How to Study More Effectively

Three Methods:Prepare to StudyBegin to StudySample Study Guides

If you know how to study more effectively, you'll be able to learn more, improve your performance on tests, and to make the most of every minute you spend studying. Learning to study more effectively means understanding what works best for you, and taking advantage of your strengths as a student to excel in school. If you'd like to know how to study more effectively, follow these easy steps.

Method 1
Prepare to Study

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    Have a game plan. Once you understand what you will have to study, it's time to execute a game plan that will make the most of your time and will help you prepare for the exam or assignment well in advance so you don't end up cramming the night before and giving yourself a headache or a low grade. Here's what you should do:
    • Always have a planner. Write in all of your courses, activities, and social engagements. Looking over your planner will give you a better sense of how your week, month, or even semester will look like, and will help you see when you'll be having a really busy week, or when you'll have a lot of free time.
    • Whether you're studying for an exam or just studying to keep up with course materials, block out "study" time for a few hours of every week. Treat this blocked-out time as seriously as you would a real class. If your friend wants to hang out during that time, say that you're busy and will have to reschedule.
    • Try to study around the same time of day. Pick a time when your brain is most alert. Some people like to study course material right after the class is over while the material is fresh in their minds, while others need a break from the material to be able to study.
    • Don't plan to study the hour before an exam. Plug that into your schedule as "relaxing" time. If you've executed your game plan, you should be ready to go by then!
    • Create an agenda for all of your studying time. Make a detailed list of which chapters, concepts, or ideas you will be studying during each of the study sessions you have allocated for yourself. This list will become refined once you have a better sense of the course material.
    • Create an agenda for each session. Before you jump into a study session, create a detailed list of a few items that you will cover during each session. Check each one off when you've got it covered.
    • Don't forget to include being healthy in your game plan. You should still have enough time to catch at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night and to exercise for 30 minutes a day or 1 hour a few times a week, even in the middle of a grueling study period. Don't forget that if your mind and body aren't healthy, you won't perform as well on the exam. While you may be sleeping and exercising a bit less, don't cut out on these important things entirely.
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    Have the right attitude. The right attitude will put you in a positive frame of mind, which will make you more open to and excited about studying. The wrong attitude can make you feel defeated before you even start and will keep you from being focused and absorbing the material. Before you embark on your studying journey, there are a few things you should tell yourself to maintain the right attitude.
    • Remember that you're not just studying to get an A, but to gain knowledge. That's why you're in school, isn't it? And that's pretty cool.
    • Tell yourself that you will succeed because of your hard work. Even if you're not expecting an A-plus, just tell yourself that by taking the initiative to study more effectively, your actions will have lasting effects on your grade and will make you a more diligent person. Don't tell yourself that you're going to fail no matter how hard you study, or you will.
    • Don't worry about how others are studying. Don't compare yourself to your friend who studies for 80 hours a week, or your other friend who seems to never study but always succeeds in school. Keep your focus on finding what works best for you.
    • Don't obsess over what grade you will get on the exam. Though you obviously want to get a good grade, don't obsess so much about how you will actually do until you start taking the test, or you won't be using your energy to actually study for the test.

