Studying is challenging enough without having distractions around you. So what are the top tips to study effectively?
My kids have two completely different studying techniques - both of which are effective for them - and neither one would use the method followed by the other! One sits at the kitchen table, sets a goal to achieve - i.e. making an essay plan by lunchtime, and then ploughs through it within that timeframe. The other works best with short focused sessions - à la Pomodoro technique - and does that regularly throughout the day or over a certain time period. Both ways work well for them. The aim is to find the study method that works best for you, and stick with it.
Follow these tips to proactively get the best out of your study sessions.
Tip #1 - Tell everyone to get lost!
Yes I mean it! Either isolate yourself away from family members or friends, and really focus by yourself. You can't concentrate on searching for reference sources to update your bibliography when the family dog is jumping up and down for his daily walk, or your younger brother wants to play football. If you cannot get peace and quiet in your house or bedroom, then go to the library to study where noise is prohibited.
Tip #2 - Schedule a time that suits you best
Are you a morning or an evening person, i.e. are you most alert and efficient early or later in the day? Personally, I’m most efficient in the morning – I make a list the night before and work rapidly through it first thing, before I then tackle bigger tasks. My creative time i.e. writing blogs (or essays for you) is later in the day.
Find out when your brain works best to retain information and channel that energy into a specific study goal.
Tip #3 - Remove the distractions
Schedule study periods in your calendar and stick to it. Particularly in the run-up to exams. Commit a time period every day and use the Pomodoro method to help focus in small, concentrated periods of 25 mins then take a water break. After four consecutive periods of 25 min sessions, go for a walk and clear your head.
Most importantly, put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode, turn off Notifications, and keep the phone out of reach so you don’t pick it up out of habit. If you use the Pomodoro method, set the phone alarm for 25 minutes, and leave the phone on the other side of the room so you can get up and stretch your legs and take a break once the study session is up. Beware though, to set your break times too, so you get back into study mode again quickly.
Tip #4 - Use revision tools to help retain info
Do you use revision cards – question or info on one side, the answer on the back? Do you write out copious notes to memorize? Do you use different colour pens to categorize topics or statements? Or are you one of the lucky few who can read a page and commit it to photographic memory? Choose what works best for you and be consistent so you’re focused on the topic, not the different methods of retention.
Tip #5 - Organise your study notes
Ideally, as a start student, you will have been reviewing your course work regularly, and maybe even making study notes / cheat sheets along the way, knowing you'll have to revise for exams periodically. No? oh well, there's another tip then!
You may be given a head’s up from your tutors on the topics that will be included in exams. Note them down, and organize your study notes accordingly. That way, you can methodically work through each topic thoroughly, and you know where to find them for quick recall sessions.
Do not procrastinate!
I say this in the beginning chapter of my book From High School to Uni (see link in our SHOP tab to buy). Procrastinating just puts off the inevitable last minute panic, which blocks your brain and prevents you thinking clearly. Last minute cramming leads to stress, insomnia, anxiety and will prevent you from doing well in your studies or exam. Schedule regular study periods where you go over class notes to remind you of the topics – easy to preach, less interesting to do, I know. But it does help, I promise!
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