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22 Study Tips for More Effective Studying
No matter what you’re studying, academics can be a challenging hurdle. You’re developing new skills, familiarizing yourself with new concepts, meeting new people — and that’s before we talk about classwork. Intramural activities like sports, clubs, employment and social events further reduce the amount of time you have to study — or even breathe.
If your current schedule and your current workload have you more than a little stressed, we certainly understand.
Before you drop out of school and pursue a 30-day clown certification, take a moment to review our recommended study tips. We can’t guarantee straight As, but we can certainly help you study smarter — not harder — and replace stress with some peace of mind.
1. Spice up your surroundings
It’s much easier to say “No” to studying and “Yes” to Netflix if you’re already horizontal on your bed.
Get up. We can wait.
Stretch your legs, and shake things up a bit.
Even a little movement can help improve your blood flow and improve your academic mindset. Sometimes all you need to do is move to a different room of your house to mentally separate the different activities you complete throughout the day.
Also, no one said you need to study in the same boring places. Explore your local park, beach or coffeeshop as potential study spots. Maybe it’s even warm enough to sit outside on your patio or balcony, soaking up the sun while you familiarize yourself with the material for next week’s exams.
2. Daily routine = daily success
Here’s a foundational study tip for any student: Get enough sleep.
Rest and productivity share a parallel relationship, no matter what you do for a living. Students in particular need sleep to feel productive. Building your study routine around your sleep schedule is the first step to maximizing your study potential.
Commit to a daily routine. When you are intentional with your time, you can more easily focus on each task at hand. Going through the same or similar routine day after day may sound boring, or even difficult; however, success is rarely found by accident.
Healthy, intentional study habits can help bring you closer to your goals.
3. Two heads are better than one
There are certainly benefits to studying alone. However, studying alongside friends — particularly peers in the same classes — can help you learn concepts they may have mastered. In addition, friends can often explain terms in a different way than your instructors might.
Even if you already have a solid grasp on the material, teaching it to someone else can help further strengthen your understanding of key concepts.
4. Optimize your study zone
The fewer distractions you have in your study environment, the easier it will be for you to sit down and learn. Whether it’s a particular scent, snack or setting, make sure you optimize your study zone for yourself and no one else. As long as it’s not distracting, calm music can further improve your focus.
5. Rewrite your notes
If you have a photographic memory, feel free to grab a snack and skip this step.
For the rest of us, rewriting notes is a great way to retain information.
In their original format, notes are sometimes messy and difficult to understand. Especially if you’re trying to keep up with a fast-talking professor, rewriting your notes again after class — or days later — helps refresh concepts after class concludes.
6. Don’t forget the prep work
You don’t want to go into class completely lost. If you do so, you’ll spend most of class playing mental catch-up instead of processing new information.
Even if you’ve spent 5 hours looking over class material the night before, take 5-10 minutes to review notes before class begins. This will help keep key concepts top of mind, and should help you learn new information that builds on existing terms.
7. Establish your academic hierarchy of needs
Before the year’s classes hit full speed, take a moment or two to establish your largest academic priorities. Which classes will be the most challenging for you? Which might require the most work?
On the surface, the answers to these questions might not seem related at all to studying. However, studying — just like coursework and research and sleep — takes time. Make sure to include studying in your academic hierarchy of needs, to budget enough time for pre-exam review.
8. Get a planner, or maybe two
Use a planner — or planners — to stay organized. Organized students are already a step closer to the academic results they’re looking to achieve.
9. Break down your assignments
Large tasks can be daunting. Break down your study assignments into smaller, more achievable steps. As you reach and complete these steps, you’ll develop a self-confidence snowball that helps drive you toward your end goals.
10. Take good notes
Don’t try to keep up with your professor word-for-word. Instead, use abbreviations or symbols to capture the main concepts. If your class has PowerPoint presentations, print out the slides beforehand and write directly on them, to avoid rewriting what a professor has already included in his or her notes.
11. Ask for help
It’s okay to ask for help! There are plenty of instructors and academic advisors who want the best for you and your academics. Take advantage of the resources your institution makes available to you, especially if they offer study assistance.
12. Ghost your distractions
Mute your phone, abandon your noisy roommate or get your friend to change your Netflix password for the week. Identify your study goals and don’t let anything get in your way.
13. Cramming is not as effective as you think
This might be the most important study tip we have to offer. Pace yourself. School is a marathon, not a panicked sprint. A little every day is a much more effective strategy than everything at once.
If you’re taking four courses, and you spend 30 minutes per day reviewing and studying for each class, that’s only 2 hours of study time. You’re still likely to retain more information through short, regular study sessions over one or two cramming periods in the days before an exam.
14. Understanding vs. memorization
Know when you need to understand a concept in its entirety and when you can simply memorize the key concepts. For example, you might only need to memorize a conjugation chart for an upcoming Spanish test. By contrast, you’ll probably need to understand how the human cardiovascular system works for your upcoming biology exam.
15. Study smart
If the professor says, “This will be on the exam,” you might want to listen.
That’s the entire tip. Listen to your instructor’s suggestions when it comes ™ to pre-exam studying.
16 Treat yo’ self
Even if it’s going out for ice cream after finishing a study session, sometimes we need a little motivation. It’s ok to provide yourself incentives to get through long, difficult or undesirable assignments.
17 Be realistic
Don’t set goals for yourself that are impossible to achieve. When you fall short, you’ll feel bad and it will be harder to get up and restore your path to progress.
Instead, pursue realistic goals throughout the course of the semester. You won’t necessarily need to complete all the required reading by the third week of the semester, for example. Instead, commit to reading a chapter a day as you stay up to date with your other classwork.
18. Take breaks
We’re assuming that you’re a human, not a robot. And humans need pacing.
Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean completely shutting down. Be intentional about taking walks during your study sessions, or calling a friend you haven’t talked to in a while — anything to break up the monotony studying may have created.
19. Don’t just read; make it your own
You might feel pretty accomplished after reading 17 chapters in an hour — but as soon as you start to think about what you’ve read, you might find that you remember little of the material.
Reading is not just about plowing through a text. Pause and take notes, and if you can, underline passages that stand out or cause you to ask further questions.
20. Plan your semester, your week and your day
The end goal of each semester is to complete each course to the best of your ability.
When you know your long-term goals, you can see the smaller goals in light of the bigger picture. You can see how each day feeds into each week, and how each week feeds into short and long-term success.
Spend some time at the beginning of each week prioritizing your goals. Each day, set goals and a schedule for the next day so that you’re ready to start when you wake up.
21. Don’t waste “easy weeks”
If you finish assignments early or if your professor cancels class, don’t waste the time. Catch up on readings or evaluate upcoming assignments.
It’s important to stick to your schedule. Commit to working on your classes even when you don’t have a project due in the immediate future.
22. Find confidence
You are capable of accomplishing your goals. Your unique gifts and talents — properly used — are your ticket to the academic and professional future you deserve.
If you find you have to reprioritize or reassess coursework, don’t worry; every person is different. Each individual path to success will look different from the next.
If you’re ready to distance yourself from academic stress and pursue the academic career you deserve, Pace is ready to help. We offer full courses that can help level up your career in record time, all with the support you need to study well along the way.
Talk to a PACE advisor — whether you have questions or you're ready to enroll — and start setting academic goals today.