Method 2
Begin to Study

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    Pick the right study environment. Remember that the right study environment for someone else may not be the best environment for you. Picking the right study environment means picking a place where you feel "in the zone" and free of distractions. Some people like to study with some background noise, while others need to study in absolute silence. Before you pick the perfect place to study, run a reconnaissance mission to find the right place. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best environment for you:
    • Pick a place that is free of distractions. Avoid being around a television or going to places where people are engaging in laughter and fun conversations. If the Internet is a big distraction for you but you need a computer to study, pick a place that does not have Wifi.
    • You can study in your dorm, but don't do it if your roommate is always around and you'd rather be talking to him than study for your big test. If you are studying in your dorm, close the door or put up a sign to let people know that they shouldn't just pop in on you.
    • Pick a place with the right noise level. If you like absolute silence, go to a library. You will also be surrounded by fellow students, which will motivate you to study more. If you like some background noise, try a low-key cafe.
    • Pick a place that is well-lit. A coffee shop with dim lighting may look cooler, but it will hurt your eyes and make it easier for you to fall asleep.
    • Pick a place that isn't too hot. Infernal temperatures will make you want to curl up and take a nap. Pick a place that is pleasantly cool so you can stay alert.
    • Find a place that really helps get you "in the zone." This is harder to describe, but you'll know it when you see it. This will be a place where you feel sharp, unstoppable, and motivated as soon as you walk in the door. You may even have a favorite chair or study nook in your study hall or library that really does this trick for you. Find what works and stick to it.
    • If you feel that music helps you concentrate then create a playlist on your phone or an music player device in order to avoid temptation to use your computer and browse other websites. If you are listening to music, make sure that it is something relaxing that encourages you to calm yourself and focus on what you are doing, sometimes it is preferable to listen to more relaxing music without lyrics as your brain will automatically focus on following the lyrics instead of reading and remembering what is in your textbook.
    • Research has shown that it is beneficial to study in an area where nature is in close proximity. Consider decorating your study area with a few plants or flowers in order to maintain a balance between studying and at the same time appreciate nature around you.
    • Remember that the time of day that you study is just as important as the environment. If you're an early bird and think best in the morning, maximize your morning study time. If you're a night owl and concentrate best after the sun sets, then get into the groove then. If you prefer studying during the night, it is important to make sure that you get enough sleep as your brain needs to be well rested in order to function properly.
    • It is recommended to select a study area that is not in your bedroom, this is due to the fact that you will associate that area with concentrating and studying, while you will then associate your bedroom with resting or spending your free time. Make sure that you don't spend all day in one room as it is good to switch things up eventually.
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    Bring the right things. Once you pick your dream study spot, you'll need to bring the munitions you need to keep you going. Knowing what to bring to get your study on is just as important as knowing what not to bring. When you figure out exactly what you need, you can even write a checklist so you know what works for you every time. Here are some things to consider:
    • The stuff you need to study, obviously. Bring your textbook, at least two writing utensils, a notepad, and flashcards or anything else you use to study.
    • Bring highlighters and multi-colored pens to make your note taking more effective.
    • Bring sticky tabs to highlight important parts of your textbook and notes.
    • Bring a computer if you need one. You may really need a computer to look up information online, or to consult notes that are available online. But remember that your computer is full of distractions like email, Facebook, and any sites you like to browse. Print out any notes you have online and bring them with you. Though parting with your beloved computer may be difficult, tell yourself that if you don't bring your computer, you'll not only be able to focus more, but you will also be spending less time studying.
    • Bring layers. Don't put on your heaviest wool sweater. Wear something light and comfortable and bring a sweater or sweatshirt with you. If you're too hot in your study spot and can't take off any layers, or if you're absolutely freezing without any reinforcements, you won't be able to focus on your work.
    • Bring snacks. You should snack while you're studying to keep your energy level high and to keep yourself from getting fatigued. Snacking will also keep you from giving in to big greasy meals that will make you want to fall asleep in the middle of a study session. Bring nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts, easy-to-carry fruits like bananas and apples, or a granola bar or two. These foods will not only give you energy, but they can actually improve your cognitive function.[1]You can also put grapes or raisins in a container.
    • If you're a caffeine addict, take a cup of tea or coffee with you, or study at a place that can give you your caffeine fix. Just don't overdo it and have a crash from too much caffeine at once. Avoid bringing energy drinks with you when you study. They will keep you alert for a while, but you will feel exhausted and have more trouble sleeping once you crash from them.
    • Always carry a bottle of water with you. Don't forget to hydrate.
    • Bring headphones and your favorite study music. This will help you get into the groove.
    • Don't bring anything that will distract you. Will you really need your cell phone for the next four hours? If you will, try turning it off. Don't bring the new paperback novel you're loving unless you want to read some of it as a reward for getting some serious studying done.
    • Avoid clutter. Make sure that everything in your purse or bag is necessary for your study session. Your mind will feel less cluttered if there is less clutter in your life.
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    Study with a variety of methods. Studying by using a variety of methods will help you reach a deeper understanding of the material and will also help you mix up your studying habits and will keep things interesting. Here are some ways to study:
    • Create an outline. Create an outline of the course material using your notes and your textbook. Make sure to write the outline in your own words so you are actually learning the material, not just regurgitating it. An outline is a great way to learn the material and to organize your thoughts.
    • Use flashcards. Write the most significant terms on flash cards and quiz yourself or a friend to see how many terms you've memorized. Put the terms you know in a "done" pile, and put the ones you're iffy on in a "needs more work" pile. Keep quizzing yourself until everything is in the "done" pile. Flashcards are especially useful when you're learning a foreign language, or if you're taking a history class with a lot of different terms and historical figures. You can also study your flashcards in a pinch when you're on the bus.
