6 Ways to Improve Studying

Posted by Chris Zhang

August 09, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Study College Life Guide

1. Create a Schedule

Imagine going into a football game, and your coach tells you to score and not let the other team score. You’d probably quizzically look at your coach and ask how to score and not let the other team score. In sports and other parts of our lives, we always have a gameplan or a blueprint to success, yet when we study, we often don’t take a step back to plan our studying out, and instead, just dive right into studying.

Before studying, you should schedule your study time. It doesn’t have to be that detailed, but something like studying the math section on the ACT/SAT for 1 hour and the reading and writing section for another hour can go a long way. In fact, I’ve found that keeping a flexible schedule is optimal since you might overestimate how much time you need to study for a subject so you can portion that extra time into another subject. Through taking a step back and creating a schedule, you’re ensuring that you don’t linger on one subject for too long.

2. Choose an Appropriate Time to Study

Everyone has different preferences on when they like to study. Some people prefer waking up early in the morning and studying. Others like studying in between classes. And most would say they like studying at night when they have finished all their extracurricular activities and other requirements for the day. It’s important to figure out when is your optimal time to study so you can plan classes, extracurricular activities, or other requriements around that time.

3. Find the Right Study Environment

Finding the right study spot is essential to studying. Everyone has their own preferences but generally, quiet is best for focus and productivity. However, I’ve found that too quiet is not good for me. I choose to stray away from the quiet section in my school’s library because I need a little life and noise to keep me energized, and I feel that it’s so cutthroat there that a small noise like tapping your pencil on your desk would result in death stares from across the room.

I prefer to study in study rooms with a few friends because it allows the best of both worlds - peace and quiet while offering a little noise to keep the atmosphere animated. It’s important to find multiple spots to study because come crunch week, your favorite study spot might get taken. Unless you’re willing to wake up as early as when buildings open, you aren’t guaranteed any study spot.

4. Take Breaks

Taking breaks is important to studying. Your brain can only process so much before it starts to overfry. In our stress blog, we talk about how studying for long durations without breaks leads to ineffective studying. When planning your study sessions, you should account for breaks. Breaks can be as small as a 5 minute break to look at your phone or as large as an hour to go out to eat with friends. Breaks keep our brains from overheating and help optimize our studying time. However, you have to keep yourself accountable from taking too many breaks.

5. Have a Study Partner

Having a study partner is important because you’re able to bounce questions, ideas, and answers off of each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re more proficient in the material than your study partner because the best way to see if you know the material is to see if you can teach it to someone else. I’ve also found that having a study partner motivates you to study, even if your study partner is studying a different subject. Their presence and energy next to you inclines you to study and vice-versa. Not to mention, it’s easier and more enjoyable to coordinate breaks when you have company.

6. Use Office Hours, TA Hours, and Any Other Available Resource

Imagine this: it’s winter in Maine. You have a review session soon, but it’s currently snowing heavily, it’s a 10 minute walk, and the temperature is in the single digits Fahrenheit. Do you go to the review session?

I’ll be the first to say that it would depend on my mood. I’ve skipped review sessions, TA hours, or other resources for something as small as a 10 minute walk, and many others have as well. But not going just leaves a resource on the table. Skipping the review session is like going to college with only one pair of clothes: you’re forcing yourself to wear that same pair everyday.

I’ve done a single practice test as preparation for a test, and eventually, instead of fully learning the material, you’re going to remember the answers and the steps to the answers for that practice test. Using every available resource challenges you and results in the most effective studying.

Next Steps

There are many factors that result in effective studying so don’t be discouraged from unsatisfactory results. Take a step back and instead of diving right into studying, focus on how to optimize your study sessions. By doing this, I’m sure you’ll be able to achieve any goal you set for yourself!

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Posted by Chris Zhang

Chris scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and is currently studying Economics and Data Science at Colby College. Fun Fact: The only movie he ever cried in was Fast and Furious 7.