Ahh studying, the thing we all love to hate, but if you want to achieve great marks then studying is inevitable. So, I have compiled a list of tips to make studying as effective and painless as possible. And believe me, I have had plenty of opportunity to hone in on my study skills – I was that kid in high school that voluntarily chose to do subjects like physics and Maths C (more challenging maths for those of you who are unfamiliar)… for fun. However, perfecting my study skills over the years has allowed me to maintain a high GPA at uni without even having to study most weekends – I believe it’s all about studying smarter, not harder. So try out some of the suggestions below and see what works best for you!
- It is best to go over the content straight after class when it is fresh in your memory. This will help cement your understanding of the content.
- Don’t put off small tasks. By getting them out of the way as soon as possible, you will find it easier to start tackling bigger tasks.
- Environment is everything. Find a comfortable and quiet place to study with good lighting and minimal distractions. This does not include your bed- the temptation to nap will be too strong. I also find that I study better when my environment is tidy and uncluttered.
- Relaxing music. For some people, having calming music in the background on a low volume can improve their concentration.
- Find what time of the day you study best. Do you prefer working in the morning or later in the day? For example, I’m a morning person and therefore try to get most of my study done in the mornings, because I know if I leave it to the evening I will most likely fall asleep and get absolutely nothing done.
- Have all your study material in front of you– lecture/class notes, textbooks and anything else.
- Start by studying the most important information first. After all, that’s most likely what you’ll be tested on.
- Take notes and write down a summary of the important concepts as you read through your study material.
- Learn the general concepts first. Do not even worry about the details until you understand the main ideas, otherwise they won’t make any sense and it will only leave you confused and stressed. Plus, you will be able to understand/memorise details much more quickly if you understand what is going on in the bigger picture.
- Make sure you actually understand the information! Don’t just simply read through it and try to memorize it all. In the long run, this will be more time consuming then taking the time to understand it.
- Take short breaks frequently. Your memory retains the information that you study at the beginning and the end better than it does the information in the middle.
- No procrastination. I know, it’s a hard one. Start by removing all distractions. Put your phone on silent, remove the facebook and tumblr tab on your computer and promise yourself to not check anything until you have a study break. If you’ve got a lot on your mind, try writing it all down so that you can get it out of your system and come back to it later.
- No cramming!!! Do not try to do all your study the night before your exam. Go over the content several times a week, focusing on just one topic at a time. By spacing your study and doing a little bit everyday, the information will be stored in your long-term memory. If you leave all your study for the night before, the information will only be stored in your short-term memory and you’ll most likely forget it the next day.
- Have a massive assignment to do? Big assignments can be really intimidating. Often we don’t know where to start so we just keep putting it off. To make it much more manageable, start by categorising it into different sections. By doing the assignment in smaller parts at a time, it won’t seem nearly as bad.
- If you have writer’s block: Just write something, doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sound good, you can come back to it later and fix it. Having something down is better than nothing.
- Set aside study time. Set aside a few hours a week, every week, dedicated to study. This way you can remain on top of all your study and be prepared for exams well in advance.
- Studying in a group. Some people understand the information better when discussing it with other people. It makes studying much more fun too. Just make sure you’re studying with people who are also serious about wanting to do well on the exam.
- Test yourself or have someone test you on the information. This is a great way to see what you understand and what you need to work on. You can do this by answering practice questions given out by teachers/lecturers or questions in textbooks or even just explaining the topic to someone. However, my favourite way is by making flashcards. Simply cut up sheets of paper so that they’re about the size of your palm, write questions on one side of it and then flip it over and write the answer. Now you can go through and read the questions and try to answer them and then check if your answer is right by flipping the card over. For those of you in Australia, you can go to K-MART and buy flashcard paper in massive sets. They look like square post-it-notes the size of your palm but without any sticky bits.
- Remind yourself why you’re doing this. You’re doing this so that you can achieve amazing marks and get your dream job. Sometimes, you just need to look at the bigger picture to put everything back into perspective.
- Attitude is everything. There’s two ways you can approach study- either by thinking ‘this sucks’ or ‘I love learning new things’. Guess which one will make for a more productive study session?!
If we want to study efficiently, then we should give our body what it needs so that we can be productive, attentive and stress-free.
- Drink water. Dehydration can adversely influence cognitive ability. So keep a glass of water nearby while you study.
- Get a good night’s sleep. How can you expect your brain to do all this work if it’s tired?! Studies show that getting a regular good night’s sleep can improve your memory and learning. Although it varies between people, aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
- Keep healthy snacks and meals on hand. When studying, most people either forget to eat or they eat everything in sight (typically everything unhealthy). So try to prepare meals/snacks beforehand so you can avoid either of these scenarios. To boost your brain power, aim to eat meals that contain good fats, carbohydrates, protein and lots of micronutrients.
- Get up and move it. According to research, you should try not to sit down for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time, as unwanted physiological changes begin to occur in the body. In fact, standing up every 20-30 minutes prompts your body to burn calories (preventing weight gain), as well as reducing your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. So, make sure you get up and move around for 2-5 minutes! If you’re someone who has trouble fitting in exercise or you just don’t like exercising, then doing it in smaller portions is much more manageable. So use those 5-minute breaks to do some mini exercise routines and within a couple of hours of study you would have managed to do half an hour of exercise!
- Watch your posture. If you have bad posture then there’s a very good chance you’ll get a sore neck/back/shoulder. When working at a computer, you should: sit with your hips as far back as they can go in their chair, adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the ground and knees are around the height of your hips, place your keyboard low enough so that your shoulder’s are relaxed, sit an arm’s length away from the screen and finally, make sure the screen is at eye level. If you’re anything like me, then this will probably be bit of a challenge (I fidget so much you’d think the chair was on fire!), but it’s a lot easier if you’re having regular breaks.
- What to do when nothing is working? Try going for a 30 minute walk/jog/run while listening to music that makes you want to dance around! This always does the trick for me. Afterwards, I not only feel good about doing something that will benefit my body but my brain is much more alert and read for more study. Another good idea is just to take some time out and relax- whether this is taking a power nap, reading a book, watching an episode of your favourite T.V. show or taking a bath. Why sit there and struggle to take in any of the information when you can let your mind have a break and do something fun for 30 minutes or so and then come back as good as new. In the long run, you end up being more time efficient. Not to mention, much happier. Winning!
Happy studying everyone! If you have any other study tips, feel fee to leave a comment below 🙂 x