Whether you’re a current or past student, I’m sure you remember those hopeless nights before an exam where you crammed as much information as you could. Or maybe those days where you’d walk past your stuffed backpack dripping in guilt. Like you, studying has never been easy for me, but since going into high school and taking tougher classes, studying has been a craft I’ve had to refine and improve. Within the past year, I’ve been implementing new methods and can now proudly say that I am no longer a late-night crammer. This article will go through my top four study tips that will help you leave your procrastinating past behind.
Make studying less depressing
Before we discuss ways to study more effectively, we first need to find the strength to sit down and open that intimidating textbook. Many of us avoid studying because it is not an enjoyable activity. Luckily for you, I have a few tricks I’ve implemented to make my sessions feel less like a funeral.
Use a reward system
The reward system is perfect for those lacking motivation. Before I sit down to study, I choose an item that I’ll reward myself with after or during the session. I think of it like this, “ if I study for two hours on this day, I’ll get to enjoy that delicious iced matcha latte from Dunkin.” This may be off-topic, but I highly recommend this drink for studying. Not only does it taste incredible, but it also provides you with the energy you’ll need to get through your session. Your reward system can look however you desire, the purpose is to incentivize yourself to get out of bed and hit the library.
Make your physical surrounding more aesthetically pleasing
As someone who loves eye-pleasing visuals, I’ve recently found that incorporating pretty visuals into my studying has made me more excited to study. I love buying pretty stationery items and lurking on #studygram (my favorite accounts are @studyjolien and @canshestudy). For a reason I can’t quite explain, looking at other people’s beautiful notes makes me want to drop everything I’m doing and head to the nearest target. I’d personally recommend this tip for those who love art and design, don’t be afraid to switch things up those boring notes with calligraphy and colored pens. Additionally, If you take anything from this article, I recommend this, please study anywhere else but your room. Any desk or table in a quiet space will work, though my personal favorite is a local library and or cafe. I find that being in a space where you can see others being productive around you is a great source of motivation.
Everything’s more fun with a friend, right? Studying with friends and peers is a simple way to instantly make your study sessions more enjoyable. Together, you can work through problems, ask questions, and quiz one another with flashcards. With the presence of others, your sessions will feel less lonely, during breaks you can even catch up and treat yourselves with the best brain food, donuts! If you have no one around you to study with, simple studies offer a free study buddy and group matching service that connects you with fellow students across the nation.
Create clear goals for each session
This tip is pretty self-explanatory but also one of the most important. Before going into any study session, you should know exactly what you want to achieve in the time frame. For example, you may decide that you are going to study for two hours with the goal of completing your history work for the week. Not only will you prevent wasting your time later, but you will also have a clear vision of what your finish line looks like.
Experiment with new study methods
Have you ever left a study session feeling unsatisfied? This is very common and it’s most likely because you were not studying effectively or efficiently. You should try to experiment with different study techniques to figure out how you learn and retain info the best.
For those unfamiliar, the Pomodoro Method is a studying and productivity technique where you focus on a given task for 25 minutes, then break for five, and repeat. This technique has been quite literally life-changing for me; it has improved both my focus and procrastination. The length of your Pomodoros is up to you and should depend on the difficulty of your task. I like to work for 30 to 40 minutes and then break for 10. I recommend this technique for those who get overwhelmed before starting their work, breaking down assignments into smaller parts makes the work feel much simpler. You can easily find the Pomodoro timer on Youtube but recently I’ve stumbled upon an even cooler website (lifeat.io) that includes this timer and is most known for its function that simulates a study date with your favorite celebrities. I personally make good use of the BTS setting– the realism is insane.
I started using Cornell Notes in the past month and have already found them to be extremely helpful. This method is fairly simple, you split your page into three to four sections: two columns leaving room for a rectangle at the top and bottom. Your title and subheading go at the top, notes from class in the right column, keywords, main ideas, and comments in the left, and finally a brief summary at the bottom. Not only is this system extremely efficient, but it also encourages you to actively reflect on your notes by summarizing them and pulling out key ideas. If you’re still doubting this clearly superior method, I’d like to note that Cornell Note-taking is proven by science to be highly effective and perfect for exam preparation and studying.
Isn’t it overwhelming to study multiple different concepts? This is exactly what the interleaving technique is built for, it is a learning technique that involves mixing different topics or forms of practice together to help you learn each concept. I used this technique when preparing for my algebra midterm, I mixed up problems of various units and completed them — working through multiple contrasting kinds of problems within that session. Interleaving is the opposite of the typical blocked practice (focuses on a single topic or form of practice at a time). My favorite benefit of interleaving is that it improves your focus and ability to identify mistakes. I find this technique to be extremely beneficial, although it may not be best in every scenario. Be sure to assess the situation when deciding which material to interleave.
The final method I’d like to share is active recall. Like the name suggests, active recall is a simple technique that asks to recall what you remember after learning new information. I like to use this method to catch myself off-guard and test if I truly understand what I recently learned. For example, when I’m brushing my teeth I could start reciting rhetorical devices to prepare for an upcoming AP LANG quiz. This method forces you to dig deep in your brain and retrieve information, this makes our brains more effective in storing and recalling information in the future. So, the next time you feel tempted to reread a chapter four more times, instead try to recall and summarize what you remember.
Change your mindset
Lastly, I urge you to shift your mindset to one that is more positive and open. Most students associate studying with stress and negativity, this makes us less likely to study and overall damages our concept of learning and education. Connotations are truly everything, so try this: the next time you catch yourself having negative thoughts, remember that studying is a time for you to practice what you learned and improve — through studying you’ll be better prepared for class and future tests.
As I now prepare for my junior year of high school, I feel much more confident in my capabilities as a student. Studying no longer feels like a chore to me, in fact, I simply view it as a time for me to sit down and challenge myself. I want knowledge to be something I always continue to value. Let’s be proud of ourselves for even the smallest things. Getting out of bed and opening your textbook is an accomplishment on its own, there is no need to be so tough on ourselves. As long as we put effort into the little things, whether it starts with creating goals or having a positive attitude, I’m sure they’ll eventually add up to something much larger.