Tips when studying

There are many different factors to consider when looking at how to make the most of study time, so compiling a definitive list of tips when studying is a difficult task. For a start, every student is different, so perhaps the first and most important tip when studying is to get to know your own individual strengths and weaknesses, analyse the things that make study work for you, and adapt your study regime to suit. There are, however, a number of areas which everyone should consider when planning their study time. The following tips when studying shall look at time management, environment and annotation, before ending with a brief look at some common memory and retention aids.

1. Time Management

Perhaps the most important of all tips when studying is to learn to manage your time effectively. The amount you can learn is always restricted by the time you have available - it therefore follows that using your time as efficiently as possible will allow you to learn more.

A good tip when studying is to always have in mind an idea of what you want to achieve in a particular study session. This will help you avoid wasting time looking at topics or reading sources which will not ultimately help you achieve the goals you want. If you are learning for a syllabus, make yourself familiar with the syllabus outcomes. If you are studying for an essay, get an idea in your mind as early as possible of how you want to answer the question, and focus your attention on relevant areas.

Another important tip when studying is to not try to study too hard for too long. Everybody’s concentration levels are different, but we all have a finite ability to effectively digest information, so knowing your limits is important. Do not leave studying to the last minute and try to cram as this is not an efficient way to use your time. Instead, pace yourself over a longer period of time, planning to study for just a few hours a day, and give yourself regular breaks to help refresh your concentration.

2. Environment

Making sure you are comfortable and free from distractions is a very good tip when studying. Noise, being too hot or too cold, or even being hungry will affect your concentration, so plan your study time to make sure you can be as focused as possible on the work at hand.

Most people study most effectively on their own, so one of my main tips when studying is to avoid the temptation to study in groups. While some study requires group discussion, leave this for tutorials and seminars - most academic work is judged on an individual by individual basis, so do your own work in your own time and in your own space. If you cannot find somewhere to be completely solitary, go somewhere quiet such as a library. Avoiding noise is an equally important tip when studying, and this applies to music and television as well as conversation.

3. Annotation

Studying achieves little if it does not result in clear, concise but thorough notes which you can use at a later date. My tip when studying is to never look at a book, article, journal or website without having a pen and notepad to hand. As well as allowing you to recall what you have read at a later date, taking your own notes also helps you to digest and comprehend.

A good tip when studying is to always read through an article or chapter completely before taking detailed notes. Start a new page for every source, writing out referencing details (i.e. author’s name, title, page numbers etc.) in full at the top before writing a brief summary of the topic discussed. Once you have done this, you will find it easier to go back and identify the most pertinent quotations etc. which demonstrate the main points made. Another tip when studying is to always write out quotations in full - you can paraphrase later. A further tip when studying is to add your own explanatory notes to each quotation, to remind yourself of each one’s relevance.

Make sure your notes are kept in an orderly fashion. Having separate folders or notebooks for separate subjects and projects is a good tip when studying, as is using colour-coded sleeves or similar to help organize your notes by topics. My tip when studying would be to always keep hard copies like this even if you take notes on a PC or laptop also, just in case you have technical problems later on.

4. Memory and retention aids

Many tips when studying focus on ways of improving memory and retaining information. While this is important, the tips outlined above will in their own right go a long way to improving the results of your study and should be the main areas you focus on if you want to improve your study technique. However, you may wish to also consider some of the following tips when studying to give yourself an additional boost.

A good tip when studying is to always read over your notes at the end of every study session. This will not only give you an extra chance to digest the information, it will also allow you to identify any areas of confusion before you move on to another topic. Another good tip when studying is to finish every session with a brief quiz based on the main topics covered - this is particularly useful if there are a lot of facts to remember.

Remembering facts concerns a lot of students in the run up to exams, but there are a few tips when studying for exams which can help solve this problem. As well as quizzes, re-writing notes in bullet points on small pieces of card which can be quickly read over and over again proves a great memory aid for many students. But the key here is repetition - the best tip when studying for exams is simply to read your notes over and over again.

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