Top Social Psychologist Dr. Regan A. R. Gurung Shares Effective Study Hacks

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Many students spend countless hours per week preparing for exams, but still fail. According to a top social psychologist and Oregon State University professor, many of these students’ poor test performance is due to improper study habits.

Dr. Regan A. R. Gurung is one of the nation’s foremost experts on pedagogical and social psychology. He is an award-winning author and the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Oregon State University. In his new book, which he co-authored with cognitive psychologist John Dunlosky of Kent State University, Gurung discusses the most effective strategies for studying and improving academic performance.

In Gurung’s book, “Study Like a Champ: The Psychology-Based Guide to ‘Grade A’ Study Habits,” the strategies go beyond the typical approach that students use, which consists of grabbing a book, reading it, and creating flashcards. Instead, Gurung suggests that students who wish to improve their grades should study smarter, not longer.

According to Gurung, what students should be doing is testing their ability to recall the information they have learned (e.g., by the use of self-generated quizzes). This goes beyond merely re-reading material. The method is known as retrieval practice, and it can strengthen long-term memory retention.

While retrieval practice can boost test performance, Gurung outlined an additional method that may also be advantageous. This method, known as spacing, involves studying the same material in multiple sessions. The practice, also known as the “spacing effect,” is said to be well-established in learning and memory research, with the study of information on multiple occasions believed to be beneficial for long-term retrieval.

Taking good notes, whether on paper or on a computer, is one of the additional study techniques highlighted by Gurung. Another technique is multitasking.

In a story published by columnist Maureen Downey in the AJC, it is stated that Gurung rejects the myth that multitasking while studying is beneficial. While he does not prohibit cell phones in his university classes, he stresses the importance of attentiveness in the learning environment.

Of all the study strategies outlined, Gurung advises educators to incorporate study skills into the classroom and implement the strategies with students. Doing so could increase productivity and ensure optimal learning that extends far beyond exam success.


Cognitive science has revealed the hidden secrets of what really works for studying.

This engaging, student-friendly book debunks major myths about studying and provides practical tips for how students can learn to study smarter, not harder.

Written by psychologists who are experts in the science of study habits, this book outlines clear steps students can use throughout their high school and college careers to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning.

Numerous examples and self-assessments will help students apply these strategies to their own unique situations to help them create and maintain habits that foster life-long learning.

Psychologists Regan A. R. Gurung and John Dunlosky are award-winning teachers and researchers who have spent years conducting studies on how students learn. Not only have they published a significant number of scientific peer-reviewed papers on the topic, but they have received national recognition as teachers.


Image courtesy of UW-Greenbay



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