Whether you’re preparing for an exam, or launching into a
full-blown campaign to improve your study habits, the sooner you
start, the sooner you’ll get there. Here are 10 tips to help you
make efficient use of your study time.
1. Take Good Notes
Good note-taking is the nuts and bolts of good study. If you do
it well, you’ll set yourself up for success, and the cleanly
organized collection of lecture notes, labs, readings, images, and
maps will be the envy of your classmates.
When you study, your notes should bring to mind the entire
sequence of ideas presented in class. Organize your notes into an
outline form. This will help to clarify your thoughts about a
topic, and will have the added benefit of facilitating study when
you have to prepare for an exam. If you notice parts of a lecture
or presentation missing from your notes, consult your textbook and
ask other students or your instructor for help to fill in the
Here are some strategies to assist you in developing good
- Prepare to write good notes (review notes and assigned
reading from the previous class)
- Keep your notes from each class together or have a
notebook for each class
- Get the main ideas (often, the lecturer will summarize
the takeaway points)
- Ask clarifying questions
- Employ a note-taking system to help
organize your notes
If you struggle to get your notes together during a lecture,
consider recording each session so that you can review it later to
find the parts you’ve missed in your notes. Or consider one of
these tools to help you get it all down:
2. Choose Your Best Time &
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Your study time should
be whenever you are most alert (afternoons are usually the time of
least alertness). Find a comfortable place to study, and equip this
space with the materials you need for study before you begin.
Getting up to search for items essential to yourprogresswill break
your concentration, and waste study time.If you’re in for the long
haul, be sure to pack a snack and a drink!
Ideally you should choose a quiet place to study with:
- Adequate table space
- A comfortable seat
- Good lighting
- Few distractions
Avoid making your bed your study place; it is very tempting to
3. Plan Your Study Time
Set goals or objectives for your study time (identify what
materialyou want to cover). Break the material you hope to cover
into smallchunks so that your overall goal doesn’t seem
overwhelming. Do the hardest work when you’re feeling most
attentive. Save the easier bits for when you’re fatigued.
Goal-setting will help you to:
- Track your progress, so that you know what you’ve already studied
- Identifyareas yet to study
- Highlight those areas requiring further study
Here are some other tips for planning effective use of your
- Have an agenda for each study period: be specific
regarding the task that you hope to accomplish during each
planned study period.
- Make a list of study tasks, and include some time to
work on major assignments.
- Prioritize tasks and assign each task an estimated
- Using your task list and a copy of your timetable,
decide when you will do each task.
- Plan to do priority tasks when you have the most
energy,and good concentration.
- Split large chunks of study time between tasks, so that
in four hours, for example, you spend one hour each on four
different tasks, rather than ploughing through a four-hour
session on just one.
4. Review Regularly
Make studying a habit. Add study time to your schedule, and look
to spend about 30 minutes going over the content of your notes from
each class.By studying every day, the material you are trying to
learn will stay in your long-term memory, and will be easier to
recall later on. Research has shown that reviewing new material
within 24 hours of hearing it increases your retention of that
material by about 60%. Think about how this will grease the wheels
of your exam preparation!
The best time to reviewnew material is right after class when
it’s still fresh in your memory. Not only does this help to makeit
stick, it also helps you to identify concepts or material that
you’ll need additional time to grasp. Knowing your areas of
strength and weakness can help guide your study
If you need to, take some time before each class for review so
that you can be prepared to address with your instructor any
questions you may have.
5. Use a Strategy That Works for You
We all have multiple ways of conceptualizing, recalling and
communicating information. Using more than one method to understand or remember information can help you
tackle difficult concepts more effectively.
However, a common idea is that each person has a preferred
approach to learning called a learning style. Most
commonly recognized are the following styles:
- Visual/ Spatial: This is
learning by seeing—using images, and spatial
- Aural/ Auditory-Musical:
This islearning by hearing—using sound, voice, and
- Physical/ Kinesthetic:
This islearning by doing—using bodies, hands, and
There are numerous quizzes that will help you to
discover your own preference if you haven’t yet done this yourself.
