How to Focus on Studying For a Test
Why Can't I Concentrate?
Before you can fully concentrate on your studying, you have to make a study of yourself. By that I mean, be very familiar with what works or does not work for you. For example,
- Are you a "neat freak," and there is clutter about?
- Are you hungry, and keep listening to your stomach instead of your books?
- Are you trying to study someplace where you keep getting interrupted?
- Is it noisy, and you can't think unless it is silent?
Fix What's Wrong!
Go down your own mental checklist of what it is that is causing your concentration issues. Then, instead of starting with the books, start with fixing the problem that is causing the issue. For example:
- Is a pile of dirty laundry bugging you? Stash it out of sight in the hamper, or, if practical, toss it in the washer, so it's off your mind.
- Are you hungry? Look at the time. If it's not time for a meal, have a light snack. If it is mealtime, eat first, and get back to your studies afterwards. Just don't eat a heavy meal, as that will probably just make you sleepy.
- Are you tired? Push the books away, and have a power nap for 20 minutes to half an hour. No longer, or you risk waking up groggy and/or disrupting your nighttime sleep.
- A dreaded phone call needs making? Do it, and get it over with.
- Is it noisy, or are you being interrupted? Move yourself to somewhere quiet. Even in this day of "commuting" over the internet, there's still something to be said for the traditional quiet of the old-fashioned library.
- Are you just stressed-out in general? Do some kind of vigrorous exercise for half an hour or so. Shoot some hoops; go jogging or skating; dance; whatever suits your style.
Once you've cleared all the distractions you reasonably can, settle and ground yourself with some deep-breathing to calm your mind and get the jitters out of your body.
If you know meditation, that might help, if not, simply taking a dozen or so slow, even breaths while repeating to yourself something positive such as, "I am relaxed and in control. I will easily absorb my studies." (Or make up your own statements--the point is, to keep them positive.)
Clear a space on your desk or table with no other clutter, so that your workspace is now as clear as your refreshed mind, and bring only your study book and a pencil and paper to make notes or jot questions as you read.
Feel free to have water to sip while you study, but stay away from caffeinated drinks, as they tend to make you mentally jumpy, even if you don't detect any physical reaction.
Programmable sound masking machine with several sounds
Study With Full Attention
Make sure, if you are unable to escape to someplace like the library, that everyone who may be sharing your home or apartment is informed that you are studying for a test, and ask them nicely to please not interrupt.
If noise is an unavoidable problem, earplugs are inexpensively obtained at many places, including home improvement stores, drug stores and sporting goods stores.
A white-noise machine may help also--it is not only good for blocking internal sounds as with tinnitus, but also for masking external sounds as well.
If you want to plug in the headphones and listen to music, I would strongly suggest something that is instrumental-only, with no singing, so you won't get distracted by singing along.
Don't try to cram!
The very best way to study for any test, of course, is to simply do all your reading as you go, make notes, go over them at least once a week and jot down any questions you may think of to ask in class. Then, as the test approaches, you already have a good handle on the material, and all you need to do is a relaxed review.
Those are the keys to test preparation. Best wishes to all.