5 different ways to study smarter this exam season

By Sean Barrett / April 6, 2021
5-different-ways-to-study-smarter-this-exam-season

This week, we were witness to the first glimpses of summer, a time of warmth and opportunities. Still, it is also a reminder of exam season for many of us, and with it comes the inevitable stress, fear, and doubt that many students are forced to endure. As we all know, exams are demanding in the best of times, but they prove to be even more of a daunting challenge for students this year.

“We are living through unprecedented times”. Although this phrase has become majorly clichéd, it still rings true again and again, especially when it comes to students. 73% of students are currently worrying about staying on top of their academic work.

Even the thought of having to study may be exhausting at times, and you can find yourself procrastinating again and again, finding other tasks to complete and making little progress at all to your study workload come nightfall. This is an issue of trying to study harder, not smarter, but effective study methods differ from person to person. Whatever your case, consider some of the following tips on learning effectively when stuck at home.

5-different-ways-to-study-smarter-this-exam-season

Find out your learning style

“Learning style” is a common psychological and educational term that aims to determine how people learn best. There are various methods for classifying learning types, but the VARK model is among the most widely used techniques. According to the VARK model, there are four main categories of learners: Visual, Auditory, Reading/writing, and Kinesthetic. Knowing what type of learner you are will help you approach your studies more effectively by determining when, where, and how you should study.

If you are unaware of which learning styles suit you best, there are numerous books and websites available at your disposal, or you can always take a VARK questionnaire to help give you a starting point on how exactly you learn best.

Make a practical study space for yourself

It may seem obvious for some, but your ability to study effectively is entirely dependent on your study space. After all, you can’t hope to learn well if you can’t focus or feel at ease in your environment. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic’s restrictive nature, students everywhere have far fewer choices when it comes to carving out a successful study area that suits their needs. For me personally, I have always found it challenging to be studious at home, preferring the environments found in libraries or other quiet spaces where there are far fewer distractions pulling me away from my work.

As a consequence of only studying away from the house, it became crucial for me to create a study atmosphere somewhere at home that promotes efficiency while minimising distractions. To set up your study centre, find a comfortable desk or table area, determine whether you are more efficient in an open or closed room, and commit to studying only in this space and using this space exclusively for studying.

5-different-ways-to-study-smarter-this-exam-season

Set specific goals every day

Completing the first two items of planned study in the evening is much more practical than merely agreeing to study as much as possible. Setting achievable goals for yourself will keep you motivated longer.

Having attainable study goals will keep you from becoming frustrated and burnt out, while also stopping yourself from feeling like you didn’t accomplish nearly enough. If there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, you will soon begin to wonder why you started your journey in the first place.

Specific goals make you feel like you’ve achieved something tangible at the end of each session, and they also help with the overall organisation of your workload.

Prevent Multitasking and distractions

Multitasking does not increase productivity and, in reality, will harm your study goals. If you want to study smarter, not harder, you’ll need to minimise distractions during your study sessions. Allowing yourself to be distracted by social media, web browsing, or texting can significantly impact your study sessions’ intensity. Multitasking (e.g., reacting to notifications while studying) increases the amount of time required to learn content and lowers the quality of the learning. Only by removing these distractions can you focus entirely on your studies.

Preventing distractions is simple: don’t use your computer if you don’t need it for assignments; and utilise apps to help you set limits on how much time you can spend on social media each day. But don’t forget to reward yourself for your hard work by taking a social media break after every milestone.

A method I have used to help break up study periods and prevent distractions has been the Pomodoro technique, which fortunately has plenty of study along YouTube videos to assist you further.

Only start when you are ready

We can’t focus our sole attention on studying all the time; it’s just not possible. To help prevent interruptions or disruptions by an incomplete to-do list, take care of all daily tasks before beginning your study session. Getting chores out of the way allows you to concentrate on the job at hand much more quickly. Plus, rather than dreading the tasks that must be accomplished, you should look forward to relaxing fully once your study period is over.

This includes preparing your meals for the day beforehand because obviously, you’re going to have to eat something. Your body and brain need fuel to help stay in top form. Plus, it’s difficult to focus when your stomach is constantly growling. By preparing everything in advance, you’re preventing the opportunity to be distracted!

5-different-ways-to-study-smarter-this-exam-season

 Learning to study effectively takes time, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to start now. There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”   As exam season passes by, all that matters is that you are proud of yourself for making it to the other side, hopefully with the work done and yourself unscathed.

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About the author

Sean Barrett

Sean is a 2nd-year politics student in UL (University of Limerick) who loves all things history related; Sean enjoys writing articles on Pop culture, history, art and music. You can find him on Twitter @SeanieBarrettJr

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