Do you want to learn how to study more effectively?
If you’re tired of spending hours on studying and not making any progress, or of people constantly telling you to “just study more” but not explaining how to study more effectively, then this post is for you. These 55 science-backed tips on how to study more effectively will give you a better idea of which study strategies are effective, and which ones you should stop using now.
All you have to do is go through the list, experiment, and find out what works best for you.
Study Tips: General
1. Write Notes by Hand
Typing your lecture notes on a computer may be faster and allow you to record more of the lecture, but it isn’t the most effective method of note-taking. Research shows that despite being able to take more notes, typing notes can be harmful to your learning because students tend to type the information word for word without actually processing the information.
So, consider writing your notes by hand, especially if lecture recordings are available, as you can just focus on understanding the actual lecture content without having to worry about missing anything. But, you may prefer to type your notes if you’re a slow writer. Just remember that it’s better to focus on listening to the lecturer and add more to your notes later than to not learn anything because you were too busy typing.
Here are some simple tips for note-taking:
- Go to the lecture prepared. Check the topic of the lecture beforehand and complete any required reading, so that you have a better idea of what to expect and how important the lecture content will be to your assessment.
- If the lecturer begins by briefly outlining what they will cover in the lecture, take note of this and how each sub-topic is related to the main topic. This may help you to organize your notes.
- Paraphrase. Don’t write down everything the lecturer says.
- Don’t worry about writing neatly or with correct spelling and grammar, as long as you can read your own writing.
- Keep it short and simple. Only include the most important information.
- Write down any questions that you need to ask later, as well as anything that you need to know for the test.
- Revise your notes at the end of the day, while the lecture is still fresh in your mind.
2. Explain in Your Own Words
Even though most students reread notes and textbook chapters to study, rereading is not as effective as you may think. Memorizing large chunks of information may seem useful, but it won’t help you in a test if you only memorize the words and don’t actually understand them or the context.
Instead of rereading, practice explaining it in your own words to someone else. Not only does this give you a way to find out how well you understand a topic, but it can also help to build your confidence, as you’ll learn to draw on what you know to teach someone else without having to rely on the textbook’s or lecturer’s words.
3. Stop Highlighting
Think about why you highlight your notes. Do you do it because it helps you to study more effectively, or because everyone else does it? Highlighting your notes can be helpful when done sparingly, but it’s not the most effective strategy.
In a comprehensive study by the Association for Psychological Science, they found that highlighting was one of the least effective learning techniques that they examined.
4. Read in Print When You Can
Try not to read everything on a screen. Research shows that reading in print helps with comprehension, and a 2014 study found that Kindle readers were significantly worse than paperback readers at remembering when events occurred in a story.
5. Complete Practice Tests
Practice tests are a great way to study and prepare for upcoming tests. A study shows that completing practice tests is an effective learning technique that enhances learning and retention. The same study also points out that practice testing produces greater benefits when the tests are repeated but spaced further apart.
So, don’t wait until the week of the big test to try a practice one. If you start practice tests earlier, then you’ll have plenty of time to space them out over a longer period of time. You’ll also have more time to work on the areas that you need to improve in.
Here are some examples of different types of practice testing that you can try:
- Past tests. These are especially helpful, as they may cover similar topics or include the same types of questions as the upcoming test.
- Practice tests that you complete in class to prepare for an upcoming test.
- Exercises at the end of chapters in textbooks.
- Flashcard tests. Testing yourself with flashcards is a great way to study for short answer questions (e.g., if you have to memorize a set of dates and events, or a list of words). You could either test yourself with flashcards or ask someone else to test you.
- Create your own practice tests. For example, if the lecturer gave hints about what kind of long essay questions are going to be on the test, think of a few possible questions based on those hints that you could use to practice.
- In a group study session, you could pair up and test each other.
6. Spread Out Study Sessions
As well as spreading out your practice tests, you should also spread out your study sessions. Not only will this give you more time to improve and prepare for assessment, but it will also help you to remember what you learn instead of forgetting everything after the final tests.
Here are some tips to help you avoid cramming an entire semester’s worth of studying into just a few days before a big test:
- Create a study plan at the start of the semester. This will help you to study regularly and more efficiently. It will also allow you to organize your studying into more manageable chunks that you can spread out over the semester.
