Studying is an inevitable part of every student's life. Yet, despite being something we all have to go through, few of us know how to study in a way that will actually help us. More often than not, we find ourselves sitting at a desk, and quickly get distracted by our phones, or a conversation with a friend. This can lead to wasted study time and feelings of inadequacy and stress, which can in turn negatively affect exam performance.
If this is something you relate to, don't worry! The good thing about studying is that it's something that you can get better at with practice and hard work. This article will suggest eleven tips for you to take up this semester to help utilize your time effectively, and make your studying pay off.
1. Establish a Schedule
Before you begin the actual process of studying, set out a schedule and work out in advance what your study plan is.
If you're someone who enjoys being extremely organized, you can make a schedule for a few weeks or a month in advance, so you know exactly what you'll be doing and when. However, this is not essential - it's completely fine to only plan what you're going to be doing during the week or even the day before. The important thing is that there's an intention behind your studies, and it's not something you're just making up as you go along.
Planning a set of tasks that you're going to do is a great way of ensuring you don't procrastinate. It will mean that you have a specific goal to work towards, instead of just a general vague aim to study that's easy to neglect.
2. Figure Out How You Learn Best
How do you best learn information? Is it through cue cards? Maybe short, memorable rhymes? Or perhaps posters stuck around your house?
There are many different ways to learn information, so figure out which works best for you. It may be just one specific method, such as mindmaps, or a combination of a few.
Don't feel worried if your friend is getting all A's by using cue cards, but that method doesn't work for you - no two people are the same, and we all have our unique methods.
Knowing how you best learn information will ensure you use your time and energy effectively instead of engaging in methods that don't work for you.
3. Eliminate Distractions
One of the most common ways studying goes downhill, is when people become distracted by what's around them. It's easy to start studying and then find yourself losing focus due to the distractions around you. Things such as music, background television and a friend's chatter can all lead to you getting sidetracked from your studies.
You have to be ruthless; your study time is for working, and everything else must be put aside. Your television show can wait until you've finished - what matters right now is getting your work done!
4. Find a Good Work Environment
Having a good work environment can help you eliminate distractions, as well as put you in the right headspace. Figure out where you work best - maybe it's in a study cubicle in the library, or at a local cafe with a cup of coffee to keep you energised.
It may take some trial and error - for example, you may realize that working in your bedroom leads to you peeking at your bed out of the corner of your eye, and so you start working in the library instead. Don't worry if it takes a while; the important thing is you eventually get it right. Going to an environment where you work well will help put you in a focused mindset, and ensure you utilize your time effectively.
5. Talk to Past Students
Talking to past students who have studied the subject you're currently studying can be highly useful. Seeing others who have succeeded at your subject is a good way of keeping yourself motivated, and they may also have some tips and advice to pass on to you that you may find beneficial.
You can get in contact with past students by talking to friends of older siblings, asking your teacher if they know anyone you can talk to, and posting on forums such as The Student Room.
6. Do Past Exam Papers / Questions
If you're someone who studies by making notes and then rereading them but is finding that this isn't working for you, why not try doing some practise exam questions?
Doing past questions is a great way of revising more actively rather than just passively reading notes over and over again. It can also help familiarise you with the way exam questions are written, and make your end exam seem less daunting. Additionally, doing exam questions can also help you notice the areas where you’re struggling, and need to revise further.
7. Focus on What You Don't Know
When studying, it's important to focus mainly on the areas where you’re lacking confidence, as opposed to the things you already know.
It’s always tempting to do the latter, as studying what you know makes you feel good about yourself. However, although it may feel nice in the short run, in the long run it’ll be harmful, as it will result in you neglecting the areas where you need to improve.
It may be difficult at first, but focusing on what you don't know will ultimately increase your confidence in all areas of the subject you’re studying.
8. Download Study Apps
Using study apps to write and store notes can be more useful than writing them down on paper, as you can keep them all in one easily accessed place. Such apps also allow you to study wherever you are; say you're waiting for the bus on your way home from school, you can just pull out your phone and spend some time going over some flashcards while you wait.
Quizlet is a great app for people who revise using flashcards and helpfully allows you to test yourself, as well as focus on the areas that you're struggling with. GitMind is a good option for those who prefer making mindmaps, with the app also allowing you to outline essay plans.
If neither of these apps appeals to you, then scroll through the app store, because there are hundreds of study apps out there for you to choose from!
9. Try Blurting
Blurting is a revision method which has seen a spike in popularity among students in the last few years. It involves going over your notes, and then quickly writing down all the information that you can remember. You can then use your notes to see what you remembered, and what you forgot. This will help commit the information you remember to long-term memory, as well as make you aware of what your weaknesses are, and where you need to revise further.
This is a great revision method to try out when you have exams around the corner and need to quickly establish your strengths and weaknesses.
10. Consolidate Notes
This tip may seem obvious, but it's one a surprisingly large number of people fail to do. Consolidating notes involves only including information that it's imperative you know, and nothing extraneous. Don't worry about having aesthetically pleasing notes - it's hard to hear, but pretty doodles aren't going to help you study!
Jotting down only key information will ensure you don't waste precious time memorizing information you don’t need to know and ensure what you do need to know sticks in your head.
11. Reward Yourself
And now for the final tip: remember to reward yourself! If you’ve just had a particularly long study session, why not treat yourself to a coffee or a slice of cake? The reward doesn’t have to be huge - the important thing is you’re reminding yourself that you’re doing a great job, as well as keeping your motivation up.
Rewarding yourself is also a good way to prevent procrastination. Instead of saying to yourself that you’re going to watch ten more minutes of your favorite television programme, tell yourself that after you’ve done a few hours of studying, you can watch two whole episodes.
Hopefully, these tips will help you take your studies to the next level, and ensure that you're studying in the most effective way possible.
It does take time to implement these tips into your study regime, but don't give up! Remember: studying is a skill, one you can - and will - get better at.