Learning how to study is an important part of your education. Effective study habits will serve you well for your whole academic career and beyond. It may take some time to develop study skills and techniques that work best for you, but learning how to study better will reduce your stress throughout school and equip you to perform better on assignment and assessments. Our ten study tips can help you become the best student you can be.
How to study effectively
Effective study strategies help students retain information and grasp the subject matter. To study effectively, you should have a positive mindset when you begin. Having a negative attitude toward study time will hinder you from studying well. You also want to give yourself plenty of time to study. Staying up late and cramming the night before a test may give you a good grade, but you will not retain anything you studied. Shorter study sessions over a longer time frame will be more effective than a long study session right before the test.
Why is studying important?
Studying teaches habits that will not only help you perform well in school but will also help you throughout your life and career. Students with good study habits outperform other students. When students perform better in their schoolwork, they are more confident and feel empowered to continue learning. Not studying can lead to discouragement and frustration in class. Students with good study skills will likely spend less time studying and have more time to do things outside of school since their studying is more effective.
Studying will also lay important foundations for the rest of your life. Students with effective study habits increase their discipline, time management, organizational skills, and general knowledge of the world. They are more equipped to enter the next stage of life, since they have developed the soft skills to help them learn.
10 study tips
Here are 10 study tips that will teach you how to create good study habits. Improving study habits takes hard work and discipline. Studying is something you must commit to work at, but the effort you invest in finding tools and developing techniques that help you study will pay off.
1. Study smarter, not harder.
You probably heard this phrase before, but what does it really mean? Many people spend hours studying only to be disappointed when they don’t get the grade they hoped for on the exam. What happens is that they confuse quantity for quality. For example, 20 minutes spent working on a timeline to represent the chapter in your history book will be more valuable than 1 hour spent re-reading the text. Find ways to improve the effectiveness of your study and not just spend more time rereading or memorizing.
2. Make a schedule.
Set aside a specific time to study. If you don’t plan for it and study only when you have free time, you will not be properly prepared when the test, quiz, or paper is due. Block off time on your calendar to sit down and study. Also plan for what you are going to study during that time. Plan your whole week out ahead of time so that every subject has a time slot.
3. Study actively, not passively.
The best way to study is to actively engage with the material you’re trying to learn. Studying actively means not just glancing over your notes or rereading the text; it means engaging with materials that help you remember the information. Some examples of active studying are:
- Taking a practice test
- Creating your own quiz
- Creating flash cards
- Working on practice problems
- Asking yourself questions about the material and then finding examples
4. Make a study guide.
Making a study guide for yourself is an effective way to study and retain information. Here’s a basic outline of how to create a study guide:
- Decide if you want it to be in print or digital. There are advantages and disadvantages to doing your study guide either on the computer or by hand. You can choose to create it all by hand or do it all on the computer. You could also create the study guide on the computer, and then print it out and fill out the information by hand.
- Organize your notes. Decide the best way to organize your notes for a class. Should it be organized chronologically? Topically?
- Use your notes to create an outline of the important topics to study. Once you’ve created the outline, leave space for yourself go through and fill out the important information after you’ve created the study guide.
- Identify the key terms. Create a list of important terms from that unit. These could be bolded terms or section headings from the textbook. These could also be terms that the teacher emphasized during the lesson.
- Fill in the study guide. Go through and put as much information as you can into the study guide. Try to fill out the study guide in your own words. Copying definitions or key points word-for-word is not effective for retaining information. Paraphrasing demonstrates that you really understand the material. If you can’t paraphrase the information, you may need to spend more time studying.
5. Don’t multitask.
Part of studying effectively is being entirely focused on what you are doing in the moment. YouTube videos, conversations with friends, or texting will detract from how much you are able to gain from your study time. Here are some tips to help you stay focused and avoid multitasking:
- Put your phone out of sight. You can set a timer to focus for a set period (20–30 min) and allow yourself to look at your phone during a short break.
- Keep a notepad handy. Write down thoughts that pop into your mind to help your brain remove distractions that you can think about when you are done studying.
6. Get organized.
Just like you wouldn’t attend class or start your school day without the proper materials, don’t start studying without the tools you need. Do you have your notes? Something to write on? Pens, pencils, and highlighters? Determine what you are going to need ahead of time and prepare so you can jump right in once it’s time to start studying.