- Don’t fill your study plan with too much. Remember that the point is to spread out your study sessions, so pace yourself. A well-planned study session each week will most likely be more effective and manageable than trying to fit in study sessions for multiple subjects each day in addition to other work that you need to complete for the next week’s classes.
7. Break Up Big Tasks Into Smaller Tasks
Are you putting off starting a new project? Instead of trying to tackle the whole task at once, break it up into smaller tasks. This way, it’s not as overwhelming and is easier to start, as you can just focus on completing each small task until you’ve finished the project.
8. Multitask, But Don’t Call It Multitasking
A study by Harvard Business Review found that people feel happier and more productive if they multitask over longer periods of time, but not shorter ones. If you have to complete a variety of tasks in a short period of time, the study results suggest that you think of them as just one task, as “simply focusing on the features that minimize the variety among the activities” should be enough to make you feel happier and more productive, and less like you didn’t spend much time working on any of the tasks.
For example, if you have a 1-hour study session and divided up the hour to work on multiple tasks, don’t think of them as a variety of different tasks. Tell yourself that that all of the tasks that you’re working on are helping you graduate, or that everything you’re doing is uni-related.
9. Find What Works Best for You
Don’t just use studying strategies because everyone else is using them, or because they’re on this list. Not every strategy will work for everyone, so experiment with them and find out exactly which ones are the most effective and work best for you.
Study Tips: Productive Study Spaces & Best Times to Study
10. Study in a Small Group
Studying doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Research shows that studying in a group is an effective learning strategy that can make it easier for you to absorb the lecture material. So, organize a study group with other students in your class.
You could organize study sessions with your friends from other classes or universities as well, but studying with students from the same class will most likely be more helpful, as you’re all studying the same subject and preparing for the same assessment. Just make sure that everyone in the group is just as serious about studying as you are, otherwise it could become more of a distraction.
11. Study Before Sleeping
One of the best times to study is right before you go to sleep. Research shows that sleep is beneficial to learning and memory, and that it’s most beneficial to memory if you sleep shortly after learning new information. So, you may find it helpful to study before you go to sleep, even if you just revise your study notes or listen to a voice recording of your notes.
12. Mix It Up
Instead of working on one task at a time and only moving on to the next one when you’ve completed the current one, consider mixing it up. Research shows that “interleaving” – a learning technique that involves alternating between different types of tasks – is an effective technique that can strengthen memory associations and help you to distinguish between similar concepts. A study by Educational Psychology Review suggests that interleaving is especially beneficial for those studying maths, as it can help you to distinguish between similar types of problems, so that you can choose the right strategy to use.
13. Get Difficult Tasks Out of the Way First
Start with the task that you’ve been putting off and want to leave until last. Research shows that people’s willpower decreases as the day goes on, so try getting the difficult tasks out of the way first. You’ll be glad that you did later when it’s the end of the day and you only have the easy tasks left.
14. Brainstorm Project Ideas at the End of the Day
Research suggests that people can think of more creative ideas when they’re mentally exhausted. So, if you’re struggling to come up with ideas for your next project, or simply want to try this strategy, wait until the end of the day to brainstorm ideas. This may help you to just get the ideas out of your head and on the page, because you’ll be too tired to overthink them.
15. Study in Natural Light
If you’re going to spend hours studying, then it’s important to make sure that you find the best study space for you. Natural light is one factor that you should consider in your decision, as research closely links exposure to natural light in the workplace with improved sleep, vitality, and workplace performance.
16. Add Plants to Your Study Space
You may not think that plants are important for learning how to study more effectively, but research shows that this simple change can bring you many benefits that can help improve your study space. For example, they can increase your productivity by 15%, as well as increase your attention span, lower stress, make you happier, and clean your indoor air of harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).
Here are some suggestions for which plants to add. In a 1989 NASA study, these plants were the top plants that proved effective in removing harmful VOCs:
- Bamboo Palm
- Chinese Evergreen
- English Ivy
- Gerbera Daisy
- Janet Craig
- Mass Cane/Corn Cane
- Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
- Peace Lily
- Pot Mum
17. Look at Pictures of Cute Animals
Research shows that simply looking at pictures of cute animals can improve concentration, so consider adding them to your study space at home. For example, you could hang up a calendar with picture of cute animals.
18. Find a Quiet Study Space
Research suggests that silence is the best environment for studying, so find a quiet place to study where you don’t have to worry about distracting noises.
