Studying Myths Busted

My many years of teaching has taught me that the two main reason many students don’t do well in intermediate accounting are:

A.  They don’t know how to study or

B.  They are not motivated, usually they are not 100% sold on an accounting career  or would rather be doing something else…period!

I can’t help an unmotivated college student (I can try, but I believe at this age, if you can’t motivate yourself, then I will probably be wasting my time), but I can help with point A.  To this end, I strongly suggest you read:

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits


Published: September 6, 2010

Psychologists have discovered that some of the most hallowed advice on study habits is flat wrong.

I summed up the major points below:

  1. Instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention.
  2. Study distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single skill or concept.
  3. In a recent review of the relevant research, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for learning styles.
  4. Teaching styles have no effect on learning.   Researchers have yet to find the common threads between teachers who create a constructive learning atmosphere.
  5. Many study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite. Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.
  6. Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time.  With mixed practice, each problem is different from the last one, which means people must learn how to choose the appropriate procedures. The brain is picking up deeper patterns when seeing different aspects.   Subconsciously, it is picking up what is similar and what’s different about them.
  7. Cognitive scientists agree that cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is “akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out. ”  When going to advance courses, students find that not only do they not remember the material, it is like they have never seen it before.  An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found.  “The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.  The more mental sweat it takes to dig it out, the more securely it will be subsequently anchored.”

I plan to use some of these techniques in planning assignments.  I will kept my quizzes but eventually make them higher stakes (now they are no stakes).  I am also going to update my “How to study accounting” article, which I will link to this posting at a later date.


About Evelyn McDowell

Accounting Professor at Rider University
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