Learning how to study effectively is essential if you want to succeed in college. If you want to make better grades, get an A on a test, or do well on an assignment, it’s important that you develop some study skills. If you’ve studied before without great results, you may just need to try some of our study tips. We’ve put together a list of six study tips to start using now that will improve your study habits and help you make better grades.
Study Tip 1: Start with the most difficult subject.
It’s tempting to start with the easiest subject matter when studying or doing homework, but the truth is that it’s better to start with the most difficult subject. Your brain is more alert and receptive to information at the beginning of your study session, so it’s best if you tackle the hard stuff early while you’ve got the brain power. Knocking out the hardest task first will also make the next subject easier.
Study Tip 2: Bring everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
Distractions are a major deterrent to effective study habits. If you study at home or in your apartment, designate an area for studying, such as a desk or table. Sitting at a desk with minimal distractions will help your productivity and enhance your sense of focus during study time. Leave your cell phone in another room if possible, and keep the TV off. If you go to a cafe, library, or other location away from home, don’t bring anything you don’t need. By bringing just what you need and nothing you don’t, you limit your actions to those focused on studying. If your study materials are online, don’t open any extra browser tabs or apps. Make sure to bring the things you do need, like charging cables so your devices stay powered on and headphones to drown out coffee house chatter.
Study Tip 3: Outline and rewrite your notes.
Taking notes in class will give you a starting point for studying. Students who take notes are more likely to recall information taught in class because they reinforce their teacher’s message in writing. If you have too many pages of notes, they may be difficult to study with. Condense them by outlining and rewriting your notes in bullet points with information you think you’ll be tested on. You should also go over your notes with a highlighter to refresh your memory on the most important information.
Study Tip 4: Use memory games.
Many college tests involve some sort of memory recall. Whether it’s fill in the blank or multiple choice, you’ll have to remember some key vocabulary and concepts. A great way to commit complicated information to memory is to use mnemonic devices. BuzzFeed has put together a list of 21 clever mnemonic devices for commonly tested topics. You can easily make up your own mnemonic devices, too. Some different mnemonic devices you can try are to create a song, make up an acronym, use the first letter of each item in the list to create a word or phrase, memorize an example, make up a poem, or construct the information as a picture.
Study Tip 5: Feed your brain.
It’s very important to provide your brain with the nutrients it needs if you want to study effectively. Studying on an empty stomach can decrease your focus because hunger is very distracting. Because food is one of our basic survival needs, our brains are wired to prioritize finding food over all other priorities when we’re hungry. There’s little you can do to avoid thinking about food when you have an empty stomach. Your first instinct may be to reach for a coffee or energy drink, but the sugars in these can actually decrease your productivity during a long study session. Instead, consider a smoothie with nutrient-rich ingredients like blueberries, avocados, and nuts. These are considered brain foods because they are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3s.
Study Tip 6: Take breaks.
There are various theories on the length of the average attention span, but many studies agree that it’s around 20 minutes. Some scientists argue that attention spans are getting even shorter due to the nature of digital information. Taking this information into consideration, it’s important to take breaks during your study session. Getting up and walking around every 20–30 minutes will give your brain the break it needs. You only need to take a break for a few minutes, and then you can return to your studies feeling refreshed.
Try out our six study tips the next time you’re preparing for a test. If they work for you, make sure to share this post with your friends and classmates so they can improve their study habits, too!