19. To Listen to Music, Or Not to Listen to Music
Even though research suggests that silence is the best environment for studying, it’s really up to you. Experiment and find out what works best for you. For instance, you may prefer to work in total silence, or you may find that you study more effectively when you listen to video game soundtracks or when you listen to music while completing repetitive tasks.
20. Turn Off Your Mobile
Turn off your mobile or put it away somewhere until you’ve finished studying. Research shows that simply putting it on vibrate and leaving it on your desk will still distract you even if you don’t check it.
21. Limit Your Internet Use
If you need to use your computer to study or work on assignments, limit your distractions by limiting your internet use. If you need some help to stay off the internet, try using a tool that blocks the internet until you’ve finished studying, such as Cold Turkey, SelfControl, LeechBlock, and StayFocused.
22. Don’t Worry About a Messy Desk
Did you know that having a messy desk can actually bring you benefits? Research shows that a messy desk can encourage you to be more goal-oriented and to generate more creative ideas. A messy desk may help to increase your productivity, so don’t worry too much about keeping your desk tidy all the time.
Study Tips: Memorizing Information
23. Use Flashcards
Create flashcards to test yourself with, instead of rereading and summarizing information from textbooks and lectures. Research shows that students only retain an average of 5% of what they learn from a lecture, and 10% of what they learn from reading books and articles.
24. Use Mnemonics
If you’re looking for an easier and more effective way of memorizing information than simply rereading it, consider using mnemonics, as they have been found to enhance the memory and make information more meaningful. Some of the different types of mnemonic strategies that you could use are acrostics, acronyms, keywords, and pegwords.
25. Use The Chunking Technique
The number of items we can store in our short-term memory is limited, but research shows that we can remember more by using the chunking technique. It involves grouping several items together to form a larger, more meaningful whole that is easier to remember than each separate item on its own.
26. Know When to Use Repetition
Repetition can be an effective strategy for certain types of studying (e.g., repeated practice tests), but research shows that repetition is not the best strategy to use to learn new information, especially if you’re learning something similar to something that you’ve already learned.
27. Build a Memory Palace
You’ve probably heard of memory palaces before if you’ve watched the TV series Sherlock. A study found that the memory palace technique, also known as the Method of Loci, “is not particularly useful for remembering items in order”, but it “seems to generally enhance memory performance for a list”. Even though building a memory palace may not be the best strategy to use to prepare for a test, especially if you’ve never done it before, consider trying it to help improve your memory.
28. Drink Coffee After Study Sessions
Can’t go a study session without a cup of coffee? A study found that post-study caffeine can enhance the consolidation of long-term memories, so try to save your coffee break for after your study session.
29. Watch Lecture Recordings
If you have access to lecture recording, consider watching them instead of only going over your notes from the lecture. Research shows that people retain an average of 20% of what they learn from audio-visual material (i.e., videos and apps). This may not seem like much, but it’s more than the 10% that people retain from reading and the 5% that they retain from the actual lectures.
30. Use Visuals to Memorize Information
Did you know that our brains have a high storage capacity for visuals in our long-term memory? Did you that color increases learning and retention by 78%, or that it increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82%?
Consider using visuals to help you memorize information. For example, you could create a color-coded mind map to visualize information. Or, if you’re memorizing foreign words, you could create flashcards with pictures to accompany each word.
Study Tips: Sleep, Exercise, and Healthy Eating
31. Get More Sleep
If you want to learn how to study more effectively, start by making sure that you get enough sleep every day. Try to get the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep. Staying up late to study can do you more harm than good, as research shows that a lack of sleep can be detrimental to cognitive performance, as it impairs attention, working memory, long-term memory, and decision-making.
32. Avoid All-Nighters
Research shows that sleep deprivation negatively affects cognitive performance, so all-nighters should only be a last resort, and even then you should think carefully about whether or not it’s worth it. Is it worth studying for a few extra hours even if it means that your focus won’t be at its best during the test the next day?
Here are some quick tips to help you avoid finding yourself in a situation where you have to resort to pulling an all-nighter:
- Create a study plan at the start of the semester.
- Start working on assignments as soon as possible, and aim to finish rough drafts with time to spare.
