If you find yourself preparing for an upcoming exam, feel overwhelmed by the apparently large amount of material you have to cover or are simply looking for some strategies that will help you to study more effectively in the future, then you will most likely find this article to be quite useful. Just one more thing before you dig into it, it should be noted that these tips are written from the perspective of a University student, however, most of them can be used and applied by anyone who wants to learn how to study more effectively, to make the most out of his/her time and efforts.
How to study effectively – The best study tips
1. Pick a calm and comfortable environment with a pleasant atmosphere
Some people like to study at a library as they find it easier to concentrate since the atmosphere is very calm and there are little distractions. In addition, you are surrounded by many people who also have to study, which may also help to boost your motivation by constantly being reminded that you are not the only one who has to get to work. Nevertheless, studying at home can also be quite effective and it provides some advantages For example, you will probably have access to your kitchen for when you need to take a break and grab a bite. You just need to make sure that you have a calm and comfy room at home and make sure that you cannot easily be distracted (in case there are other people in the house/apartment). For that purpose you can hang a sign that reads something like: “Studying! Do Not Disturb!”, to let people know that you will be busy and do not wish to be disturbed. If you do decide to study at home, a great way to improve the learning atmosphere is by making use of a color changing lamp such as the ones manufactured by Philips such as this one for example. They are not absolutely necessary but you can rest assured that once you have one you won’t want to miss it!
2. Turn off any possible distractions
While this may seem quite obvious, it is often overlooked. So, if you are in your room, make sure that there are no devices turned on such as a T.V. a radio or even your cell phone, as these will most likely also serve as distractions. If you are learning on your Laptop, then close your email accounts and also any social media sites to avoid getting distracted by these as well.
3. Listen to calm music
There is research that provides evidence suggesting that listening to certain types of music or sounds while studying can enhance concentration and improve learning effectiveness. It is particularly useful to listen to instrumental pieces such as classical music and avoid regular songs containing vocals, as these can easily distract the listener. You can also find great compilations of playlists of classical and non classical instrumental music, that were compiled especially to be used for study purposes, on sites such as youtube.com. Click here for an example.
4. Split the material into sizable chunks and plan ahead
Often you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of material that you are faced with and you may not know where to start. Therefore, it makes sense to have a plan laid out (either mentally or written down) of how you intent to proceed with the learning the given material. This requires you to be able to roughly estimate how much material you will be able to cover in one learning session. By doing this, you can split the material into sizable chunks which are easier to digest and distribute the workload over the number of days you expect will be necessary to go through all of the material. It is also a great idea to always make sure to plan in such a way that you always have an extra day or two (before a deadline or an exam) so that, if for some reason you underestimate the material in your planning, you will still have some more time to cover it.
5. Record lectures and play them back at double speed when learning
If you are in college then it can also be a really great idea to record the lectures you attend (just remember to always ask your professor for permission to avoid getting into trouble). When you are studying you can then play them back at 1.5 or 2 times the normal speed while you are going through the slides to prepare for an exam. This can be a quite effective learning tool!
6. Reward yourself for your efforts
After each study session you should give yourself a small reward like small a piece of chocolate or simply something you really enjoy. This will help you to stay motivated and provide you with something to look forward to, when you start to study.
7. Take regular small breaks
You should also always remember to take small breaks in between learning sessions. Your mind needs a rest every once in a while in order to restore energy and allow you to stay concentrated while you are learning. Therefore, if you study for about 45 minutes in one session, then you should take a break of about 10 to 15 minutes to recharge your batteries. You could go for a short walk, prepare yourself a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate or whatever tickles your fancy, and just put your mind in another place for a while, before getting back to your studies.
8. (When time is short) Focus on what is most relevant
This should be quite obvious but sometimes we are not able to see the forest for the trees and we waste lots of time studying material which will not help us achieve our goals. For example, when studying for an exam you may be told that you have to read countless of book chapters as well as dozens of academic articles. However, we all know that only a fraction of the content which you are supposed to learn will actually be tested in any given exam. Therefore, particularly when you are short in time, it makes a lot of sense to spend some quality time skimming through material, such as the slides of the lectures, to identify the topics and areas where the professor places the biggest emphasis. This will help you to focus on the most relevant topics and keep you from wasting countless of hours reading material which (while perhaps interesting) will not help you to pass a course. To make the most out of this technique, you should also compile a list of questions about the material where you still feel uncertain about its relevance and get the professor to answer them for you.
9. Make use of mindmaps
A great way to test your knowledge and see how well you understand the overall subject matter that you are covering, is to start out with a blank page in which you write down important concepts that you should know from the course you are following and then start to interlink them as you see fit. This will allow you to get a great overview about all the topics you are covering and understand how they are related to one another. In addition, it will also help you to identify the most relevant topics and allow you to recall important concepts more easily, as you will have created a mental image to which you can refer to at a later point in time, when you may need it.
10. Practice with past year’s exams
If you can get your hands on exams of previous years (just ask your professor if there are any available). This can prove to be one of the best ways to prepare yourself for an exam, since the best way to test your knowledge is by trying to apply it to answer related questions. This approach will also allow you to get a feel about what the actual exam may look like and how the professor may phrase the questions. In addition, professors are also often lazy and more often than not they will include one or more questions in a new new exam, which are almost identical (if not in fact the same :D) to the ones they have asked in previous years.
11. Explain it to others
Another truly great way to test and reinforce your knowledge on the subject is to try to explain it to other people/students/friends and encourage them to ask you further questions so that you can see whether you truly grasp the material or whether there are areas that you still need to work on.
12. Prepare yourself mentally for the task at hand
For the less confident and chronically anxious people, this is probably the most important habit you should adopt and nurture because your mindset will have a very big influence on how well you learn, understand and remember the material you are studying. No matter how little you may like the subject you have to study, or how difficult you may believe it is, you have to truly believe and convince yourself that you can master it if you choose to. Before you start a study session you have to rid yourself of any doubts, fears or anxiousness you may have, as these will all severely affect your understanding capacity and learning effectiveness. Therefore, it is a highly important that you condition yourself mentally before starting to study. You can do this, for example, through the use positive of affirmations such as telling yourself: “I’m capable of understanding this subject” “I know I can do this”, “Limitations are a choice, not a fact”,etc. For some, this may sound a bit weird, but it can really help and,if you do it seriously, it can make a world of difference in the results of your learning.
We hope that you enjoyed reading this article and were able to come across at least one or two gold nuggets which you may not have been aware of or have not tried out before. If you want to discover even more amazing strategies to improve your learning effectiveness and truly excel at your studies, leaving your piers way behind, then be sure to check out the book “Get the Best Grades Now” by Marc Dussault. It is highly recommended! Now, before you go on your way to start studying more effectively, just remember one thing. You do not study because you have to, you study because you chose to! Because, believe it or not, you always have a choice. Therefore, you should make sure that you always make the most out of it!