Study smarter: 10 realistic tips

By Sol Natalia Dieguez / December 17, 2020
Study Smarter

To be able to study more effectively in a shorter amount of time sounds like every student’s dream, right? Well, it is achievable if you pay attention to how you study instead of just measuring for how long you do it. 

Nobody wants to feel as if their days are wasting away amidst a pile of textbooks. You should take solid action to transform the way you study and get better results over time. Even if you gradually incorporate one of the following changes, you’ll be able to see improvements, not only reflected in your grades but also in the way you feel when you’re studying. These ten simple and realistic tips will help you study smarter, not harder.

  1. Time block your day for studying 

Sometimes even the simple prospect of having to study can be overwhelming to such an extent that you might feel tempted to keep delaying it over and over again, ending up with no progress at all by nightfall. Time blocking your day with specific time slots reserved for studying can help you avoid this. You just have to select a moment of your day, commit to studying for the duration of it whether it’s one hour or four, and get to it. You’ll find it easier to focus knowing you have a set time to study and how much is left to your next break. 

  1. Manage your distractions, don’t multitask 

Writing an essay whilst watching Netflix is never going to lead to satisfying results, you’ll end up with poor relaxation time and a non-productive study session. It’s much more effective to just free yourself of any distraction for a specific amount of time and to later allow those distractions to kick in during a break. A great way to tackle this is by using the Pomodoro Technique or by blocking your internet connection to all non-study sites with a browser extension. 

  1. Don’t be afraid of that crappy first draft

You’ll most likely never ace that first attempt at anything, at that math paper or visual arts essay. Likewise, you’ll never surprise yourself if you never try. That sloppy first draft will be your foundation to an A+ final outcome. Even if you feel like you’re doing it wrong, even if you feel like those first words you’ve written are terrible, it’s better than sitting around doing nothing because you’re too scared of failure to even try. Remember: you can always edit or correct something, but only if you get to the point to have something to improve upon. 

  1. Create a study space 

Just like your study sessions will be more efficient if you make a consistent schedule, they’ll also benefit from having a specific study location. I know it can sound overrated, but we tend to be creatures of habit, and study is just one of those things that improve with a lot of consistency. You’ll be able to focus better if you’re used to studying in a certain space. Not to mention you’ll be way more comfortable setting up a desk in your room or settling down at the library instead of just attempting to concentrate at random places. 

  1. Don’t cram it all up in your mind, go through the information periodically 

Pulling out an all-nighter right before a big test is never going to work unless you’ve previously put in the hours. It’s easier to understand the material if you go little by little instead of trying to learn every lesson in a single study session. Maybe go through unit 1 in the first week, then unit 2, and so on. Consistency overrules speeding when it comes to getting the material to stick with you. 

  1. Simplify and summarize the material 

On the same note as above, trying to learn every last comma from the material is not the most effective way to go around it. If you have a 300-page textbook to study for the next midterm, highlighting all those words will do little for your learning process. Instead, try to make a summary or a conceptual network with the information you consider the most relevant. This way you won’t be overwhelmed by having to memorise hundreds of pages of material and you’ll just have to make sure you remember the data you’ve selected. 

  1. Practice active recall

Active recall involves retrieving information from memory through testing yourself at every stage of the revision process so your brain has to come up with the answer on its own instead of just passively reading your notes. It’s an efficient way of moving information from short-term to long-term memory so you’ll be able to remember it when you need it the most. It basically consists of quizzing yourself regularly. The use of flashcards or doing practice exams are some ways you can implement active recall when you study, allowing you to remember what you’re learning without any additional help. 

  1. Beat the forgetting curve by reviewing your notes regularly 

This is all about spaced repetition and helping yourself remember the information over longer periods of time. It works like this: when you first learn something as more time passes the more you forget, but every time you go through that information again you remember it once more and therefore reset the forgetting curve. The great thing is that every time the curve is reset you retain the information for a longer period of time than before. By reviewing your notes regularly you’re doing yourself the favour of helping your brain remember your study material for a more extended period of time and with much more clarity than before. 

  1. Switch up the classes you’re studying for during the day 

Burnout is real, folks. If you spend the entire day studying for a single subject, then you’ll most likely end up hating its guts after a few hours. The trick lies in switching it up whenever you feel exhausted and overwhelmed by a subject, simply moving to the next one can feel like a breath of fresh air. Though sometimes it might not be possible to do so if, for example,  you have a midterm the following day, you can try reviewing a different unit or learning theme whenever you feel a particular one is getting the best of you. This will prevent burnout from happening more often, but you have to remember to take regular breaks as well. 

  1. Set specific goals for yourself 

It’s much more attainable to commit to finishing the first two units during the afternoon than just proclaiming you’ll study as much as you can. Setting targets for yourself will help you stay motivated rather than getting frustrated because you never feel like you’ve done enough. If there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, then you might start wondering why you keep moving in the first place. Specific goals contribute to feeling as if you’ve accomplished a tangible result at the end of each session, and it helps with organisation as well. Bonus points if you reward yourself with an extra break or an outing with friends after achieving one of those goals. This will keep you motivated and in a healthier state of mind over time. 

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    Sol Natalia Dieguez

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