- Study during the time of day when you’re the most productive. For example, if you’re a night person, then study at night, because there’s no point in forcing yourself to wake up early for a study session if you just end up staring at your notes for most of it because you need more sleep.
33. Prepare for an All-Nighter in Advance (If You Can’t Avoid It)
Unfortunately, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to resort to an all-nighter. If you do, make sure to at least prepare for it in advance. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
- Make sure to get enough sleep the night before you plan to pull an all-nighter. You’ll find it more difficult to stay awake if you’re already tired from not sleeping enough the night before.
- Remember to take breaks every so often. Move around, stretch, and give your eyes a break.
- Stay hydrated, don’t skip any meals, and make some healthy snacks for if you get hungry.
- Study with a friend. This way, you can help each other to stay focused and awake.
- Study at a desk. If you study somewhere too comfortable, such as on your couch or bed, then you may be more likely to fall asleep.
- Take a short nap. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, taking a nap may help you to focus again if you find yourself struggling to stay awake. Just remember to set an alarm if you’re studying by yourself. If you’re with a friend, you could ask them to wake you up if your alarm doesn’t wake you up.
- Know when you’ve reached your limit. When you just can’t do any more, go to sleep. You can always wake up early in the morning to study more. This way, at least you can get in a little sleep, and you may be able to focus better and study more effectively than if you’d stayed awake.
34. Take Time to Recover from an All-Nighter
If you pull an all-nighter, it’s important that you take the time to recover afterwards and don’t push yourself too much. Go to sleep early the next night, and wait until you’ve recovered before having any late night study sessions.
35. Take Afternoon Naps
Consider taking afternoon naps. Research shows that napping can help with alertness, memory processing, and learning new skills, as well as make people more effective problem solvers. Just don’t take a nap too close to your bedtime, as it may make it harder for you to go to sleep that night.
36. Put a Time Limit on Your Naps
If you decide to take naps, consider limiting them to 10–20 minutes. According to experts, this is the ideal length for a nap if you want a boost in energy and alertness.
Check out this infographic on how to take a nap.
37. Break Up a Day of Studying with a Gym Session
Find out when you’re the least productive, then use that time to take a break and go to the gym, as research shows that exercise can help you to concentrate better. For example, if you usually run out of energy to study in the afternoon, consider planning your gym sessions for the afternoon. This way, you can return to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to study more, instead of just sitting at your desk staring at the same page and not getting any work done.
38. Exercise Regularly
Keep both your mind and body healthy with regular exercise. Research shows that exercise brings numerous health benefits, such as helping memory and thinking, improving sleep and mood, and reducing stress and anxiety – all things that you need to study more effectively.
If you’re struggling to find the time to exercise, here are some tips for how to sneak in some exercise:
- Go for a morning run.
- Break up a day of studying with a gym session.
- Go for a walk when you’re feeling unproductive and struggling to focus.
39. Avoid Sitting Down for Too Long
Sitting down for hours at a time is more harmful to your health than you may think. Many people now say that “sitting is the new smoking”, and research shows that it’s not enough to simply balance hours of sitting with the right amount of exercise. Unfortunately, even if you exercise regularly, sitting down for long periods of time without taking breaks can still cause serious damage to your health.
So, try to take breaks often – set alarms if you need to to remind yourself – and make sure not to sit down during those breaks. Get up and move around, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
40. Don’t Skip Meals
How can you learn how to study more effectively if you don’t take care of yourself first? Despite how important you may think studying is, it’s not more important than your health, so don’t skip meals. Eating healthy meals regularly is incredibly important, as it will give you the energy you need to study, and research shows that it can boost memory. It’s easy to forget about this when you’re busy with assessment, so here are some easy tips to help you:
- To avoid skipping breakfast on a busy morning, prepare it in advance, so that you don’t have to waste time making it or trying to decide what to eat.
- To avoid skipping meals when you’re busy studying all day, prepare meals in advance to save time.
- Prepare healthy, late-night snacks. If you stay up late all night, you’re likely to get hungry, and you don’t want to study on an empty stomach.
- If you live with family or friends, eat together when you can. This will help you to avoid skipping or forgetting about meals.
41. Don’t Forget the Omegas
Don’t forget to include omegas in your diet, as a study found that a mixture of omega-3 and -6 can help to lower test anxiety.
