Last Updated on June 10, 2021 by David Shaw
In college I learned that being book smart is simply not a talent, but rather a skill. No one likes studying long hours, and there are certain skills you can learn to shorten studying sessions as students as homework starts getting tedious in college.
Studying effectively is a skill everyone should learn, but there are many right and wrong ways to help or prevent you from studying effectively. To learn how to study more effectively, here are 9 helpful technique and guides you can follow help you study and cover more materials per hour.
Use Flashcards To Memorize Notes
Flashcard is an incredibly effective method to help students memorize and retain information fast. Compared to reading and memorizing from your notes, flashcards engage and stimulate your brain to pull out information from your memory readily and easily.
Quizlet and Brainscape are among the popular free online tools for everyone to make flashcards or quizzes easily for revision purposes. It also allows you to create an account of save and sync your flashcards through all devices.
Similar to how we function under pressure, by forcing our brain to serve up information and interpreting it into words, studying with flashcards trains our brain to accept new or retain existing information very effectively.
This method is behind the concept of ‘active recalling’, which helps our brains build new and stronger neurons paths to better process and and interpret data fed into our brain. It is simply a nifty and easy trick to rewire our brains to learning new materials with a new approach by stimulating our brain activity and making information enticing, eventually building stronger and healthier muscle memory.
Create or Find A Comfortable Study Space
If you feel uncomfortable studying in a particular space like your room or library, you most likely need a simple modification or relocation of your study space. An ideal study space is just like your bed, if you cant sleep comfortable in your bed, you similarly cant study comfortably in a particular study space either.
If you mostly study in your room and find yourself easily distracted, tweak your surroundings by either brightening up the room, or changing the lighting color for a different mood that puts you into the ‘study zone’.
Subtle lighting or ambience changes to your study space can significant change the setting of the environment. Here are a few interior design examples that might appeal to you which you can reference to create your ideal study space where you can function at your best:
Changes to your study table or ambience:
Changes to the surrounding of your study space:
In order to learn effectively by self quizzing, present yourself a random questions about a topic related to the subject you’re studying for. Whether you’re studying Chemistry, Business or Computer Science, come up with general to specific questions related to this field of study and try solving it with the information you learned off the top of your head.
For example, ask questions like ‘why does it rain’, ‘how banks make money’, or ‘what causes diabetes’, then start listing any information related to the question you can think off the top of your head . A good start is to first relate the questions with solutions using the materials you learned in class, then breaking down the solutions with further questions.
What you essentially want to achieve is create a huge list or maps of information you learned from the class. If you’ve listed out a huge amount of information by the end, you have successfully quizzed yourself and you’ll be surprised at how much your brain has retained the lecture materials through this method.
This method lets you learn by asking relevant questions of your interests, and funnel down to the solution with existing information all by your own effort. By incorporating curiosity to help draw out what you’ve learn, it makes studying more engaging and creative compared to boring study sessions by only reading notes you’ve already reviewed before.
Practice Exam Questions Instead of Memorizing
If you notice yourself repetitively covering the same lecture materials that is already familiar to you, it is a good indication to start practicing from exam questions instead and close the your notes or textbook.
At this point, it is far more effective to learn by putting your knowledge to the test and stop reading texts. Do questions instead, and only refer back to relevant notes or parts of textbook while solving the questions. The human brain learns best when do practice and make use of the knowledge they learn. Your textbooks and notes is designed to help provide you the basics, we have to keep practice doing problems in order to master them!
Practice exams are not only differently structured than textbook examples, but it is the also likely the source of exam-like questions professors like to reference from.
In college, it can actually be really tricky and challenging for professors to make up their own questions or test banks in use in their exams. So practicing exam questions not only drastically improve your knowledge on the materials, it will also benefit you in terms of exam preparedness.
Chunk Revision Into Short Sessions
Your professor or college probably have told you to commit 2 hours of revision for each unit hour. If you took a Calculus or Economics class for example, that’s around 4 hours of revision after a 2 hour lecture each week, that’s literally the whole evening!
The good news is that you don’t have to follow the revision hours recommendation by studying effectively. Let’s also be realistic, no one wants to spend the whole evening doing revision everyday, so chunk revision sessions to make them more feasible.
Limit yourself to shorter sessions instead of doing one long sitting of revision. Chunking revision sessions help you counter-intuitively perceive a task in a series of simpler tasks rather than one painful session. Practicing spacing study is similar to playing a board game puzzle board game. You are essentially partitioning the whole piece puzzle into 4, 8 or 16 parts, and piecing them together one section at a time which is significantly easier. Check out this article on how spaced study session reduced study time by up to 96% according to science.
