Preparing for exams can be extremely hard, I get it.
You feel like there isn’t enough time to prepare, you get lost keeping track of all the deadlines, and perhaps you either start stress-eating or stop eating because of the added stress.
But studying for your finals doesn’t always have to be like this. To help you not only survive but thrive during this difficult period, we’ve prepared the best study tips, tested and proved to work.
Let’s get started, shall we?
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Here is our list of the best study tips, tricks, and hacks to use:
1. Organize Your Workspace 📏
It’s tough to concentrate on something important if the area around you is cluttered with useless papers and textbooks and it takes you forever to find a working pen. Believe me, though I’m not a clean freak myself and I do think a little mess never hurts anyone, it has to be a mess you can control and feel comfortable in.
If you know exactly where everything you need is and don’t feel immediately annoyed after glancing where you’ll spend the next few hours studying, then go for it! If not, take a short break and make your desk space more manageable, enjoyable, and conducive to a great study experience.
2. Figure Out Your Learning Style 🎓
There are three types of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, together known as the acronym VAK. Though most of us are able to learn using a variety or combination approach, each of us has a predisposition to one of the styles, meaning you can learn easier and faster if you figure out which of the ways works best for you.
If you feel it’s easier to process information by ear, you are probably an auditory learner. To make your studying process more effective, you can try reading your notes or textbook out loud, find a related podcast, or even make a recording of your own voice so you could listen to it later.
If you are a visual learner, make as many colorful notes and tables as possible, draw graphs, diagrams, mind maps, or stick-figure doodles (just don’t let your creative side go too wild, studying is more important at the moment!).
If you are a kinesthetic learner, you process information best by physical interaction. It might be trickier for you to learn about photosynthesis or World War I through touch, but there is a way around it! Come up with a role-play activity, include physical activity during your study time, or write your notes by hand.
3. Write It Down 🖋️
This is one of my personal favorite study tips, and I’ve used it since high school throughout my endless studying career in university.
Get a notebook, and, as you go, write down all the most important points, definitions, or anything you think might be useful for you to remember better. The only rule you must pay attention to is to completely understand exactly what you’re writing before you write it, rather than simply copying sentences from a textbook. If the auditory learning style works best for you, dictate it to yourself out loud while writing; if you prefer a visual style of learning, use markers and colored pens to zhuzh it up!
Why is this study tip so great?
First of all, you can understand information much more effectively. Plus, you’ll also get to create some great custom-made notes you can use anytime to revisit the main points, like flash cards. Multiple studies show that we learn better while making handwritten notes instead of, for example, typing, as you reflect on it more, which might lead to better memory encoding.
4. Create a Plan 📅
Before diving into the ocean of textbooks and knowledge, it’s a good idea to organize all your thoughts and access the scope of the challenge. Calculate how much time you might need to prepare and how many hours per day you are ready to devote to studying, and create a masterplan!
You can use either your phone, a spreadsheet on your college laptop, or a good, old-fashioned notebook to write down deadlines and what it is you need to do before. Also, make your goals measurable, meaning instead of “work on an essay,” use formulations such as “write 500 words for an essay on Tuesday”, so you can easily and effectively assess your progress.
Planning and organizing will help you to space your studying in the time you have, so you won’t find yourself unprepared the day before an exam.
So, instead of last-minute, late-night cramming, you could…
5. Get Some Great Sleep 💤
Even though it might be tempting or feel necessary to stay up as long as possible the night before the exam, don’t sacrifice your sleep in favor of studying! For many years, scientists have been proving that giving up sleep is a counterproductive strategy if you want to have good studying results.
Being tired and drowsy the next day will not do you any favors, as it is harder to concentrate and makes learning more difficult. What’s more, sleep actually helps you to better digest information, as it is the best time for your brain to process everything you learned throughout the day.
6. Understand What You’re Studying 🧠
This study tip might sound quite obvious, but, from my experience, I know how often students prefer to blindly memorize instead of truly studying. It might be especially tempting when there is not much time left before the exam.
However, it is much easier to remember and process information if you understand it well. Whatever the subject is, from foreign languages to chemistry or algebra, don’t mindlessly cram as much as you can and hope for the best! Devote some time to sort the material out, read with understanding, and find connections between different topics. In most cases, it will save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run, as the next, harder topic is often a continuation of the previous one.
7. Share Your Knowledge 🤓
One of the best study tips for high school students and college students alike is to ensure you understand what you’ve just learned by explaining it to somebody else. Contact your classmates to see if anyone needs help with the same topic or go and put your family members to use, explaining to them what you’ve been studying. Your parents might be happy to see their tuition expenses are bearing fruits, and your younger siblings might find the same information useful in the near future!
Even if it’s difficult for you to find an audience, retell it out loud to yourself, while imagining you are explaining it to another person. This simple trick will help you see if you have some knowledge gaps. If your partner has any questions, making it clearer for them will only strengthen your own understanding and knowledge of the topic.
As Aristotle once said, “teaching is the highest form of understanding,” and so this study tip has stood the test of time!