42. Stay Hydrated
Make sure to stay hydrated, as studies have found that even mild dehydration can be detrimental to your energy levels, mood, and ability to think clearly. Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated:
- Don’t just drink water when you feel thirsty, as that is when dehydration is already setting in and influencing how your body and mind performs.
- Keep a bottle of water with you when you’re studying.
- Take a bottle of water with you to tests, especially tests that last longer than an hour.
43. Try a Tea Break
If you’re more of a tea person than a coffee person, consider taking tea breaks. Not only can tea help keep you hydrated, but it also contains antioxidants. Black tea can help to reduce stress and lower blood pressure (BP). A study found that “long-term regular consumption of black tea can result in significantly lower BPs in individuals with normal to high-normal range BPs”.
Study Tips: Reducing Stress
44. Find Out Everything You Can About the Test
Do you often find that you arrive at tests feeling prepared and confident, only to lose all of that confidence and not do well on the test because of test anxiety?
A simple way to help reduce test anxiety is to find out everything that you can about the test. This will help to reduce stress, as well as help you to study more efficiently. Take note of any hints that teachers give you throughout the semester, and don’t be afraid to ask them for information about the test.
Here are some examples of important details that you should find out, so that you have less to worry about on the day of the test:
- Find out when, where, and how long the test will be.
- Find out what kind of test it will be (e.g., multiple choice, short answer, short essay, long essay, etc.).
- Find out what topics are likely to be covered in the test.
- Find out what percentage of your grade the test is worth, as well as the total number of marks.
- Find out if you can access past test papers to practice with.
- Find out what you’re allowed to bring with you
45. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Whether you’re about to step through the test room door or on your way to that dreaded early morning lecture, try to maintain a positive attitude. Research shows that thinking positive thoughts can bring you many benefits, such as helping you to build skills, broadening your thinking and attention, and fueling psychological and physical well-being. Research also suggests that positive thoughts can improve creative problem solving.
46. Stop Comparing Yourself with Others
We all do it, despite how destructive it can be. So, if you want to be happier and reduce your stress, stop comparing yourself with others. For example, after you find out your results for a test or assignment, avoid comparing it with other students’ results. If you did well on a test, you should be happy about it – not disappointed that someone else did better.
47. Don’t Forget to Take Breaks
You may think that you can get more done if you study for hours without a break, but taking breaks can actually help increase your productivity, as it can improve your ability to focus on tasks for longer. Here are some tips for taking breaks:
- Take short, regular breaks.
- Set alarms or use apps to remind yourself to take breaks.
- Don’t sit at your desk for the entire break. Get up, move around, and do something different (e.g., make a snack, talk to a friend, go for a walk, etc.).
48. Go for a Walk
Exercise can help you to reduce stress and anxiety, so consider going for a walk if you’re feeling stressed and anxious. You may be surprised at how helpful such a simple activity can be.
49. Dance to Your Favorite Music
Another way that you could take a break and sneak some exercise into your day is to take a dance break. It may not sound like the best way to help you study more effectively, but you may find that it helps you to relax and shake out the stress. So, put on your favorite music and give it a try.
50. Set Aside Time for Yourself to Relax
Find a balance the time you spend studying with the time you spend relaxing. It’s incredibly important for you to set aside time for yourself to relax, because studying without any breaks is likely to make you exhausted, stressed, and unable to focus.
51. Try Aromatherapy
Research suggests that aromatherapy can help relieve stress and anxiety, so consider trying it next time you feel overwhelmed by pressure from studying or preparing for big tests.
52. Meditate and Practice Mindfulness
If you’re looking for ways to help reduce your stress, consider meditation and mindfulness. Taking even just a few minutes each day to meditate will be worth it if it helps you to relax and manage your stress better, which in turn will help you to study more effectively.
53. Talk to Someone
Social support is an important part of being able to manage your stress better. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you start to feel overwhelmed, talk to a friend, family member, student from your study group, or counsellor.
54. Read Something Other Than Your Required Reading
Did you know that – according to a study by the University of Sussex – you can reduce stress levels by up to 68% by simply reading for six minutes? Take a break from your notes and textbooks, and take some time each day to read something that you enjoy reading.
After all of that hard work, you deserve to celebrate. Make plans with your friends to celebrate after you finish all of your assessment, so that you have something to help motivate you.
Good luck with your studying! We hope you found some new strategies on how to study more effectively. Have any tips to add? Please share them in the comments.