Studying doesn’t need to be difficult. Most college students share the same struggles of finding productive studying habits. While not all methods work for everyone, and using the process of trial-and-error will help you figure out what works best for you.
The following tips—from one college student to another—will help make your studying habits simpler by increasing productivity, boosting focus, improving concentration and limiting distractions.
Organize your Notes
Arranging your materials by subject or chapter saves you time and frustration because you don’t have to look in multiple places to find what you need to study.
Tip: Color code sections of your notes into subtopics with different colored highlighters, folders or sticky notes.
Switch your Setting
It’s important to change your study space because it helps improve learning and productivity. Research demonstrates that varying your study location will help your brain retain the same information in different places; your brain will therefore see this information as useful and worth absorbing.
Changing your study space also allows you to boost your long-term retention of material. Your brain pairs information with the environment in which you are learning; the multiple associations of a studying environment will help keep the information fresh, enabling you to recall it during exams.
Attend Office Hours and Study Sessions
Going to office hours with questions demonstrates to your professor that you’re a dedicated, hardworking student. When you consistently attend your professors’ office hours, the more invested they'll be in helping you succeed in class.
Attending study sessions with other students is also helpful because they will facilitate important conversations and questions that may not have been in your mind.
Tip: If you are unsure about how to approach reaching out to a professor for extra help, click here.
Write by Hand
When you are creating study materials for yourself, write by hand. Handwriting notes versus typing results in higher quality learning, as it helps internalize ideas and boosts memory.
Although typing might be easier and time-efficient, it can become mindless, and in fact, makes it more difficult to retain information. The movements of handwriting help to identify letters and create a connection between reading and writing.
Tip: Use flashcards to write down key terms and important concepts; flashcards are also super easy to study whenever you have free time!
Take Breaks Periodically
Taking breaks are crucial to maintain study performance, reduce stress and increase focus. It’s also important to take a break from your studying because it gives your brain a chance to relax and recover.
Tip: Take a quick walk around campus or grab a cup of coffee with a friend!
Explain your Answers Aloud
Self-testing consciously forces you to recall information rather than just re-reading your notes or textbook. By self-testing, you can figure out what you need to spend more time studying.
Tip: Quiz yourself with a friend by verbally explaining concepts and answers aloud.
Cramming the night before a test is not effective because it increases stress levels since there is a lot of pressure to learn quickly. Also, when you are stressed, you have a harder time concentrating and retaining information.
Although you may think just reading your notes and flipping through flashcards is effective studying, you are might not be retaining information unless you honestly quiz yourself on what you don’t know.
Tip: Rather than re-reading your notes, try making a practice quiz for yourself to figure out what you still need to review.
Study in a Social Space
You’re going to have trouble focusing and truly learning if you’re studying in a social place filled with distractions. Studying in a loud space, such as the dining hall or a dorm room, surrounded by people will decrease productivity and waste time.
Although some students prefer to study in different environments, don’t put yourself in a setting where you will have a difficult time concentrating.
Stay Up All Night
You may think that you can easily stay up all night studying, but getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep is more beneficial. Research demonstrates that if you do not get a substantial amount of sleep the night before a test, it will be harder to concentrate and focus during the exam.
Tip: If you’re having trouble sleeping, download Sleep Cycle. Sleep Cycle tracks and analyzes your stages of sleep.
Trying to manage multiple tasks at once will decrease efficiency and focus. When you’re multitasking, you’re not completing your work to the fullest potential.
A study from the American Psychological Association found that multitasking decreases productivity by 40%.
Tip: Put away your other work and close all irrelevant tabs on your computer that would lead to distractions. Don’t try to work on other homework assignments while studying!
Survive on Junk Food
Although fast food and junk food are cheap and convenient, they don’t count as brain food. Be conscious of what you put into your body while studying for an exam. If you don’t fuel your body correctly, you will have a difficult time concentrating and retaining information.
Tip: Try swapping out a soda for a flavored seltzer water or vending machine snacks for fresh fruit!