Show Your Smarts by Studying Smarter

study smarter“I put in so much time studying, but I didn’t get the grade I wanted.”

“I’ve been reading this chapter over and over and still can’t remember!”

I know how frustrating it can be to watch your child put in hours trying to nail a new concept, only to have them flail on the Biology assignment or Algebra exam!

But here’s the secret: even though it’s easy to equate time spent studying with mastery of the material, studying harder is not the key. Instead your child needs to study better.

Better how? Great question! We’ve compiled some research on the latest in brain science that offers a map to put your child on the road to better grades – and hopefully less frustration!

  1. Remove distractions. Have you ever watched your child toggle between their phone, their tablet and their book and wonder how they are retaining anything? Well, they are probably not! To study effectively, you need to concentrate, which means focusing 100 percent on what you’re working on. As a parent, you can help create that conducive environment, and help enforce the “no tech till a break” rule.
  2. Engage with the material in different ways. Studies have shown that the more you engage with the material, the stronger the connection in the brain becomes and the more likely you are to remember it. The best way to do this is involve as many of your senses as you can: Listening to the teacher, reading the material, talking it through and writing it out. I tell my daughter that the goal of writing note cards is as much to help her concentrate and focus on the material – which leads to better retention – than it is to use the note cards for another purpose.
  3. Stretch out your study sessions. This system has a fancy name: “distributed practice effect,” but basically what it means is that the age-old practices of cramming or all-nighters are ineffective. If you were a beginning runner training for a race, would you super train the few days before? No. You would follow a Couch to 10K program or some other method that would ease you into it. The same is true for studying. A little bit, more often, is so much more effective than a lot, all at once.
  4. Maintain your machine. Your personal machine that is. Adequate sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise all play into your ability to focus and study. Your brain and your body are inseparable and what you put into your body is what gets to your brain, allowing it to function better. There is actually fascinating brain science that explains how each of these four components work together to help you learn. Watch for an upcoming article that explores them in more detail.
  5. Don’t fall victim to boredom. It’s a fact that when you are bored by the material, it is far more challenging to pay attention. But that’s no excuse – some classes and subjects are just naturally going to be more interesting than others. That’s where our first two strategies come in.

When you’re feeling bored by the material, it’s more important than ever to remove distractions, which will claim your attention 100 percent of the time if you allow them. And, this is the time to employ those sensory strategies. Go ahead and take notes while you read. Create your own quiz. Anything that keeps you engaged will make it that much harder for your mind to wander.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’m not as smart as the other kids.” But the bottom line is that success in school is almost always tied to your effort and learning strategies.  Every kid can do it! Studying “better” rather than harder or longer could well be your ticket to fantastic grades in the New Year!



  1. Struggling Child? Make an Academic Action Plan - Official Blog - January 25, 2014

    […] do small bites of projects on a regular basis so they aren’t overwhelmed at the end. Review the efficacy of studying a little each day rather than a lot in one […]

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