The Internet is full of study tips promising you instant success or pass that exam quickly. The truth is there are no shortcuts to learning, you simply have to put the time in and get your head down. Most people however are easily distracted and do not maximise their study time. This list mainly covers study tips for exams, as that what most people are studying for!
19 Study Tips
This short list of 19 study skills will ensure you get the most out of your learning and make it effective.
1. Make and keep a study schedule
Make sure you reserve time in the day for studying and stick to it. For some people it is early in the morning, for others it is late at night, whenever it is you need to be allocating about 2 hours per day per subject. If you are focussing on an exam then you need to keep the pressure on. Consistent daily study is the key.
2. Review your study materials regularly
Spaced Repition is a technique where you increase the intervals in time where you review previously learned material. As an example if you learned a subject and read through your notes on day 1, review the material on day 7 and then again on day 21. Going back to the material on regular intervals ensures the knowledge you worked so hard to learn stays in your head. You need to keep track of your subjects and what you need to review on each day.
Thomas Frank has a great video going over this system below.
3. Ensure you have all the study materials you need.
At a minimum you need to have a desk and a comfortable chair. Make sure you have notebooks and a good filing system to store your notes in. When you sit down to study make sure you have a drink and some snacks with you and you have gone to the bathroom. This makes sure you are not getting up and down before you have even started studying.
4. Find a local library
If you are in college then you will have access to the library, this is a great study place and has a certain feel about when you walk in that just makes you want to learn. If you are not at college and get get to a library easily making the effort to take your study materials to the library will make you want to make the most of your time when you get there.
5. Eliminate disctractions
Before you start to study eliminate all possible distractions. Turn off your phone or put it onto airplane mode, switch of any music and put yourself in somewhere where there is no noise. If you need music to study with I would highly recommend Focus at Will this is an online music streaming service specifically for study. Each track has been written to eliminate all distracting elements in music and only play sounds that will enhance your learning. It is scientifically proven to X4 your learning and concentration.
Below is a 1 hour track from Focus at Will so you can try it out. Just pop your headphones on and study!
6. Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you enjoyed tip 5 then this one is for you. Noise Cancelling Headphones are one of the best investments I have ever made towards my learning. If you are on a train, bus or in a noisy environment, you can put on a pair with a flick of a switch shut the world out. You don’t have to have the music up so loud as the headphones do the work. I use mine every single day, read my review here Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones for Study.
— Bose (@Bose) March 6, 2017
7. Give yourself enough time
An athlete does not start training for a marathon the week before so if you have an important test or exam coming up give yourself enough time to ensure you can put in the required amount of study to learn all the material. Make an assessment of the topics to be learnt and then check your knowledge of all the topics and decide on the amount of time it is going to take you to learn them. You are never really going to know how long it will take but ask your lecturer for a guide and try to give yourself as much time as possible.
8. Eat the right food
There have been many studies on the topic of what to eat whilst you are studying but the main foods that keep coming up are eggs, and oily fish. You need to be alert whilst learning and your brain cannot function after you have just eaten a large pizza! There are some more ideas here on the bbc good food website -> Eating for exams.
9. Stay hydrated
Most students reach for the coffee when studying or energy drinks with the assumption that they are going to keep them alert and aid with their studying. There short term gains to be made from drinking coffee but what you should really be drinking whilst studying is water – good old fashioned H2o is all you need. 75% of your brain is water so if you are not hydrated your brain is not going to function at its best.
10. Take regular breaks
Whilst the temptation when studying is to put the hours in and work through the night before your exam, taking regular breaks helps reset your brain. You can only retain focus for up to 40 minutes, after that you are not learning at your most efficient so taking a ten minute walk is going to reset you back to zero to start another 40 minute study block. If you can include a small amount of exercise in the break even better. Twenty jumping jacks or ten press ups will wake your body up and you will be surprised at the difference it makes when you return to your books.
11. Get a standing desk
Have you ever found yourself falling asleep whilst studying? When you are sat in your chair your posture changes and after you have slipped down the chair a bit it is very easy to nod off! The cure is a standing desk When you are sat all the muscles in your legs basically switch off this leads to a lot of physical problems. Standing at your desk for a few hours a day engages all the muscles again so your body is constantly adjusting and moving. The result is you are more alert and are able to work or study for longer without feeling tired.
