How many of us have gotten to the end of three or four pages of "reading" only to discover that we have no idea what was on those pages? We have failed to concentrate! Below, we will explore ways to combat the four main causes of poor concentration: external distractions, internal distractions, fatigue, and lack of interest.
REDUCE EXTERNAL DISTRACTIONS:
- Find a good place to work -- usually the library. While the library may seem almost too quiet at first, condition yourself to the quiet by starting with short periods of study there. Other good places to study might include: C.C.C. or C.I.U. study areas, empty classrooms, department study areas, etc. If you are a commuter student, stay on campus to work during the week and on weekends find a library near you home to work. Trying to study at home or in a dorm room almost invariably leads to endless distractions, thus prolonging your study time.
- Minimize visual distractions by studying away from windows and in a place where you will not see classmates walking by.
- Eliminate noise by studying in a quiet place, without vocal music. While you may have listened to music as you studied in high school, college work requires far greater concentration and part of your focus will be lost if you listen to music while studying.
- Use appropriate lighting that does not strain your eyes.
DISCOURAGE INTERNAL DISTRACTIONS:
- Keep your calendar or "to do" list nearby as you study and record there any reminders to yourself or worries that may distract you while studying (ie. pick up dry cleaning, worry about financial aid). By writing these things down, you can clear your mind for studying.
- Use a concentration scoresheet. Each time you find your mind wandering, make a check mark on the sheet. Within just a few study sessions you should find that you have far fewer check marks and far greater concentration.
- Take regular study breaks. Many students find that working for 50 minutes and then taking a 10-minute break is ideal, although this varies, depending on the student and subject matter.
- Find your "prime time." For many students, one hour of daytime study is equivalent to one and a half hours at night because their concentration level during the day is much greater.
- Get your sleep at night, and avoid daytime naps lasting more than ten minutes. Concentration dips both before and after a nap.
BUILD A STRONG INTEREST:
- Think about why you want to learn about a given subject. Scan your textbook chapter and think of questions you want to find answers to -- before actually reading your text.
- Form study groups to make some of your study time more lively and interesting.
- If the course and/or reading material is too difficult, find a tutor or find an alternate textbook. Some students like to read a high school textbook (ask in the Curriculum Room of the Main Library) or a study guide/outline book (ask in the bookstore) before reading a really difficult textbook.
* Adapted from How to Study in College by Walter Pauk.