5 Study Techniques That You Probably Haven’t Used, but Should

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December 13, 2023
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Patrick J. Karol,

Imagine this scenario. You completed college 10 years ago and have worked in the safety profession since graduating. You got married and started a family. Your job has allowed you to gain valuable experience, resulting in promotions. You now feel ready for the next big jump and are seeking promotion to a position with qualifications that include a safety certification. You purchase a workbook and begin using the same study techniques that seemed to be effective during college: skimming and rereading material, highlighting key points that you want to reread, using flashcards, and staying up late for some last-minute cramming before the exam.

The problem is that not all study techniques are created equal. Some are more effective than others. You have limited discretionary time to devote to study and can’t afford to use ineffective techniques. Research has proven that these study techniques are not a good use of your time. For example, highlighting sections for review later is highly ineffective for retaining knowledge needed to pass the Associate Safety Professional (ASP) or Certified Safety Professional (CSP) exam. Last-minute cramming may work on an exam with one topic, but it is a waste of time on a broad-based exam that covers numerous topics, as with the ASP and CSP.

Your time is too valuable, not to mention limited, to use effective study techniques. Consider these study techniques to get a higher return on your investment of time.


Learn to teach

Teaching is the highest form of retention. One experiment went like this: one group of students was given a sheet of paper with material and told to learn it for a test, while another group got the same sheet and was told to learn it to teach it to someone else. Both took the same test. Those who learned to teach did far better. If you are in a study group, try learning it enough to teach it to the group. If you already have experience with environmental regulations, teach the BCSP Environmental Management domain to the group.


Information Retrieval

Focusing less on rereading and more on recalling information. Rereading material doesn’t force us to think about the meaning of the topic. Rereading may lead to better memorization, but knowledge isn’t being improved to the point that it builds understanding. Understanding leads to a higher level of retention. Psychologists say you should instead read once and then use the bulk of your study time trying to recall what you read and write it down. If you can’t recall a section or concept, it's OK to read about it again; however, let your attempts at recall guide you. Do you use flashcards? Don’t just look at the term; attempt to retrieve it before flipping the card.


Mix Up the Topics

We often study one topic until we have mastered it, a learning method known as “blocking practice.” Research shows that moving between topics during a study session, known as the “interleaving technique,” is more effective than “blocking practice.” Moving back and forth between topics during a study session facilitates learning and improved recall. The Nito Solutions practice exams are an effective “interleaving technique” tool because the questions are randomized among all nine (9) ASP and CSP domains. Test yourself using the practice exams.


Mix up locations where you study. Environmental or physical cues become associated with the information you are trying to learn, which helps trigger those memories when testing. The ASP and CSP exams cover nine (9) domains or topics. Can you find nine different locations to study? Simply moving from the dining room to the kitchen works. Associating a location with a domain improves retention. It’s still important to find locations with limited physical distractions.


Sleep Matters, but not how you might think.  MIT professor Jeffrey Grossman wanted to determine if there was a correlation between how much his students exercised and the grades they got. He asked 100 students to wear Fitbits for the semester and enrolled 25 of them in an intensive fitness program. Working out didn’t matter, but what did was getting plenty of consistent sleep.

"The night before doesn't matter," Grossman says. "We've heard the phrase 'Get a good night's sleep, you've got a big day tomorrow.' It turns out this does not correlate at all with test performance. Instead, it's the sleep you get during the days when learning is happening that matters most."

Do you have trouble sleeping before a big test? Pre-test insomnia doesn't matter because most of the learning happens well before that last night. Along similar lines, keeping a relatively consistent bedtime routine rather than having your bedtime swing around erratically was also correlated with better grades. 


Poor study habits lead to poor exam performance. Don’t rely on old study techniques that seemed to work in the past. Improve your chance of passing the exam with improved study techniques that get more out of your study time.

Nito Solutions has developed exam preparation material, including guidebooks and practice tests for the ASP and CSP exams, that help prepare you for taking the exams.