In each course, you’ll encounter students with all types of approaches to learning. With these varying approaches come different preferences and habits for studying as well.  For some, a reliable team of study partners may be the motivating force that keeps students going. For advice on helping students set up study groups, visit our post, “Learning from Fellow Students: Creating a Study Group.” For others, studying alone is either the only way for them to focus or their only option if they’re in an online class with no alternatives. Regardless of circumstance, we at Cengage Learning wanted to learn what the most common study methods and habits are for college students.

Preferred study methods

In a recent survey of participants in Cengage Learning’s Student Case Study program, we asked college students: Who do you study with? We then had them rank several options in order of frequency. Here’s how each study method averaged out overall among all our respondents:

Preferred study methods

A total of 86% of students polled revealed that they prefer to study by themselves either “most of the time” or “always.” This begs the question of how might instructors provide students with the materials to best facilitate solo study sessions. When asked what course materials students use most for studying, the top answers were not surprisingly the course textbook (at 93% use) and the notes the student took in class (at 92% use). Other viable options are instructor notes and slides (88% use), online homework (51% use), and supplementary materials such as workbooks and study guides (49% use). All of these materials may be easily accessed by each individual student from anywhere, anytime.

Those least used were non-required materials, which may be supplementary reading found in short supply from the library and not readily available for each student. Similarly to unassigned books, students in the study reported rarely choosing to use course-specific tools such as medical equipment, art supplies, or drawing software — all which may need to be checked out and therefore not as practical for each student to prepare with alone.

Why do students stop studying?

As hard as it may sometimes be for students to buckle down and begin studying, we know most current students belong to a generation of extreme multi-taskers. For this reason, it’s very easy to become distracted or simply decide to frequently switch gears to something else. We surveyed the students in our Student Case Study program to see what it was that made them decide to stop studying, asking them to choose all that apply.

Students' frequent study distractions

Students’ top reason to stop studying is distractions from friends and family at 59% of students. In second place, at 52% of students, was the assumption that they’ve simply done all they can on their own. Following closely after this were typical non-academic commitments and relationships. If these results are surprising or disheartening, consider what you can do to help students set more concrete study goals. For example, encourage your students to not only study “enough to pass the test,” but to study enough to raise their grade point average to one they’ll be proud of and motivate them to chart a study course for getting there. For more information on setting solid academic goals, visit our recent blog post, “Tips for Students: How To Reach Your Academic Goals in College.”

Speak up; we’re listening!

We’ve heard from our student audience, now we want to hear from you. What do you think helps and hurts your students’ study habits the most? Share your thoughts below.