Midterms season is in full swing, and with midterm exams come big papers, projects, and long to-do lists. It can be easy to get overwhelmed when so much is happening at once. In order to do your best on everything, you need to take care of yourself, too! Make sure to take time to relax and balance work with life. Today, I’ll be sharing my top studying tips and advice, explaining how (and when) I study, and the best ways to study more effectively.
No matter how you choose to study, it is so important to acknowledge that your best is enough. The grades matter less than the effort you put in. If you work hard, good grades will follow! Just keep that in mind as you read through today’s post. Need to refresh your outlook this semester? Click here!
10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Studying
Alright, friends, let’s be real. Our to-do lists are always a mile long, and it can seem impossible to get everything done. Let me tell you a secret, though: it’s not impossible at all! You just need to prioritize. Whether you use a paper-and-pen planner, like I swear by, or an app, or just scraps of notebook paper, prioritizing is the key to studying success. Lay out your week, and write down the daily tasks that must be completed on each day. Place them on the day before they are due. Next, further prioritize by arranging your tasks by importance and difficulty.
Another easy way to prioritize? Limit yourself. Choose 3-5 things that you absolutely must accomplish on that day, and focus on those things. Anything else is just bonus!
2. Reward yourself.
I like to give myself little breaks whenever I actually cross off a to-do list item. On a particularly tough assignment, I’ll reward myself whenever I finish a part or a question! You have to stay motivated to get through your work and to succeed. This also helps you to avoid the dreaded burn-out that happens to so many students.
3. Create your own study guides.
In high school and in college, my absolute savior has been creating really thorough study guides for myself. I do this in two ways.
- One: I’ll type up an outline, reorganizing my notes. I incororate in-class/lecture notes, my own textbook notes, and any resources I found along the way. I reorganize the information into a format that works for me, and even color code to make memorizing easier. Repetition of information helps you learn!
- Two: I usually create a study guide that is composed of questions. I will use different pieces of information from my notes, and turn them into test questions. Then, I’ll go through and hand-write the answers to all the questions. This makes all the difference when exam day rolls around!
4. Incorporate your own unique learning styles.
I’m sure by now you have at least some idea how you learn best. By looking at color coded, pretty, artistic notes? Working hands-on with models and creating physical representations of abstract concepts? Listening to lectures on repeat or creating songs/acronyms? Incorporate the way you learn best into the way you study. If you work best by hand-writing and repetition, make flashcards and repeat them. Better at drawing? Illustrate concepts and draw visual maps to explain and define terms.
I also believe in incorporating your personality on a general level. Are you a more social person who can remember every detail of a conversation? Study with a friend or two! Quiz each other, take turns teaching each other the concepts-you can even make it into a game or competition.
5. Set concrete, achievable goals for yourself.
Real-talk: How often do you say you’re going to start studying way in advance, write in your planner “Study for test”, and not get around to it until the night before? It’s happened to me, and almost everyone I know. Instead of using broad, general studying goals, narrow down your focus. For example, if your test is on Friday and you want to start studying a week in advance, set your goals like this.
Weekend: Create outline of notes.
Monday: Create fill-in study guide.
Tuesday: Look over outline.
Wednesday: Fill in study guide.
Thursday: Study with a friend from the class.
Friday Morning: Review study guides before the exam.
By breaking up your studying into small, attainable chunks, it will be less overwhelming and keep you on track!
6. Studying by Subject
Every class you study for will be inherently different. A math class requires constant practice and repetition of problems. A psychology class means memorizing both terms and essential case studies. English classes mean familiarity with readings and concepts. Science classes entail hardcore memorization and understanding of facts, concepts, and the ability to apply these. Be willing to shift your studying tactics to match up with these specific classes.
Be sure to seek out additional resources. Forming a study group with your friends? Everyone could contribute to a group study guide or game to play in order to study. In need of some extra information? Youtube, KhanAcademy, and DuoLingo all have lots of resources. Need an easy on-the-go way to practice words for your Spanish class? Make a Quizlet virtual flashcard set.
7. Stay organized.
Keeping your notes, worksheets and handouts organized is essential to preventing headaches while studying. Make sure to keep everything in its proper place, whether in a notebook, folder, or binder. Additionally, keep your computer and bedroom organized—having a cluttered desktop (in real life or virtual!) makes it more stressful to study.
8. Switch up your studying space.
Don’t study from your bedroom or desk every single day. Head to a coffee shop, the library, or an empty classroom on campus. This is the time to figure out where you flourish best. I do a lot better when I study in a variety of comfortable places, where I can focus on getting things done and not worrying about anything else. Don’t be afraid to ask others where they study! You never know who will know about the perfect secret study nook, with the sunlight and comfy chairs and easily accessible coffee.
9. Drink lots of water and bring snacks.
Depriving yourself will not make you smarter. In fact, refusing to eat, drink, sleep or take care of yourself will inhibit your performance, not improve it. Focus on what matters first. You can’t run on an empty tank. Plus, studying all the time will burn you out so quickly. Go to the movies, for coffee, or on a hike. Take a night off and spend some time with a nice candle lit, a chocolate bar, and Netflix.
Don’t spend your whole life running on caffeine. Choose a reasonable time every night to be in bed by (I try to be in bed by 12:30 each night) and stick to it. Drink more water than caffeine. It’ll save your skin, your digestive system, and help you to feel more alert.
10. Use old quizzes & tests, and create flashcards or Powerpoints.
This might sound weird, but I love creating flashcards or powerpoints to help me study. The more formats you view the information in, the more likely you are to find one that sticks with you. Incorporating old quiz and test questions, especially ones you got wrong, will make you feel more prepared. You can also figure out the general question styles and use that to strengthen your knowledge base.
I hope this post gave you some helpful information to use when you are studying!