7 Great Study Tips
Set up a study schedule
Effective time management is an essential skill to have. To start off, carry a diary or journal and write down all your actions throughout a 7-day period. This will outline how you spend your time throughout the week.
After the week is over, reflect back on the journal and note down all the times you were doing something un-productive. The journal will help you figure out what your biggest time wasters are. Make sure you acknowledge these time wasters and try to change your behaviour.
Here are some examples of the most common time wasters and what you can do to encourage positive behaviour change:
- Social media/ Facebook - You do not need to be online on social networking two hours a day. Try to minimise the time you spent online. Check your feed once a day, at the end of your day.
- Day-dreaming - Set a goal and set a deadline with a promise of a reward. This will motivate you to start a project or finish a task.
It is important that you plan out your weekly study schedule and stick to it. The biggest time management tip I can give you, is to set a practical timetable. Your day-to-day schedule needs to be practical. So be realistic and truthful about your habits. Work your study around your normal every-day tasks.
If you think you have no time to study, look in your reflective journal. As I've said before, there will be moments in your day where you did nothing productive. Change your actions and behaviour and instead of wasting precious time, study.
Make some time for things other than study. For example, make time for things like exercising, socialising with friends, family time and even a hobby like painting. You need to a healthy balance in your life. Studying for hours on end without any type of break or social support will result in you burning out or being emotionally/mentally drained.
Utilise tools and resources such as wall planners and to-do lists. On the calendar, jot down the most important dates so it can serve as a reminder. This can be a very good reminder of when assignments are due or when there are test/exams approaching. To-do lists are also great because they can give you guidance. At the start of each day or the night before, list down all the subjects or projects you have to do. This way, you won't forget anything.
Find a quiet place
Find an area that is calming and peaceful. The best study areas are spots which are comfortable, quiet and has no distractions. Here are some examples of good locations and study areas to help you get the best out of your study session.
1) Library - Libraries are the perfect location for study. They not only enforce a minimal noise policy, but they also offer a variety of information and resources. These include access to books, computers and wireless internet. What's more, there are some very helpful librarians, who are happy to help you utilise and make the best out of these resources.
2) Bookshop/Cafe - Bookshops and coffee shops are similar to libraries in that they are both and relaxing. Coffee shops also gives easy access to snacks and beverages. So you can snack and study. Coffee shops are also the most appropriate location for study groups. Unlike libraries, coffee shops give you more freedom to discuss and debate topics with your study group.
3) Home office/Personal Study - You don't need to go out to study. You can study effectively at home too. Find a desk or table and you are set. The only problem with studying at home is the little distractions. So before you commence with your study session, just make sure to inform your friends and family beforehand that you are studying. Better yet, find an empty room and just outside the door, stick up a sign saying something similar to "Study in progress, do not disturb."
These are just some examples of great study locations. Although it's recommended that you find a quiet space, study can be done anywhere. You just need to find the location that works best for you.
Form a study group!
Sometimes, studying alone is not enough. Some concepts and ideas might be very unfamiliar to you. The best solution to this problem is forming a study group. We all think differently; we all comprehend ideas in different ways. Bringing together a diverse group of people, will allow us to get a different perspective.
Forming the group
The first step when forming a study group is finding the group members. Talk to classmates and talk to friends. However, be careful not to get too carried away. Having six or seven people in a study group, will not only be very hard to plan and schedule, but it will also be very un-productive. A good number to start with, is 3 to 5 group members.
The next step, is finding a study location. A good study area are neutral locations such as the school/local libraries, cafes or you could even go to the park. Make sure you choose a location which can be easily reached by all group members.
After determining the location, you need to prepare. Before each session, the group needs to decide what topics or subjects you will be covering. This can be discussed either through email or at a group meeting.
The important thing here to remember is that effective communication is the key to a successful study group. This can mean talking to your group if you have any issues or giving the group a week's notice if you will not be attending the next session. Make sure to relay your message clearly so there are no mis-understandings.
So what can you do in a study group?
- Compare lecture notes - Some people are better at note-taking than others. It's also a great opportunity to check if you missed any important details or notes.
- Learn from each other - Some students may have special talents or are particularly skilled in a certain subject. They can be very helpful by explaining any concept that another group member might be having difficulty with.
- Discuss and debate - Each member can summarise what they learned in the last week. They can also discuss the main concepts and ideas. This will give you insight on things you might have missed.
- Quiz each other - Ask each other questions. I also find that the best way to retain information is by relaying or explaining it to someone else.
To get the best out of your study group sessions, you need to be committed to working within a team. It is crucial that you also participate fully in your study sessions. Make sure you ask questions and make sure you are taking part in the discussion.
If you are a naturally shy or reserved person, make sure that you are comfortable with the people you have chosen to study with. Otherwise, get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. You won't get the most out of study group by staying quiet.
Take good notes
Notes have a very simple role. They help you remember information. They give you recap of important points and important concepts. They can also help you with exam and tests revisions.
Effective note taking is an art form that can be perfected with just a little bit of effort and time.
There is no real way to take notes, it's just a matter of finding the note-taking method which suits you best. Here are some different types of notes:
Linear notes are the most common type of notes. If you've ever taken notes, chances are you've used linear notes. Linear notes are notes that are written down the page in chronological order. To get started all you need is some lined paper and a pen.
1) Make Headings - These are the main ideas. Headings need to be short and precise.
