Cultivating good study skills is a very personal process, especially because different kinds of content calls for different techniques. You will have to try a mix of things until you find something that works for you but these tips below will definitely steer you in the proper direction.
1. Review your notes within 12 hours of getting out of class.
This is probably the best tip out of the entire article because of how effective it is. When you get out of class, in just 24 hours you will forget up to 80% of the details even if you understood everything just fine during the lecture. However, if you review your notes later that day, the information will be stored in your long term memory!
When you go over your notes, improve upon them and circle things you don’t understand. Find the answers to your questions until you figure out everything completely before closing the books. When it comes time to study for the test, everything will be more like a review rather than something you have to learn from scratch all over again. This saves you time, reduces your stress, increases your confidence to ace the exam.
2. The importance of finding a place free of distractions.
Find a quiet place to study that’s not full of distractions. If your home or family is full of crazy, then get out of there. Study in your car. Study on the lawn. Study at the beach. Study in the library. Whatever works for you, go there, and study everyday. If you’re distracted by people watching, be honest with yourself and don’t go in busy places.
The reasoning: When I walk into the door of a classroom or library, my brain automatically goes into work mode. When I walk in my bedroom, my mind knows this is a place of relaxation, leisure and sleeping. This is the same idea as reserving your bed only for sleep and sex so your mind associates your bed with only those things. If you eat, sleep, and study all in the same place, then it’s very difficult to stay focused, and that’s not even taking into account the potential distractions from roommates or family members!
3. How to avoid falling asleep while starting to read something.
First of all your posture is very important. If you go and lie down on a couch to read a book, is it any mystery why you feel sleepy instantly? You’re lying on a couch! Sit up in a chair and read on a table. Immediately start to highlight, underline or circle keywords to keep your mind active.
If you have very intense reading to do, like a law student, go the extra step and write, rewrite, and summarize each paragraph in the margins. The very process of rewording something helps you understand the idea. For words that are a mouthful, like “staphylococcus“ or “the depolarization of the membrane potential,” don’t just skim over them! Say them out-loud to help you know how to say them rather than fear them.
4. How to deal with music while studying.
I used to think music helped me study, but all it did was provide a distraction for me to skip tracks or look for new music. Get some ear plugs to reduce the auditory distractions. They work really, really, really well.
If you need music, find something you can listen to, but not be distracted by. Vocals will often detract from what you are trying to read so go for ambient or instrumental music. If you’re into electronic music, I recommend deepmix radio, but like I said earlier, it might be better you don’t listen to music at all.
5. How to memorize like a MACHINE.
Flashcards are incredibly good at helping you memorize. Just go buy stacks of index cards and start filling them out with definitions, words, chemical names, formulas, anything you need no matter how simple or detailed! They work really well because you are essentially testing yourself while you use them and it will raise your confidence level.
Use mnemonics to help remember lists. The most common mnemonic is to take the first letter of each list item and make an acronym, sentence or name out of it. For example, Roy G Biv is commonly used to memorize the order of the seven colors of the rainbow.
6. Get a grip on procrastination.
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Set the work time to 1 hour and the play time to 10 minutes. The idea here is to give yourself short breaks so you don’t burn out. You don’t have to study for 3 hours non stop. And guess what? IT WORKS.
7. Always have water and some food with you.
I don’t know what it is about studying, maybe it’s because the brain is 90% water, but I’m always drinking water when I’m doing it. In addition to drinking water more often, bring some food so that you could keep going when, not if, you get hungry. If you go on for too long without food, your blood sugar drops and you will be easily confused and studying becomes more difficult than it needs to be.
8. Get the phone number from at least TWO people in your class.
This is very simply so that if you can’t attend class, you could ask someone what you missed for that day. The reason I say at least two is because if you get only one persons number and that person happens to be an idiot, then you have someone else that could help you. If you have trouble talking to strangers, asking someone for their number in case you can’t make it to class is a pretty easy ice breaker in itself.
While we’re on the topic of other people I’d like to add that studying in little groups is a great help as well. Surround yourself with people who are in similar situations and have high goals. It may take some effort to find a time and place (read: the library!) that works for everyone but it’s usually well worth it.
9. The insane stress of cramming.
If you are studying on the day of the exam you will notice that you will feel like you are not catching up no matter how much you go over. As testing time gets closer on that day, you will get more and more stressed out. The amount of anxiety and stress from cramming, even when you are quite prepared, is astounding.
Something I learned from my brother is to not leave school until you finish all your reading and homework for the following day. Stay in the library as long as you have to so that when you go home, you are FREE. (This ties in nicely with #2!)
10. ALL THIS MEANS NOTHING IF YOU DON’T FOCUS.
There’s nothing more messed up with the young generation than their short attention span due to the flurry of distractions everywhere. People thought things got bad when TV came about but apparently that’s nothing compared to the Internet and cell phones. It’s up to you to improve upon yourself and deal with it because these things aren’t going to disappear!
You NEED to focus. You MUST focus. That means when it’s time to study, you have to do that and only that. You’re not going to get anywhere if you study for five minutes then go on Facebook and then go back to studying.
I wrote an article on specifically how to increase concentration, productivity, and remove distractions. In there I recommend to reduce the clutter on your desk, put your phone away, and concentrate for a solid hour on nothing but your work. I also explain the concept of subconscious sabotage which I find most fascinating.
That’s it! Now go and study!
Now go ahead, set aside some study time and get to it! Also, PLEASE remember to get your sleep! Your study time won’t be worth much if you’re tired all the time. Even if you feel okay on just 5–6 hours of sleep, you may not realize that you’re operating at just 70% of your full ability!
Anyway! Hope that helps! If you have any more tips that work for you, please feel free to share it with us below!