Move from a room of one’s own

Research has shown that studying in different locations boosts achievement.

by Connor Nikolic

My life is fairly routine. I roll out of bed each morning, get ready, put my shoes on, sprint after the bus and go to class. Afterward, I come home, plop myself on my futon and hammer through my homework. A bit boring, but the consistency helps, or so I thought. Recent studies indicate that routine-oriented study habits like mine are actually detrimental to learning. Students would be wise to change their routine in preparation for finals.

Research suggests that studying in different places every day forms deeper and more general memories of the material. While University Counseling and Consulting Services advises students to “try to find a fixed place for study,” moving around may just be the thing that helps you remember a key detail for the big chemistry final.

In other words, a study sanctuary may provide consistency, but a fresh cram spot enhances a student’s ability to retain new information.

The reasoning behind this strategy is if students study a particular topic in a particular place regularly, they will start to form subconscious associations with the topic with the room itself and then lose those associations when they leave that study space. If you’re looking at your Adrian Peterson poster whenever you’re straining to remember the discussion points from the last lecture, you’d better hope that the All-Pro running back is coming with you to your exam.

Unfortunately, schools do not teach this philosophy to students. From a young age, I learned to do my homework in the computer room at home. I didn’t think that packing it in and studying at Caribou Coffee or in the library before school would actually help.

It’s even more important to try new study strategies because we tend to follow them throughout our education. I’ve managed to retain lackluster habits, and they’ve likely hindered me on previous tests, just as much as fatigue from an all-nighter or skimming over an important chapter has hurt me. Questioning our routines early can lead to better study skills later.

Schools and parents alike continue to teach youth to find static study spaces. It’s especially disturbing because research has suggested otherwise since 1978, according to Psychology Today.

While study skills may seem unimportant because they’re not directly related to curriculum, they could have far-reaching effects across all grades and education levels. Schools should focus on developing true study curricula because, as with any other subject, students need guidance.

Out of curiosity, I started varying my study spots during the past few weeks. I prepared for midterms in several campus buildings, in different parts of my house and at various times.

I’m not sure if this technique had a tangible effect on my test scores, but I know that I walked out of the room each time knowing I knew enough material to answer each question, which has not always been true in years past.

I’ve found a new study routine (or a lack thereof). Hopefully it will give me an edge for finals next month. While each person should develop their own study habits, it’s never too late to break from your routine and learn something new — it could help you in the long run.