girl studying with book in lap.

What are bad study habits?

Bad study habits aren’t always easy to recognize. In fact, many of them begin as good habits that just…don’t work out. If you’ve ever put in tons of effort preparing for an exam, sure that you’ll pass, only to get back a disappointing grade, you’ve probably been practicing some bad study habits. Here’s how you can identify which habits aren’t helping, build better study strategies, and crush your next exam!

The bad study habits that everyone is guilty of

If your study habits aren’t helping you, you’re not alone! Everyone picks up bad habits they stick with through school. If you’re not careful, these can even carry into your professional life! But if you know what strategies aren’t helping you, you can take the next step: figuring out which ones will. With that said, what are some of the most common bad habits when it comes to studying?

  1. Procrastination. Almost everyone does it. It’s the enemy of to-do lists and deadlines!

  2. Taking too many notes. You don’t want to miss anything, so you write down everything you read or hear. But when you take note of all the information, how can you tell what’s important or what you should focus on for an exam?

  3. Not taking notes or not taking enough notes. Taking too many notes is bad, not taking any notes or barely writing anything can leave you unsure of what you should know for an exam.

  4. Studying the night before an exam. Last minute cram sessions seem like they might be helpful, but in reality, you won’t absorb as much information as you need to confidently take an exam.

  5. Letting distractions take over. When you’re studying, distractions can be a tempting indulgence. But studying when you’re watching TV, listening to your favorite songs, or swiping through social media makes it hard to fully pay attention to what you’re learning.

If you’ve caught yourself exercising one or more of these bad study habits on a regular basis, it’s time to break the cycle and learn some good study habits. You can relearn good study habits while breaking bad ones with time and dedication.

5 Bad Study Habits and How to Break Them

You’ve realized you’re guilty of at least one or two bad habits that are affecting your grades, but how can you make a change? Breaking habits can take time and work, though. The best way to start is often by replacing those habits with new ones. Here’s what you can do to help you change your studying methods.

  1. Figure out why you’re procrastinating. If you’re a pro at procrastinating, you may have figured out strategies to make this bad habit work for you. It’s still a bad habit, though, and can negatively affect your grades, your schedule, and more. Figuring out why you procrastinate can help address and change the habit. For example, if you’re procrastinating because the work you’re doing doesn’t feel urgent, think about the big picture. Why are you in school? What are you working toward? Each exam and lesson is one more step toward your endgame.

  2. Consider your lesson objectives to help you take fewer notes. Before sitting down to read your next lesson or listen to a webinar, check out your course objectives and goals. What are the top three things you’re supposed to take from this class or study guide? Keep these in mind as you’re taking notes. Write down the information that is relevant to those topics or helps you understand them, and leave the rest.

  3. Be prepared to take notes and understand what you need to get out of the class. Just like taking too many notes, not taking enough can impact your understanding of what you’re learning. The same strategy can help you break this bad study habit: review your lesson or class objectives before sitting down to read your textbook or listen to a webinar. What do you need to learn from this unit? Write down everything that applies to those specific objectives.

  4. Study in small bursts over time. Cramming the night before a test might feel like a good idea and you’ve gotten decent enough scores by doing this in the past. But are you really learning what you’re cramming? Instead, study in small bursts over time. Take a half hour to reread your old notes before jumping into your next lesson. Not only will you be prepared to study your next lesson, you’ll have an easier time remembering what you’ve learned.

  5. Find a quiet study space. Distractions aren’t easy to ignore, but it can be even more difficult to do when you have things that can shift your focus right near you. Having a dedicated study space that’s quiet is the first step to staying focused. Turning off or silencing your phone, or leaving it in the other room so you’re not tempted to scroll through your Facebook Newsfeed can make a big difference. Make sure you don’t study with Netflix on in the background and use study playlists that are geared toward helping you focus.

Build better study habits with Penn Foster’s self-paced courses.

It’s not easy to build new, effective study habits when you’re used to the bad ones. However, as an online student, the biggest benefit is that you can work at your own pace and build better study habits as you work through your courses. From planning out study sessions ahead of time based on when you want to take an exam to having access to your completed study guides throughout your entire program, you can take charge of learning - your way. Think online learning could be right for you? Check out our range of self-paced, affordable courses and talk to an Admissions Specialist today at 1-888-427-6500.