2) Make subheadings - Subheadings are the main points for the main ideas.
3) Use abbreviations - Shorten words, but make sure you remember and understand what the shortened words mean. It's not very productive if you abbreviate a word but forget what it means when you revise your notes. That can result in you missing out on important details.
Examples of common abbreviations:
- et al. - and others
- e.g. - for example
- etc. - and so on
4) Use dot points - Write the main points under the subheading. Summarise the main points. Use keywords. Don't try to write what your lecturer is saying word for word. Not only will that result in clutter but you'll also be wasting time and chances are, you won't be able to keep up.
5) Use a highlighter - Highlight the most important ideas so that when you revise later on, you know where the key ideas are. TIP: Make sure you DO NOT highlight too information. If everything (mostly everything) is highlighted, then nothing will really stand out as important. You'll end up being counter-productive.
Using Diagrams in Notes
When making notes, include in diagrams when you can. Diagrams act as visual representation of a concept. So this is a great idea if you are a visual learner. Diagrams can include, but are not limited to: tables, charts and drawings.
Here are some examples of the types of diagrams that can be used:
- Comparison tables / charts - Comparison charts are useful when evaluating or reflecting on the merits of an idea. For example, you could discuss the pros and cons of capital punishment or you could even outline the differences and similarities of different religions.
- Cycles - Cycles show a process. This diagram can used in many different ways. For example, for your science class, you might make a diagram of the dragonfly life cycle. You could also make a diagram to outline the steps of how to complete a specific task. For example, Gibbs' reflective cycle.
Mind maps are a great way to take notes. They usually have a central idea with Especially, if you are a visual learner. Here are the steps to creating a mind map.
1) Identify the central idea and write it in the middle of the page.
2) Brainstorm. Then, draw some lines branching away from you central point. At the tip of these lines, write your main points.
3) Add some more lines that branch away from your main points. This time, write keywords or phrases that are linked to your main points. Keeping adding branches and ideas.
Handwritten Notes Vs. Typed Notes
In today's society, it isn't unusual to see students at lectures taking notes with their computer or devices. Typed notes has both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of typing notes:
- Fast typers may be able to write everything the professor is saying
- If you don't understand some of what your lecturer is talking about, you have a limitless resource called the Internet!
- Your notes will be neat and tidy (and legible!)
- You can edit your notes later or re-arrange the structure
- You have the Internet, which can be one of the biggest distractions
- You have to carry around a laptop all day
- You won't be able to retain information, as well as you could with pen and paper.
I think a combination of handwritten notes and typed notes will work the best. You could hand write during class time and when you get home, type it up so that it is neater and more organised. There is no good or bad way to take notes. Just find your personal preference.
Extra tip: Don't worry about the neatness of your notebook. You could always re-write them late (*which is a great way to retain information!). Just make sure that your writing is legible!
Extra special tip: If you are using a textbook for your readings or if you are using it as a source of information, it's a great idea to use post-it notes to mark the important sections.
Review your notes
Notes summarise and highlight important points and ideas. They are there for you, to utilise later for study and for revision. Reviewing your notes within 24 hours of writing them can be very beneficial to you. Daily revision of your notes greatly increase your retention of concepts and ideas.
Reviewing your notes does not mean skimming over them. You need to practice active reading, which means:
- Asking yourself questions. What are the main points?
- Identifying the thesis. What is the author trying to say? What is his point of view?
TIP: Cover up you a section of you notes and recite. Discuss the contents. Just remember, if you can't recall and recite the information from memory, you won't be able to recall it during tests or exams either.
Take short breaks
Study has shown that having short intervals between studying helps improve concentration and focus.
Here are some things you can do during your break:
- Go for a short walk. Clear your mind and get some fresh air.
- Make yourself a snack.
- Listen to music. Music can also be good for de-stressing. Blast out your favourite rock track (Justin Bieber is fine too) and just try to relax. Lie down and clear your mind.
- Do yoga. Go for a run. Physical activity is good for clearing your mind. When you are running or doing squats, the last thing that would be on you mind will be studying. In fact, if you're like me, you'd probably be more worried about how many more laps you have to finish.
So just to conclude, have regular intervals. Don't study too much. There is such a thing as too much study!
Put away any distractions
Try and limit your use of the following:
Do not have your laptop or computer out, if it is not absolutely necessary. The internet has a web of limitless resources that can be very useful for many things. For example, research and information gathering. However, the internet can also be one of your biggest distractions. If you are doing something that doesn't require research, put away your computer, turn off the router and put pen to paper.
Some of the biggest online distractions include:
- Cat videos/ Cute baby singing video/ etc. YOUTUBE
- Social Media - Facebook, Twitter etc.
- Blog sites
- Online games
The only way get rid of an online distraction is to either physically remove the offending item (laptop, phone, tablet etc.) from the room or remove yourself from the room. Just remember, out of sight, out of mind.
Friends & Family
If you choose to study at home, don't forget to tell your family or friends you are studying. For family members, you can make a 'Do not disturb' sign to hang outside your door. If your family is still overbearing or loud, try going to libraries or just find a nice spot outside your house.
Sometimes friends can distract you by texting, calling or even by showing up at your house un-announced. The best way to deal with friends is by communicating with them. Tell them you have to study and that you'll talk to them after. The greatest friends are those you will be understanding.