You can learn to harness this style, and use it to
help you study.
6. Quiz Yourself and Your
Don’t wait for an exam to test your knowledge – test yourself
first. Make mock test questions, and try to answer them correctly.
Or get a friend, group, or family member to quiz you on key
concepts or offer to help other students with their work. It’s a
great way to know what you’ve learned and to find out what you
still need to learn. It will also help improve your memory
Have a look at these apps to get you started:
StudyBlue (free): Allows you to create flashcards
using your mobile device.
Encore Study Platform ($): This app generates
portable quizzes from online flashcard sets.
7. Get Real
Whenever possible, apply new knowledge to real life. Practice
what you’re learning. If you can find a volunteer placement or a
job task that allows you to exercise new learning or new skills,
you will understand them more fully.
8. Study With Friends
A study group is a group of students dedicated to
learning. A study group or even a study“buddy” adds an interactive
element to study that promotes deeper learning. We often will avoid
group study because of the common belief that it is more
advantageous to studyin an isolated environment. This might be true
for rote learning, but a collaborative approach is
superior for a fuller understanding of a subject.
Work with people that motivate and inspire you, and who are
genuinely helpful (look for those that are alert and
focused in class). An ideal group size is 3 or 4
Some advantages of a study group are that it:
- Offers a forum for discussion, teaching, conversation,
- Challenges your ideas, promotes critical thinking and
- Helps to keep you focussed
9. Take Care of Yourself
You’ll study better if you’re feeling well. In short, do as
you’ve perhaps been told all your life: eat well, drink plenty of
water, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly!
Eat well.Food can help to fuel your
studies or can make you fatigue early into your study time. Too
much sugar or caffeine, for instance, can interfere with
concentration. Try these foods to help your brain running at full
- Proteins (fish, eggs, meat, and dairy)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds (peanut butter included!)
Drink Water.Water is essential to brain
function. The physiology of the brain requires water
for proper neurotransmission, and dehydration can adversely affect
cognitive function. When you feel thirsty, there has been perhaps
as much as 10% cognitive decline, and who knows what you’re capable
of with that extra 10%?! Stay on top of your game, and drink
Sleep.Students tend to sacrifice sleep, in pursuit of their studies. However, ability to
concentrate, and memory recall are much improved with sleep, and a
sleep-deprived person who is unable to focus is equally unable to
Exercise.Physical activity has
many benefits for your body. Not only is exercise good for overall
physical health, it also enhancescognitive function by increasing
blood flow to the brain. This results in increased neurotransmitter
levels, new cell growth, and improved oxygen and nutrient delivery,
which, in turn, results in improved memory processes, ability to
multitask, and plan. Make it part of your study regimen!
Exercise also has these benefits, among
- relieves stress
- boosts mood
- improves self-esteem (it provides opportunity for
self-mastery, and self-control)
- refreshes and clears the mind
- improves sleep
10. Find an App to Do it
There are loads (loads!!) of software apps available to assist
you in your academic pursuits. Ask for recommendations from friends
and teachers/lecturers, and check to see whether the app you long
for is available for your specific device. Some apps are free, but
some will have a price tag attached. Have a look at these options
- Evernote(free) is a cloud-based
note-taking system that allows students (and teachers) to
share and search their notes on any device. This system has
various other educational uses as well. In
particular, you can upload your study material (all of
it—text, audio, photo, video) into an online account, so
that you’re study resources are always handy.
- NoteMesh(free) isdesigned to help
students build a single, rich source of lecture notes.
- Scriblink (free) is a tool to assist
collaboration; it allows notes to be shared in
- iStudiezPro ($)is Mac-specific. It keeps
track of your deadlines, schedule, grades (and more!). Plug
in your class schedule, and go!
- Droid Scan Pro ($) turns your mobile
device into a portable document scanner. It will also
combine scans into a PDF. This is a great tool for use in
library research, and note-sharing.
- EasyBib ($) generates citations in MLA,
APA and Chicago style. Enter the book’s title or scan the
bar code, and there you have it. The app also lets you
export and email the bibliographies to yourself. This will
save you a lifetime of formatting on your term papers.