Finals seasons may be drawing to a close for most college students, but it is never a bad time to find what study method works best. For both the student who stayed on top of their studies all throughout the semester and the chronic procrastinator, here are five studying models that won’t add to that late semester burnout.
1. Pomodoro Method
Fighting the urge to hop on TikTok or scroll through Twitter in the middle of a study session is difficult — a problem that stems from procrastination or a lack of motivation. The Pomodoro Method, however, builds motivation as a student begins to study as opposed to requiring it in order to begin.
Pomodoro requires cutting up a study session into four 30-minute sets, each made up of a 25-minute focused work session followed by a five-minute break. After the four sets are finished, a 45-minute break can be taken. If the project isn’t finished, the student can choose to continue onto a second Pomodoro set.
An alternative to the Pomodoro Method is the “Animedoro” Method, a model that keeps the sets of four, but lengthens the focused work section to 50 minutes and replaces the five-minute break with a 20-minute anime episode of the student’s choice. When going to college, it’s difficult to squeeze time for hobbies in between classes, but adding something fun into a study session can make an otherwise boring activity exciting.
2. Getting Things Done (GTD Method)
The GTD Method by David Allen takes the straightforward process of list-making to a whole other level. GTD is different compared to other studying models in that it works best as a foundation for any method to build off of. Especially when a student is juggling multiple classes and needs to determine when to study for what class, GTD helps break down the process into five simple steps: capture, clarify, organize, review and engage.
The first step, capture, can begin either once the student wakes up or before a study session. A student can start by writing down everything that they need to complete within a specific time frame, such as emails, setting up an advisor meeting and writing down what time and what room a final will take place. At any time, the student can add on extra duties as they continue working and more come up.
“Clarify” then involves the organization of tasks in order of importance, time sensitivity level and the time it will take to complete them. Shorter tasks that will take less than 10-minutes can be completed right away, regardless of importance, and from there, tasks that are due sooner than others are next before important ones that are further in the future.
The next two steps, organize and review, operate within the same vein: Organize requires sorting tasks by date, as well as organizing the necessary resources into physical or digital organizational tools like folders or storage apps; review involves the re-visiting of deadlines and implementation of new tasks.
The last step of the GTD Method is engage, which basically entails starting on the tasks while keeping in mind every deadline, any supplies that might be needed later and most importantly, the energy level of a student to complete the tasks.
A lot of burnout comes from overwhelming oneself before even beginning a task and so the GTD Method works to lighten the load, especially for neurodivergent students who struggle with executive dysfunction or homework anxiety.
3. Feynman Technique
Developed by Nobel Prize in Physics winner Richard Feynman, the Feynman technique, while not always referred to as such, is one of the most effective study models used by students as well as the simplest when on a time crunch.
The Feynman Technique starts off with a student picking what topic they want to study and writing down whatever they already know about the subject in the simplest terms or in a way a child would understand. As the student explains the concept out loud to themselves, if there are any parts in the explanation that the student lacks confidence in or that are unclear, the student can then go back to their notes or lectures for more information to better simplify their explanation.
The purpose of the Feynman Technique, at least in the way that Feynman used it, is to contribute new information to a greater journal or general collection of information on a topic. By using his own method, Feynman paved the way to earning his Nobel Prize.
4. Active Recall/Testing Effect
Similar to the Feynman Technique, the Active Recall or Testing Effect method involves choosing a topic and drafting practice questions based on information gleaned from what a student already knows, notes, class lectures and course textbooks. Reading straight out of a textbook or any articles a professor posts on the class portal is easy (once you get past the torture of reading through six 10-page academic articles or multiple 90-page chapters every week), but it doesn’t guarantee an absolute understanding of the materials.
The premise of Active Recall is to eliminate the information a student already knows based on the correctly answered questions and re-visiting the incorrect ones by including them in the next test, so, when the time comes, the student can breeze through the final test.
5. Leitner System
The Leitner System, by German journalist Sebastian Leitner, is probably one of the most used studying models out of those listed here and works best when studying terms or brief concepts. To begin the Leitner System, a student will need a pen, a marker or highlighter, and a stack of blank flashcards. On one side of the flashcard, write down the term and on the other side, its definition.
Afterward, create three boxes large enough to hold a stack of flashcards and label them one through five. Box one holds cards that need to be studied every day; box two holds all the cards that the student answered correctly, which are studied every other day; and box three will hold the cards from box one that were answered correctly the second time around and will be studied every three days. According to the system, a student gains full understanding of the terms once box three is filled with cards.
The effectiveness of the Leitner System doesn’t come from the memorization of the cards, but the eventual understanding of the cards that comes out of constant repetition instead of just reading through the cards indiscriminately every day.
The basic studying models including note-taking and unstructured memorization are becoming less useful as each professor has their own way of structuring their lectures; thus, different approaches to studying are needed in order for students to stay flexible. With the stress of finals already on the backs of college students, there’s no need to add the extra pressure of testing out multiple studying models to see what works best.