8. Stay Motivated 💪
When you’re in the middle of an extremely hard and exhausting exam study session, it’s easy to lose your motivation. Find some time to reflect and remind yourself why studying is important to you and what you will achieve in the future because of it. Don’t settle on cliché phrases such as “be successful and make lots of money,” but rather find reasons that will be meaningful specifically to you.
It works even better if you write them down and revisit this list every time you lose the will to study, so it will remind you of the bigger picture and the rewards that await for you in the future. Oh, and if you find it helpful, add some motivational quotes to your list as well!
9. Create a Productivity Routine ⏰
Figure out which activities give you a productivity boost, and turn them into a habit! Whether it’s taking a cold shower, going for a quick walk with your furry friend, or even washing a few dishes, there are some everyday tasks which just help to get you into the zone.
What some people might consider a tiring chore might be the holy grail of productivity and a secret weapon for others, easily getting them into the right study mood. On top of that, accomplishing these little tasks or chores will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to work harder towards new achievements.
10. Put Procrastination On Hold ⛔️
On the other hand, remember that the main goal is to study and retain information, so don’t wander far off course. If you wash some dishes, then notice the kitchen is dirty and clean it, then do an entire spring cleaning for your apartment, there might be a problem here!
Some days, it might be extremely difficult to get yourself in a study mood, and, instead of doing so, you may keep yourself busy with other tasks so as not to feel guilty about procrastinating. Cleaning your bedroom, having a laundry day, or reading countless articles on the best tools to use for studying all are great on their own but terrible tangents when you’re trying to study. Stop for a second and assess whether the activity you’re doing is only to avoid the unpleasant preparation for an upcoming exam.
11. Avoid Distractions… 🙄
We already talked about activities which help you stay focused and productive while studying, but the world is also full of insidious distractions that await you around every corner. Be aware of those times when you get distracted and notice bad habits, such as having a TV show in the background or switching back and forth to YouTube or Spotify to pick the next song you want to play.
Of course, some distractions are more difficult to control and stop, such as noisy family members or construction work next door. In these cases, invest in noise-canceling headphones or earplugs or simply find a quieter, distraction-free workspace.
12. …As Well as Social Media ✉️
The biggest distraction and the scourge of test-takers everywhere is often social media. For many people (myself included) it can be next to impossible to stop themselves from picking up their phone every five minutes to check for new messages, scroll down the Instagram feed, or just check if there are any new notifications (even though, let’s be honest, you know there weren’t any).
Many people who face a social media problem come up with various methods to reduce the time spent on Facebook, TikTok, and the others. From apps and extensions that block distracting websites to simply tweaking a few settings on your phone, you can always find a way to manage your study time and avoid social media digressions. If you have a habit of picking your phone up when it’s next to you, place it in another room. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind,” and this rule works very well in this case.
The most hardcore (but truly effective!) advice is to simply delete any apps you find addicting until your finals are over. One of my best friends deletes Instagram every time she knows a week of hard studying is coming up, and it really works well for her!
13. Don’t Forget To Take Breaks ⌛️
Sometimes you’ll feel you don’t even have the time to go to the restroom, let alone take planned breaks. However, though they might seem like a luxury you cannot afford, breaks will make the time you devote to studying more effective.
Try using the Pomodoro Technique (there are plenty of cool apps you can download to make it more fun), and take a short 5-minute break for each half an hour you spend on your textbooks.
14. Establish Focus Rituals 🧘🏽
Just as some activities give you a boost of productivity and motivation, there are certain rituals that can make you feel more zen and focused, which is super important when you are studying, as you might imagine. There is no universal remedy, though, and you might want to try a few different things to find focus rituals that work for you. But, among those to consider might be aromatherapy, having a lit candle on your desk, playing an instrumental playlist on Spotify, or just anything that gets you into the zone.
15. Stay Healthy 🥑
Exams can be a very stressful period in your life, which is why both your body and your mind need you to follow healthy habits more than ever! Do not give up on your daily exercise or walks in favor of studying, as this physical activity and oxygen can actually give your brain a boost and make your study time more productive.
And, even though you might be extremely busy, find time for some healthy meals and snacks instead of munching on junk foods at your desk. Some foods can be great for supporting the proper functioning of your gray matter, while others may leave you worse off.
16. Experiment! ❤️
Well, this is my last study tip for you today. As you might notice, studying is an individual process and each of us has our own study tips and tricks on how to make the best of it. So, if you can, it is really worth it to invest some time to experiment for yourself.
Try different techniques, and find the study hacks that are most useful (and enjoyable!) specifically for you.
Well, that’s all our tips for studying for now, and we hope it helps you make the most of your next study sesh! Got any questions, feedback, or other study tips to add to our list? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!
This post on study tips was written by Mariia Kislitsyna, a master’s degree graduate in business strategy and a former IT recruiter. Mariia is an expert on topics related to employment, recruitment, education, and more, and she also frequently writes about culture and travel.