— UpDesk (@UpDesk) November 15, 2016
12. Learn something just before bed
We all know that sleep is good for the brain. Your brain is the only organ in the your body that cannot detoxify during the day, so when you are sleeping is the only time your brain gets to detoxify and it also makes sense of everything you have learnt during the day. This is the time your brain tries to organize everything. There is a theory that having a short nap or going to bed right after you have learnt some important facts helps cement it into your knowledge – try it and let me know!
13. Drink Coffee
Popular wisdom holds that caffeine aids learning by keeping you alert and able to retain more information. Whilst I cannot provide any information on this the article below seems to offer some positive news for the coffee drinkers.
Nestle provide some positive reasons for drinking coffee – but don’t they make coffee?
- By increasing focus and concentration: Coffee can help drive attention to the main task, which in this case, is studying. Especially when there are many distractions around, coffee helps draw attention to what needs to be learnt, increasing focus and making the studying process more productive.
- By enhancing short term memory: Memory is divided into Short Term Memory (STM); which is active in learning new material, and Long Term Memory (LTM) which retains information that can be recalled later in life. Caffeine promotes alertness and helps to reduce fatigue, aiding the STM in the ability to retain information. So during tiresome studying sessions, caffeine can enhance the amount of information stored in the STM, thereby facilitating learning and better understanding.
- By increasing alertness: Caffeine acts as a stimulant to improve alertness, attention and wakefulness and can therefore ease the process of learning and processing information. This is especially helpful when performing long, detailed, tedious task like reading textbooks for example.
- By enhancing mood: At times when it gets a little too difficult to focus, a coffee break will offer a welcome change of mind by enhancing concentration and stimulating moods, thus making it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Taken from Coffee a cup that makes studying easier
14. Take control of your learning
Many students will sit back and wait to be taught and wait each week for the lessons to come around. As you grow older you realise that if you want to learn something you need to go out and find out everything there is about that subject and immerse yourself in it. Nobody is going to hold your hand and spoon feed you knowledge. Especially in the workplace if you want to achieve you need to motivate yourself to get one step ahead of the rest by owning your subject.
Everyone you work with will be good or mediocre at their job – its the ones that shine that get noticed and the only way to shine is to own your skill and become a master of it. There are so many online training courses now that it is so easy to master a new skill or get better what what you are already doing.
15. You cannot multitask – Nobody can!
Despite what anyone says – nobody can multitask. It has always been said that women can multitask.
Multitasking is doing many jobs at the same time, your brain cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time so what you are actually doing is jumping between many tasks. Whilst you may be able to do this your brain cannot retain any information as it is spending so much time jumping between the tasks.
If you are studying whilst trying to check facebook and read an email then its just not going to work.
If you are studying then stop doing everything else and focus on the task in hand.
16. Tell your friends to not call you during study time
You may be revising for an exam whilst your friends are out partying, no all of your friends will be working on the same exam. You need to tell your friends when you will be studying and when you will be free. A quick group text to say I will be studying now for the next 2 hours will ensure they are not calling you to ask you to go out.
17. Form a study group
As you will have friends who are not studying for the exam you are revising for, there will also be friends you are studying for the same exam. Once a week arrange to meet up for a study group. You can review topics you are struggling with and explain concepts to each other. This will aid your learning and also make you feel better knowing others are also struggling with the same things that you are.
18. Snack on ‘Brain Food’
They key whilst studying is to stay away from the junk food. Whilst the pizzas and doughnuts are tempting they are going to make you feel sluggish and just want to sleep – you need to be eating brain food, fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt and blueberries. You need to be keeping your blood sugars constant to make sure you aren’t getting sugar highs from that bar of chocolate!
19. Get some sleep
Finally one of the most important study tips I can give you is to get some sleep. Going to bed at a regular time every night will ensure your brain is rested and can retain all the new knowledge you are putting into it.
I have written this guide after researching how to study better whilst preparing to sit the CCIE Lab exam in Routing & Switching. For those not working in IT this is one of the most difficult exams in IT and consists of an 8 hour hands on practical exam.
I have also used every single one of these tips to improve my study skills and I hope that one or a few of the tips above can help you to.