Studying that sticks: How students can get the most out of their studying


Courtesy of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Liz Kovac, Engagement Editor

Fall semester classes have been in session for over a month, which means midterms are coming up fast. When it comes time to study, it turns out that hours of highlighting lines in a textbook may not be the best way to go.

A learning tip from Oakland University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) cites research that measured which study habits help students retain the most knowledge. Surprisingly, highlighting and re-reading, two popular studying strategies, yielded the worst results. The most effective study strategies? Practice testing and distributed practice, or practice over time.

Based on this research, Christina Moore, virtual faculty developer for CETL, suggested students “study and work with your course material often, even if only 15 or 30 minutes at a time.” Additionally, Moore suggested not skipping over those practice problems in your textbook and recommended working with other students to create practice problems.

Moore clarified that, while highlighting and re-reading are among the less effective strategies, that doesn’t mean they should not be used at all.

“If you highlight something, write in the margin why you thought it was worth highlighting,” Moore said. “If you re-read, write down questions you have and what your reading makes you think of. The more connections you can make to course content, the more it will stick.”

Conversely, when students procrastinate or use ineffective study habits, risky academic behavior such as cheating or plagiarizing begins to look tempting. Moore believes cheating is less an issue of laziness or deviance, but more of desperation and being overwhelmed. In relation, Dr. Judy Ableser, the director of CETL, believes that though these are some of the reasons students engage in poor academic conduct, there are more that need to be explored. 

In order to gain insight into the student learning experience on campus, CETL will host its next Students for Excellence in Teaching (SET) Forum — “Do Students Cheat More in the Technology Age?” — on Nov. 20 from 5-6 p.m. in Room 200A Elliott Hall, where dinner will be provided. Ableser encourages students to attend and share their experiences around pressures to cheat and/or their confusion with proper academic conduct.

“We want to promote a campus culture of academic integrity,” she said. “The student voice and experience is an essential part of such important conversations.”

Students interested in being influential in shaping their academic success can register for CETL’s next SET Forum online at by selecting the Students for Excellence in Teaching tab. 

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