If you have a test, final, or presentation to study for, you’ve got most of the battle out of the way once you’ve set the time aside, cleared your schedule, and sat down to get started. With studying, motivation and attentiveness are two of the most important factors. However, how you study is as important as how much you study. If you have bad or ineffective study habits, you’ll be wasting time with techniques that aren’t effective. Simply skimming through notes will leave you feeling bored and like you aren’t connecting with the material. Below are a variety of study tips that have been proven to increase results, boost memory, and keep you interested in what you’re studying.
Tips to Study More Effectively
Keep up with the Material
This won’t always be possible, but you have to do as much as you can to prevent that last minute studying dilemma. Most of us have been in that awful situation where we’ve had to learn entire subjects in one night of intense cramming. Sometimes tests are sprung upon us so we aren’t able to plan for them in advance and cramming is the only option. However, you have to take every opportunity to help yourself out in advance. Take a few minutes to review what you’ve learned each day and make notes. Clarify whatever you don’t understand with your teachers or profs. Reread your notes quickly from time to time to make sure you’ve got all the information you need, and keep your papers organized. This way, when you sit down to study, you’ll be organized and effective. You’ll be familiar with all the topics, and it’ll be a simple matter of going over your material instead of scrambling.
Set Plans and Goals
A theme among most of the good advice for studying is that it’s important to achieve balance. You want to spread out your studying into consistent, smaller chunks as much as you can. This will make studying less of a strain on you, but it has also been proven that the brain is more receptive to balanced intake of information instead of large binges. Before you start studying, take a look at what kind of results you’re hoping to achieve. Map out what steps you’ll need to take to get those results, and then give yourself a time frame to tackle each step. As you get more and more comfortable studying with a plan, you can plan further and further in advance, which will lead to better and better results. Setting concrete goals for what results you want to achieve can take the guesswork out of studying. You’ll be able to look at the results you ended up with, compare them to how much you studied, and adjust your study routine accordingly for the future.
Use Memory Tricks
Trying to remember large amounts of information without using memory tricks is unnecessarily hard. Uncategorized information is hard for anyone to pull from their brain at the drop of a hat. Try weaving all of the information you need to remember on a given topic into a story. Make up a story involving your friends, but substitute the things you need to remember for their names. Make up some of those ridiculous sentences where the first letter of every word matches the first letter of the word you’re trying to remember. When picking a memory trick, it helps to associate the information with a strong interest of yours, as that’ll help you commit it to memory more easily.
Write and Talk
Many people try to study by sitting and staring at the material, flipping through pages and trying to absorb information. This seems like the natural way to study; it’s how we read books so why wouldn’t it be how we read study material? However, just sitting and reading doesn’t form the strongest memory ties to what you’re reading. Both writing and speaking are better. Copy out your notes again, phrased slightly differently or written from memory. Read your notes aloud, or paraphrase them like a story to a friend or family member. There’s an Albert Einstein quote that says you don’t really understand something until you have the ability to explain it to someone in plain terms. Discussing your study material out loud is a good way to see if you pass this test. Our brain has a much easier time recalling something that we wrote or said than it does recalling sometimes that we glanced at. Find as many different ways as you can to interact with the stuff you need to study.
Unless you’re some kind of zen master, you probably have problems with social media procrastination. It’s easy to get sidetracked by studying and, almost unconsciously, start scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds. Head to a park or a coffee shop with your study material, and don’t bring any device that could possibly distract you. There are websites and apps that can disable your social media platforms while you’re attempting to study, if you often give in to distraction. You need to give studying your undivided attention. This means you need to find a way that works for you to avoid distracting technology while you’re trying to study.
Give Yourself Breaks
You know that feeling when you’ve been reading something and you suddenly realize it has been two pages and you haven’t been paying attention at all? That’s a clear sign that it’s time to take a break and recharge. Studying when you’re too tired or frazzled can do more harm than good. You’ll just tire yourself out and feel frazzled. Studying is best done when you’re well rested and can consider things calmly. Whenever you start to feel fatigued, take a small break and change your environment. Go for a walk outside to get your blood moving and clear your head. Make some coffee or tea, grab a snack, call a friend for a short chat. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break. Fairly-frequent, productive breaks can help your studying more than slogging on would.
Along the way, create tests, prompts, and quizzes for yourself. You set a study plan for yourself at the beginning, but now you need to check to see if your studying is going according to plan. If you’re further ahead or behind where you thought you’d be, adjust your schedule accordingly. Even better, get someone else to test you to stimulate a real test environment.
Study Right Before You Sleep
This seems to run contrary to the advice that you should sleep when rested, but it is more of a small trick to try out in addition to your regular studying. Some recent research has shown that information we receive around bedtime is remembered easily. This may be because the brain analyses and plays with the information while we’re sleeping. Right before you close your eyes, try reading some of your study material. In the morning, check to see if you’ve remembered it usually well. If you have, you’ve got another study trick to add to your arsenal.
Take a Break Just Before the Test
You’ve been cramming your brain full of information for days or weeks. You were up late the night before making last minute preparations. After this, the important thing is to rest and relax right before the test. If you’re feeling stressed and scanning your material at the last minute, your brain will feel jumbled and you’ll have a hard time reaching to the depths of it. Instead, listen to ambient music or look at some abstract art. Sit in silence, or doodle on a pad. Reflect calmly on the concepts you’ll need to know as a whole, not the bits of individual information. Drink a soothing beverage, stretch, and practice meditative breathing.
Perhaps the most important study tip will actually take place after you’ve taken the test and received your results. How did you do, compared with how hard you studied and how you thought you’d do? What things were you able to remember, and what parts made you slip up? By reflecting you achieved using certain techniques, you’ll always be able to plan for the future and do better next time until you become a study master.