7. Take breaks.
The best way to study is not by studying for hours on one subject. It’s good to set times for breaks to clear your mind. For example, set a timer for 20 min. for study time and then take a 5-minute break before the next 20 min. After you’ve done this 3 times, take a longer 15-minute break. Taking regular breaks can stop your study session from becoming overwhelming.
8. Get exercise.
Studies show that exercise can help improve your memory, concentration, mood, and overall brain performance. Working out right before a study session increases blood flow to the brain and helps make your studying more effective.
9. Draw connections.
Another good study habit to develop making connections within the material. It’s difficult to remember isolated pieces of information, but if you can see how things connect and relate to each other you’re more likely to remember what you study. You can make these connections within a specific subject, but it’s even better to also draw connections between disciplines. For example, in science class you’ll learn Newton’s laws of thermodynamics, and in history class you’ll learn how Isaac Newton’s work impacted the modern era.
10. Teach someone else.
One way to know if you really understand something is to try and teach it to someone else. There is an old proverb that says, “To learn, read. To know, write. To master, teach.” You can work with a fellow classmate to teach different parts of the unit to each other. If you don’t have any classmates, you can ask a parent or a sibling listen to you.
How to study for a test
- Know what material the test will cover. What textbook chapters is it over? What class material is included? You don’t want to be surprised by any content.
- Identify what your teacher said would be important. Think back to homework assignments, quizzes, and previous tests to get an idea of what the teacher will expect from you.
- Go through the material and identify what you don’t understand well. Your time will be best spent reviewing things you don’t know.
- Practice for the kind of test you will receive. If it’s a math test, start preparing an outline in your head of what you want to cover. Practice working on the type of equations that will be on the test. For a geography class, practice memorizing and identifying any maps that will be on the test.
- Ask your instructor, teacher, or parent for help. If something is unclear to you, make sure you get it clarified and explained before you begin the exam.
How long should you study for a test?
Studying for a test begins when you start a new unit. When you stay on top of homework assignments and quizzes, it will be easier to do a comprehensive review of the material when it comes time for a test. You’ll want to start officially studying for a test 5-7 days before an exam. This time can be adjusted, however, depending on the size of the exam and your familiarity with the material. When you begin studying a week before hand, there’s no need to review everything every day. Break the material into smaller pieces and review just a little every day.
Best time to study for a test
Studying the day before the test or for hours on end are not the best study strategies, so what should you do? Some studies say that the best time to study is at night because the brain is still able to process information while you sleep. Students who study right before bed may recall more information than those who study in the morning. Getting a good night’s sleep is important to test performance. Students who get a full 8–9 hours of sleep each night can recall information better than those who stay up late.
However, many people have a preference as to what time they study. Some feel most awake and alert in the mornings, while others prefer to study in the afternoon. It may be good to try studying at different times and see what works best for you.
How to study for a test in one day
If there is some circumstance that requires you to study for a test or exam in just one day, here are some tips:
- Do not panic! If you are stressed or overwhelmed, it’s going to be harder to concentrate on the material.
- Block off time as much time as possible to study, and do not let interruptions distract you.
- Prioritize your study material. Identify what the most important concepts are and review those first.
- Do not neglect sleep or eating. Making sure you’re taking care of your body and brain will increase your performance on the test.
How to study for long periods of time
- Set goals for yourself. This will help you stay motivated and stick to the task at hand.
- Find a comfortable, appropriate place to study. Where will you focus best? A library? A coffee shop? At your own desk?
- Make studying fun! Break up your study time with some review games and give yourself rewards when you meet your goals.
- Stay hydrated! Keep water or other liquids nearby while you study.
- Take breaks to allow your brain to rest and process the information.
Best way of sitting while studying
The best way of sitting while studying is with a straight back and shoulders relaxed, not hunched forward. Distribute your weight properly, and do not put more pressure on one hip or the other. It’s best to keep your knees bent at a ninety-degree angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly above your hips, and do not dangle or cross your legs.
Best free study tools
- AfterSchoolHelp offers additional free practice exercises and video lessons for Math, Spanish, English, and Science.
- Quizlet allows you to make flashcards to study from. It also allows you to turn your study sets into interactive learning games and generate practice quizzes.
- GoConqr allows you to create flashcards, draw mind maps and flow charts, take notes, make quizzes.
- Khan Academy is a great resource to supplement your learning in any subject, at any grade level. They provide free video lessons, and you can also take practice quizzes and tests.