Study Using Active Recalling
Study actively using the ‘active recalling‘ method transformed the way I approach and viewed studying sessions since college. Ever since I learnt and implement active recalling, it drastically helped me reduce the amount of time I use for revision and taking down ineffectively notes from textbooks.
Active recalling is a learning strategy without the need to rely on recording down long notes but rather the practice of ‘recalling’ information that we recently learned. Similar to how we use flashcards to learn, it forces our brain to draw out the existing information in our brain, promoting the stronger formation and linking of neurons in our brain.
By constantly practicing active recalling while studying, we train our brain to become more efficient at building stronger or new neuron links which helps promotes the memory function of in our brain.
To read and learn more about active recalling study methods, check out this article on how top students implement active recalling to perform well in school.
Time Your Study Breaks
Students often neglect the importance to have consistent intervals and effective study breaks and often get distracted by technology gadgets in between their study sessions. Study breaks are important as it gives our brain time to reorganize and store new materials in our brain, but how long should the study breaks be?
The average student break should be between 15-30 minutes, but the real factor lies within every student’s character and condition. Upon extensive research of this magic number, there is simply no definite answer as it varies across different people due to their character.
How does the duration of study breaks depend on someone’s character? If you’re someone who gets distracted easily or quirky about unfinished tasks without having to worry later on, then it would be a good idea to keep it shorter. On the contrary, if you’re mentally strong and prone to consistent schedules while avoiding distractions, taking longer breaks will do just fine to help you study more effectively and efficiently.
Some people also tend to have shorter attention span which hinder their efficacy of study sessions. Determine your character, and formulate the right break duration through discipline or by the help of productivity applications like Forest or Flipd.
Lock Your Tech Gadgets
Among many trivial distractions that keeps students from an effective study session are their smart devices like mobile phones or tech gadgets. A good practice to strictly adhere by while studying is to keep away all tech gadgets that might call for your attention away from your field of vision.
Our smartphones are the biggest distraction as we are too reliant on it to keep us occupied day and night. To block out mobile phone distractions, seclude them in a drawer or somewhere you can easily reach for from your study space, or download apps to lock your device for an hour for you to study distraction free.
If you’re using a computer for quizzes or flashcards, limit yourself to only revision-related browser tabs. There are far too many distractions like Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and further down the list that is the single biggest culprit to sidetrack you from a revision that can be prompt and get over easily.
Here are a few functions and apps that can help keep you from distraction and promote productivity while studying:
– Do Not Disturb mode for iPhones have personally helped me with student sessions, choose whatever suits your personality and condition best. It allows you to set schedules during lock or unlock sessions as well as still having access from incoming phone calls.
– Forest: Stay Focused, be present – is a mobile application that incorporates gamification designs that helps you stay dedicated tasks on a timer. By planting a ‘tree’ for each successful session, you earn rewards which you can play around with and have access to the data of your progress and sessions through the application. Available on Android and iOS.
– Flipd – is a productive application made to effectively help students. It allows you to set live timer to feed constant reminder if you’re on another application while the timer is running. Other features include visualizing your progress, schedule activities, get reminders, and form study sessions with your friends across the application. Available on Android and iOS.
– Airplane Mode – The simplest and quickest way is to turn on Airplane Mode to temporarily cut off from any digital distraction. As a complementary built in feature in every smart device, it works like magic with just a tap if you find other productivity apps or features not useful.
Teach A Classmate or Peer
Another heavily effective studying technique is by teaching our classmate or peers on similar class materials you’re currently learning like Math for example. Similarly to what makes your professor do a good job, peer teaching others helps you understand the concepts more in-depth through repetitive interpretation of certain informations.
If you often visit the tutoring center or your professors during office hours for homework help, you will notice the fact that they can effortlessly break down and identify the quickest way possible to solve the problem. This is simply attainable because they know most homework questions inside out from countless repetition and iterations of different approaches through teaching peers.
If you want to strengthen or relearn certain classes like Calculus for example, the easiest way is to apply as a campus tutor at your campus tutoring center of one nearest to you. Often the case, both the tutor and tutee learn most effectively when they explain and interpret their understanding or questions from their level of maturity and familiarity with the subjects.
Additionally, peer teaching technique can help students understand class materials from a different perspectives and language which better suits their learning behavior.