How much time did you spend studying this week? Was it five minutes, a few hours, or maybe even a few sessions overnight? There’s no getting around studying as a student, and there are only 24 hours in a day. However, you can refine your techniques and study more efficiently. Whether you are studying for exams or just keeping up with your schoolwork, these 10 study tips will help you study more efficiently.
1. Your syllabus might have some of the best study tips around.
Professors don’t give you a syllabus and study guides just for fun. They want you to succeed. Sometimes, professors will go the next step and break down exactly what is on the test. You would be crazy not to use this to your advantage! Things to look for are:
- What chapters have more weight on the exam. Sometimes there will be more questions from one chapter than another.
- What materials you are allowed to use on your exam. You might be lucky and be allowed notes during the test. Save time by making sure your notes highlight key topics. On the other hand, if you aren’t allowed to use notes, that’s a heads up you might want to make sure you know the material inside and out.
2. Skim through the content and read the headings and subheadings first.
Sometimes you will find that you can spend less time on a section because you already know the content from work experience or past classes. The only way to know this before you dive deep into the text is to skim through the headings. When I find that I am already familiar with a section, what I do is quickly go through that section and take notes of anything that is new to me. From there, I move on. This gives me more time to focus on more difficult sections.
3. Take concise notes.
If reading your notes is like reading the textbook all over again, you’ll ending spending more time than you need to studying. My goal when I read the material is to make sure I don’t have to read the textbook more than twice. The first time I read and take notes, and the second time is more comparing my notes to the text to make sure I got all the relevant information. When you take good, concise notes, you spend less time having to whip out that humongous textbook.
Bonus tip: It also helps if you rephrase your notes into your own words rather than copying the textbook. Rephrasing content helps verify that you do understand the content because you are able to explain it in your own words.
3. Try the Pomodoro technique.
Having a hard time staying focused? Try the Pomodoro technique. Lifehacker has a great guide to the Pomodoro technique to an in-depth article, but the gist of it is to choose a task and focus on completing it for 25 minutes and taking a five-minute break after the time is up. After four 25-minute sessions, you can take a longer break for 15 or 30 minutes. This is one of the study tips I wish I knew sooner because this technique has helped me stay focused on subjects I’m not interested in.
4. Create flashcards.
This old school technique that needs no introduction has stuck around for a reason: it works. I like to use Quizlet to create flashcards. What’s great about Quizlet is that also turns your flashcards into mix and match games and fill in the blank questions. There is also an app, which makes studying on the go a lot easier.
Bonus tip: Turn questions from quizzes into flashcards. You might see them again during your finals!
5. Regularly review your past notes.
We both know that midterms and finals will happen eventually. It can be difficult trying to remember something from week one when it’s already week six. Instead of struggling to remember what you learned five weeks ago, take a few minutes to read over past notes. It doesn’t have to be a full on session, just enough that you don’t forget. I use a printable from Study Quill to keep track of what I learned and when to review the content again.
Bonus tip: If you make productivity a habit, it’s easier to get into the rhythm of doing things like reviewing notes regularly.
6. Use other resources when needed.
Sometimes the textbook is not enough, and it’s okay to admit you need a little help. Here are some free resources that can give you some guidance:
- Khan Academy has so many resources from subjects like microeconomics to trigonometry and organic chemistry to computer programming. They even have information on test prep and personal finance.
- iTunesU has some free educational courses that might be able to supplement your current courses. If you are really struggling in a course, you might find some good information here.
- Ted-Ed has a wide variety of information presented by influential speakers. If you are a fan of educational animations, Ted-Ed has some of that too.
7. Look at past quizzes and review wrong answers.
You might find that you did a bit worse in one week than another, and it might be worth your time to spend a little extra time studying and reviewing the content for that week. An easy way to find out which topics were hard for you is to look at past scores. If possible, be sure you understand why your answers were wrong.
This is one of the study tips that often gets overlooked. Many times, students are so relieved that a test is over and done with that they forget finals usually encompass a lot of past content. Looking over past quizzes and tests will help you retain information and be more prepared for finals.
8. Use the discussion boards.
This is one of the study tips that are a bit more fun because you get to socialize. If your class has an online discussion board, use it! Sometimes it’s a faster way to get an answer, and an answer from a fellow classmate can be just as good as an answer from your professors. It’s a lot more efficient than trying to Google the answers.
9. Make use of your professor’s office hours.
Teachers and professors are some of the most hardworking individuals you will ever meet. After all, they are a major influence in shaping the minds of the future. When there is a question that you just cannot figure out no matter how many times you read and reread the text, your professor is there for you. However, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
- Introduce yourself. It’s nothing personal, but depending on how big your class is and whether or not there is much class involvement, your professor might not even know who you are.
- Arrive prepared. Nothing is worse than awkward silence, and it is up to you to lead the conversation. Your professor can’t help you if you don’t even know what kind of help you need.
- Be honest, but don’t make excuses. Dog ate your homework? No time to do homework? The professor has heard it all before. Instead of making excuses, be honest with your professor. If you are actually having issues, professors can be understanding and flexible with you. They are people too.
10. Take care of yourself.
Let’s face it. There’s no studying going on when you’re exhausted and worked to the bone. Being a student is tough. There’s a lot to juggle, and even more so if you have a clubs, activities, a job(s), or even a family to take care of. Don’t forget to take some time to take care of yourself. Self-care doesn’t even have to cost a dime.