It’s July and many of you are probably starting to look forward to (or dread, take your pick) school in the fall.
Or maybe it’s December and exams are looming on the very near horizon.
Or maybe it’s April and the year is really starting to drag on and you’re ready to just be done with it all.
In any case, knowing how to study is kind of a key bit.
Even if you don’t have any studying to do right now, sock away these ten study tips in your mental file cabinet—or bookmark them—for handy reference when the time comes:
One of the most important things you could ever do for your life is to organize it. My grandma tells the story of a friend of hers who went completely blind overnight. From then on, she was resolved to always have a place for everything and have everything in that place, just in case something like that happened to her. I don’t think she’s lost anything in the past half-century or so.
Keep your study space clean and neat, with only what you’re working on out. More clutter = more distractions. Also, knowing exactly where everything is will really cut down on wasted time.
Speaking of time, plan it out. Here’s what I do: every Monday, I sit down and look at all my calendars and schedules and syllabi and stuff like that. I plan out what I have to do each day, from Monday straight through the weekend. All that gets put into OneNote, but you can use a piece of paper and a pencil; I like OneNote because I can shuffle items around easily if I need to. Every morning, I’ll print out the list, and as the day goes by, I’ll check off what I’ve done. Next day, same thing until everything is gone and I’m free!
If you’re like most people getting into the swing of things each day, even when you have a plan, is kinda tough. Fortunately, I happen to have written about just that here.
Anyway, a huge benefit of planning out your week is that you never have to worry about what you’re doing on any given day. Big assignment? No big deal—just plan out the small chunks and slot them into whatever day you want. Do whatever you have to do for the day and sleep peacefully with nothing hanging over your head.
While we’re on the topic, sleep is hugely important. You’ve probably all seen the memes about naptime being wasted on the kindergarteners, and it’s absolutely true. You have to get a healthy amount of sleep each night. It’s hard… trust me, I know. But cramming really never helps and a good night’s sleep can do more for your body and even your grades than just about anything else.
Plan out your day and get to sleep at a good hour. It’s well worth it.
4. Be Consistent
This is pretty much true of everything in the whole universe for the rest of your life. Whether it’s showing up for a job every day or feeding your fish, consistency is key. In regards to studying, think of things like where and when you study.
If you study at the same time or the same place each day, you’ll train your body and mind to go into study mode in that place at that time. Of course, there is something to be said for mixing things up: studying outside on a nice day for a change of pace. But for many people, especially easily distracted folks like myself, a consistent time and place is probably the best route to go.
5. Learn How You Learn
This means a couple things. First off, find out what learning style you have. Are you an auditory learner, and learn best by listening? Or are you a visual learner—someone can explain something all they want, but until you see it… no dice.
Another thing is in regards to study tips. If doing pushups while reciting your times tables is what helps you learn, then by all means go for it! Know yourself, find out what works for you, learn how you learn… and then stick to it!
Okay, those first five were kinda general, grand-scheme-of-life things. These last five are more specific study tips, things that maybe you can incorporate into how you learn (like in tip #5).
Ah flashcards… seems like everyone hates flashcards. Mention flashcards and you’ll see some people start involuntarily twitching. Nobody in their right mind actually likes flashcards.
Which is a shame, because they’re awesome. Face it, few things in life are better for learning something than flashcards. It’s like your own mini-test, shuffled, cut and dealt just for you. If you’re having trouble remembering something or if you need to learn something quick, flashcards are the way to go.
7. Teach Someone Else
This is undoubtedly one of the single best ways to find out how much you really know about something. Go ahead, grab a friend and start talking. If there are any gaps or holes in your knowledge, you’ll learn about them pretty quickly. If not, by explaining what you know, you internalized it in your own words. Huge, especially if you have an upcoming essay test.
8. Outline the Info
This is great for classes that use a textbook in conjunction with lectures (not all classes do). Basically, without looking, make an outline or study guide about the course. Main points, sub-points, everything. Whatever you can remember, put it down.
This works similar to teaching someone else in that any gaps in your knowledge will pop right out to you. Go ahead and fill in that knowledge and then fill in your outline. Oh, and by the way, you now have a customized study guide for any test that may rear its ugly head.
9. Study Groups
Personally, study groups were the bane of my college existence. I never much cared for them and I tended to learn a little better on my own.
However, they are well worth it for many people. If you have any questions about the material, odds are that someone in the study group will be able to help. For things like philosophy or literature courses, study groups are awesome: discussing the subject matter almost always leads to great ideas being tossed around.
Last but really not at all least, study groups are a lot of fun. Just make sure you actually study.
It’s not really a study tip, but tutors can just about always help. If you are really struggling in an area, get some help! There’s no sense in trying to slog through something you don’t understand. Many colleges have free tutoring centers, and for those that don’t, other students will often help you. If you need a help, don’t be embarrassed to ask someone for it!
What do you think?
What are some study tips you’ve found helpful?
Which of these do you think you’re best at? Or worst?
I’d love to hear your thoughts – join the discussion in the comments below.