying to retrieve it.

Immediately reciting whatever you’ve read/heard defeats the purpose of the exercise as the whole idea is to dive deep into the memory bank and go down and get it!

The more times you dive down, the stronger your memory of that information will be.

(Video) The Most Effective Study Method for Students

Why is it so effective?

Cognitive Psychologists Henry Roediger and Jeofrrey Karpicke conducted a study whereby undergraduate students were given a short descriptive passage to study followed either by:

  1. A second study session
  2. Or a memory retrieval test 5 minutes, 2 days, and 1 week.

After revisiting the passage after both 2 days and a week later, the retrieval method group was considerably more effective at recalling the information accurately than the group that undertook a secondary study session.

Best Study Methods: 3 Techniques Every Student Should Try (4)

Scientists concluded that practice testing using the retrieval method enhances how well students mentally organize information and their processing of idiosyncratic aspects of individual information, which when used in term greatly increases accuracy in memory recall.

Putting it into practice

Before you start, put all your notes and sketchbooks away. Remember this exercise is all about forced retrieval of information, not forced recital.

Now go ahead and do a brain dump. Grab a piece of paper, a pen (perhaps even Sharpies if you’ve got some on hand!), and write everything down (that you can think of) related to the topic you’ve studied.

This can be done in the form of a mind map, brainstorm, or even just free-writing onto the page.

When you’ve finished, cross-check what you’ve written against your notes. You’ll then be able to identify which areas you’re perhaps less familiar with, which can then be targeted in later study sessions.

If you’re studying for an upcoming exam, then by far and away the best study method is complete practice exams. Take as many of them as you can bear. If you have access to previous papers from the examination board, great, get ahold of them. If not, try brainstorming potential questions that could arise (or ask someone to do so for you) and attempt to answer them.

Improvement comes with practice. If you want to get better at recalling information in exams then you should be practicing it beforehand! Not waiting until you’re in the exam hall to find out whether you’ve learned it or not.


Remember at the end of the day it comes down to what works best for you. There’s no one size fits all. In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s essential we remain up-to-date and abreast of the latest industry changes. However, it is just as important to retain what we’ve learned, especially if we are footing the bill ourselves!

So combine the 3 best study methods we’ve discussed above to create your own blend of spaced repetition, microlearning, and retrieval and see your studies have a long-term impact on your performance.


What are 3 effective study strategies? ›

Studying a single subject for a long period of time and repeating phrases over and over to memorize them (known as massed practice) Reviewing one topic repeatedly before moving onto another topic (blocked practice) Reading and rereading a text. Highlighting or underlining important concepts in a text and then reviewing.

What is the most effective studying technique? ›

One of the most impactful learning strategies is “distributed practice”—spacing out your studying over several short periods of time over several days and weeks (Newport, 2007). The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day.

What are the 4 study strategies? ›

In this short article, we explore four general study strategies that help improve your learning. These include: preparing the study environment; organising your study schedule; tips for while you are engaged in study; and methods of boosting your reading efficiency.

What are the 3 types of study skills? ›

Understanding refers to contextual clarity of the topic, decoding refers to finding out the main objective of the course and memorizing memorizing refers to retaining what you have learnt. These three skills will help you in better learning.

What are the 7 study skills? ›

Active listening, reading comprehension, note taking, stress management, time management, testing taking, and memorization are only a few of the topics addressed in our study skills guides for students.

What are the 7 Effective study habits? ›

7 Effective Study Habits for School
  • Establish a study area at home. ...
  • Communicate with the teacher. ...
  • Keep assignments organized. ...
  • Avoid procrastination. ...
  • Take notes in class. ...
  • Highlight key concepts in the reading materials. ...
  • Prepare your book-bag before going to bed.

What are the 4 C's in education? ›

According to the report, the cornerstone of becoming a successful learner at any age comes down to the four C's: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.

What are the 4 A's of learning? ›

The 4As of adult learning: Activity, Analysis, Abstraction, and Application is illustrated in Figure 6-1. The constructivist approach to teaching asserts that a Learner gains and builds knowledge through experience.

