Students seek out alternative study spots

By Andrew Shull

Hitting the books doesn’t always have to mean hitting the library — Pitt’s campus offers… Hitting the books doesn’t always have to mean hitting the library — Pitt’s campus offers plenty of other places that are great for studying.

Most of the academic buildings have benches and desks scattered throughout that students can use to study. Contrary to popular belief, a psychology professor recommends taking advantage of all of them to maximize study session success.

Robert Bjork, a psychology professor at UCLA, said in an interview that having one area to associate with studying could help students who have problems getting motivated to work.

But “If you’re very willing to work, varying the context, and going over it in a different environment or in another way will lead to better recall,” he said.

He wrote about the benefits of transient studying in an essay for the book “Psychology in the Real World” , “Studying the same material in two different rooms rather than twice in the same room leads to an increased recall of that material … an empirical result that flies in the face of the common, how-to study suggestion to find a quiet, convenient place and do all of your studying there.”

Josh Mealy, a sophomore bioengineering major, said he likes to switch up his studying areas.

He said when he isn’t studying in his room, he likes to study in the Bevier Engineering Library on the ground floor of Benedum Hall.

Despite such advice, some students are still drawn to the quieter nooks on campus.

Salwa Albusaysi, a graduate student in the School of Pharmacy, said that she prefers to study in the Falk Library of the Health Sciences located in Scaife Hall because it’s convenient and quiet.

The search for silence is what drives Kate Miltenberger, an undecided freshman, away from the first floor of the Hillman Library.

“It’s like a party sometimes,” she said of studying on the first floor.

She added that she prefers studying at the Cup & Chaucer coffee cart on the ground floor or at a desk on the third floor of Hillman for “super serious study time.”

This practice of designating one place for studying could be advantageous.

Bjork also corrected a few misconceptions about studying.

He stressed that the mind doesn’t act like a recording device.

Although a student might be inclined to take furious notes and write down everything a professor says, that won’t lead to better recall.

“Trusting your intuition is a pretty dangerous thing,” he said.

Bjork also rejects the idea that enough sleep is crucial to good test performance. He said that at the age of a traditional college student, adrenaline will keep you awake for a test, barring extreme circumstances. However, Bjork said that if students stayed awake for three or more days before a test, adrenaline would likely not help them keep alert during the exam.

Dr. Elizabeth Wettick, the director of the Student Health Center, said that staying up all night before a test could negatively affect students’ chances on the exam. Wettick said in an e-mail that sleep deprivation can bring about changes in cognitive functioning and make tasks that require focus more challenging.

In addition, Bjork said that cramming right before a test can only do so much for students.

“If it’s midnight, and the test is at 9 a.m. and you haven’t learned the material yet, you won’t make something out of nothing,” he said.

Still, that kind of last-minute learning will only yield short-term results, Bjork said. Spacing out study time will lead to long-term knowledge, he said, whereas material learned while cramming for tests will soon be forgotten.

Staff Writer Gretchen Andersen contributed to this report.