5 Tips for Studying Smarter, Not Harder

When it comes to remembering what you learned in class, how you study might make more of a difference than how long you study. Spending 30 minutes engaged in focused, active studying could be more beneficial than three hours of studying where you are distracted and multi-tasking. Set yourself up for greater success by making the most of the time you spend reviewing for exams.

1. Take thorough notes.

Effective studying starts by taking complete notes in class. Write down additional details provided by your teacher and anything they emphasize as being important. If something doesn’t make sense, ask questions! You want to understand the information or concepts you’re writing down so they make sense when you review later on.

2. Start early.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start studying for a test. Ideally, you should review the notes you took in class within 24 hours to boost retention. Studying a little bit each day will help you tackle information more effectively, and you can devote more of your time to concepts that you have trouble remembering and less on facts you can quickly recall.

3. Limit distractions.

Put away your cell phone, turn off the television, and log out of social media. If you’re going to study, focus on studying, not on everything around you. If you need some background noise, try listening to classical music or white noise rather than your favorite band or tv show. Only use your computer if you have to look something up — otherwise, stick to your notes and textbook so you’re not tempted to check out what’s happening online.

4. Take breaks.

Divide your study sessions into smaller chunks of 30 to 45 minutes. Then, take a 10- to 15-minute break to relax and refocus. Spending two or three hours on one subject at a time can lead to burnout, and you’ll end up retaining less information than if you had broken things up. It also becomes harder to concentrate the longer you go without a break. Pick one or two concepts to focus on per subject, then move on to the next subject.

5. Organize your information.

Studying is about much more than just re-reading your notes or a passage in your textbook. It even goes beyond highlighting. Organize information by making charts, graphs, or webs. Create flashcards that divide information into different topics or concepts. Write outlines by hand rather than typing them on a computer, as this is often more effective for remembering information. Once you think you understand a concept, try explaining it out loud to someone else to see if it makes sense and you capture the most important points.

It can also be helpful to study with someone else and quiz each other on the information. You could also make practice test questions for yourself and see how you do. Another tip for seeing where you may have gaps in understanding is taking a blank sheet of paper and writing down everything you know about a topic and then comparing it to your notes to see if you hit all the key points and details. Or, look at the answer side of your flash cards and see if you can come up with the question or term on the front.

If your studying is not as effective as you hoped, and you’re still struggling with your classes, consider working with a tutor. The Learning Specialists at Crafting Scholars take the time to understand your learning style, strengths, and areas for improvement in order to create a customized learning plan that’s right for you. They can also work with you on improving study skills and test prep. Contact us today for more information!