What are the 3 basic elements of learning? ›

The three elements of a learning design: learning tasks, resources and supports, and their interactions with each other.

What are the 3 steps of learning any new skills? ›

The 3 Stages of Learning a New Skill
  • The “Thinking” Stage.
  • The “Connection” Stage.
  • The “Flow” Stage.

How can I study smartly? ›

It's also very good for your brain. Exercise is quite the miracle drug! So to study smarter, exercise at least three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes each time. You'll be healthier and more energetic, and you'll remember information better too.

What are 6 study tips? ›

Six Steps to Smarter Studying
  • Pay attention in class.
  • Take good notes.
  • Plan ahead for tests and projects.
  • Break it down. (If you have a bunch of stuff to learn, break it into smaller chunks.)
  • Ask for help if you get stuck.
  • Get a good night's sleep!

How can I improve my study? ›

10 Steps to Improve Your Study Skills
  1. Behavior modification can work for you. ...
  2. Do not study more than an hour at a time without taking a break. ...
  3. Separate the study of subjects that are alike. ...
  4. Do not study when you are tired. ...
  5. Prepare for your class at the best time. ...
  6. Use the best note-taking system for you.

What are the 12 types of learning? ›

Understanding the 12 Ways of Learning:

They include visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, sequential, simultaneous, reflective/logical, verbal, interactive, direct experience, indirect experience, and rhythmic/melodic.

What are the 8 principles of learning? ›

To ensure the successful transfer of knowledge, online training courses should effectively apply the 8 principles of learning.
Here are some suggestions to get started.
  • Readiness. You can't force anyone to study, not even kids. ...
  • Exercise. ...
  • Effect. ...
  • Primacy. ...
  • Recency. ...
  • Intensity. ...
  • Freedom. ...
  • Requirement.
12 Jul 2020

What are the 6 learning skills? ›

The six learning skills and work habits are responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative, and self-regulation.

What are the 21st skills? ›

Everett Public Schools in Everett, Washington defines 21st century skills as citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and growth mindset.

What is ABCD in learning? ›

Learning Outcome Statements can be written using the ABCD (audience, behavior, condition, and degree) method. While the method is often directed at learning objectives, it can also be used to write learning outcomes. A(udience) Who is the target audience? (e.g., "ENGL397 students will be able to...")

What is green flag in education? ›

The most prestigious of Eco-Schools awards, the Green Flag Award is the third of three award levels in the Eco-Schools USA program. To be eligible for the Green Flag Award, a school must follow the Seven Step Framework to complete at least three pathways.

What is 7 E's lesson plan? ›

Elicit, Engage, Explore,Explain, Elaborate, Extend and Evaluate.

What is the most accurate type of study? ›

Randomized controlled trials

If you want to know how effective a treatment or diagnostic test is, randomized trials provide the most reliable answers.

What is the fastest and most effective way to study? ›

Here are ten ways, backed by science, to speed up the learning process.
  • Say out loud what you want to remember.
  • Take notes by hand, not on a computer.
  • Chunk your study sessions.
  • Test yourself. A lot.
  • Change the way you practice.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Learn several subjects in succession.
13 Dec 2018

What is the best study timing? ›

Most of the students prefer to study in the early morning, generally from 4 or 5 AM in the morning as the brain is more likely to concentrate. It could be the best option for students who have more stamina early in the day.

What are the 4 types of study design? ›

There are four main types of Quantitative research: Descriptive, Correlational, Causal-Comparative/Quasi-Experimental, and Experimental Research. attempts to establish cause- effect relationships among the variables. These types of design are very similar to true experiments, but with some key differences.

How do I get better at studying? ›

Here are 11 tips to improve your study habits:
  1. Find a good place to study.
  2. Minimize distractions.
  3. Take breaks.
  4. Space out your studying.
  5. Set study goals for each session.
  6. Reward yourself.
  7. Study with a group.
  8. Take practice tests.
15 Sept 2022


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