    • Use mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices are a great way to remember a list of complicated terms, such as using PEMDAS to represent the order of operations in math. (PEMDAS stands for "Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction).
    • Rewrite your notes. If you typed your notes, handwrite them, or if you wrote them by hand, type them up. Make sure to change your sentence structure and phrasing so you really understand the notes you took in class. There's a good chance that you wrote your notes so quickly during class that you weren't focusing on their meaning.
    • Take practice exams. If your teacher or professor has practice exams for you, or if they are available in the back of your textbook, they can help you get into exam mode. You can also have fun making up practice questions in your study group.
    • Create a game. If you're working with a study group, have fun creating a game or game show that can help you have fun while learning the material for class.
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    Use your resources. When you study, don't forget that a wealth of resources are available to you beyond just your textbook and notes. If you're studying, then you must be in school, and schools will have a variety of resources to help you make your studying as effective as possible. Here are some resources to use:
    • Your library is always a useful tool. Use your school's library to check out books that help you understand the subject better, or talk to the librarian to see if she can help you find additional resources.
    • Take advantage of office hours. Come to your professor's office hours with a few questions, and talk with him to get a better understanding of your course material. Going to office hours will also help your professor put a name to a face, and will show him that you care about your studies.
    • Attend recitation sections. Though not every class has a recitation section, if you have one, you should make a point of attending with a pen in hand. Some students like to blow them off, but this section is a chance for you to have a deeper understanding of the course material, and in many cases, attending will help your participation grade.
    • If you don't have recitation sessions, you should still talk to your TA (if you have one). If you're in a big class, the TA can help you understand the course material better, and will give you more individual attention.
    • Attend study groups. Whether your class has organized separate study groups or a group of your friends is planning to get together to study, you should take advantage of learning in a small group environment. Studying with just 4-5 other people who are at the same academic level and equally motivated will help you gain a new perspective on the material, and will help you learn more as you quiz and respond to the other members in the group. Just make sure you join a group that is productive and committed to studying, not goofing off.
    • Study groups are also great because they are usually held at the same time each week, so they will help you have a more organized study routine.
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    Take breaks. Remember that taking breaks is just as important as focusing on your studies. The mind does better when you take a short break every half hour to an hour. This helps you absorb material and decompress, and will get your mind feeling fresh for more studying. If you study for six hours without stopping, you will give yourself a headache. Here's what to do:
    • Don't forget to move around. Try to take a lap around the library, get in line to order a coffee, or walk across the study hall to get some water. This will keep your body moving, will make you more alert, and will help your body and eyes adjust from all the time you've spent sitting in one spot.
    • Get some fresh air. If you're cooped up in the library, take a break to study in the fresh air, or to take a ten minute walk once in a while. You will feel reinvigorated and ready for more studying.
    • Don't forget to eat. Though your snacks will help you make it through a rigorous session, don't skip meals in favor of studying more. Take a break to have a healthy lunch or foods that will keep you going, like fish, or a sandwich with whole wheat bread, or even eggs. Avoid greasy or high-fat foods or you will be taxing your digestive system.
    • Give yourself small rewards from time to time. Tell yourself that you can check your Facebook account once you finish reading Chapter 1, or that you can turn your phone on after you've studied for an hour. Do what you need to do to motivate yourself to finish.
    • Know when to take a break. If all of the words on the page are blurring together, or if you're so distracted by something that you can't read a sentence, it's time to take a break. If your eyes keep closing every time you open your book and your eyes feel like sandbags, it may be time to go to sleep. Don't force yourself to study when you have passed the point of productivity.
    • Studying can be hard at times, so it could be beneficial to talk to your peers that are going through a similar situation in order to get some tips from them and it is useful to involve your family members so they can help you by making sure you are healthy and are studying in a productive environment. If you feel like your parents are always looking behind your back at what you are doing, it is not because they want to annoy you but simply because they would like to help you to achieve your true potential. If you'd prefer to be left alone simply ask them to help you with tasks such as making a cup of tea or bringing you out to lunch somewhere during your breaks, this will make them feel helpful and will help you too as you have even more support.

Sample Study Guides

Sample Study Guide for Math

Sample Study Guide for History

Sample Study Guide for Biology


  • Make sure you know what you are studying. If you simply read the words over and over again, but never pay attention to the meaning, you will only waste hours of your life "studying" when you aren't learning anything at all. Try putting the sentences in your own words, to prove to yourself and others, that you know what you are learning.
  • Avoid procrastination. Not only will cramming be a less effective study method, but it is also much more stressful and much less pleasant. Remember that studying a little every day is more effective than studying a lot all at once.
  • Keeping a highlighter in hand while reading notes can be very helpful, because you can highlight points which are very important or if the teacher says that it might come in handy for the test!
  • Before you study, ask yourself how rigorous the course is. Is this the kind of class where you'll be lucky to get a C, or the class where everyone gets an A? Knowing what you'll see when you walk into an exam will help you adjust your study habits.
  • When a test is scheduled the teacher does not always tell you. If you don't know when the test is coming up then study at least 20 minutes a day on the subject you've been learning. Once your teacher informs you when the test will be, start studying at least 45 min per day. When you study daily, test scheduled or not, it helps keep your grades up.

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Categories: Homework Skills