How to Improve Your Studying Skills
Set Up a Conducive Study Space
1. Choose the place and assemble your materials
A library is ideal. Yes, we know that you shudder at the thought of going to a library, but that’s what makes it so perfect. What could be more boring (translation: less distracting) than a library? However, if you’re the type who can’t focus amid that deafening silence, you should at least pick a place where you know you will be able to focus. Here are some suggestions:
A quiet coffee shop
A study hall
A student lounge
An empty classroom
A bedroom is not a good place, since you’ll be near a phone, a bed, a TV and other distractions. After 30 minutes, you’ll start reasoning with yourself that a tube break is essential for your sanity.
Make sure you have all the materials with you that you might need; you don’t want to waste time looking for your lucky pen (or hunting someone down to borrow one that’s inferior). It’s also best to have a table or large desk where you can spread your stuff so it will all be within easy reach.
Here’s a quick inventory you can take to determine if you’ve found the right study environment for you.
Make sure you’re comfortable
Whatever area you choose, make sure it’s relatively pleasant and comfortable. Some people need silence to study, while others can’t study without some background music. (Researchers have found that listening to music can improve mental focus, though not necessarily while you’re studying.) It’s probably best to avoid high-energy music like hip-hop or hardcore rock, though – if you find yourself singing along to the music or even tapping your foot, chances are, your attention is lagging. The mellower, the better.
Set Up a Regular Study Schedule
1. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending a day “studying”
only to find that you’ve accomplished very little. The trick to avoiding this is not to study longer (though this may also help), but to be more focused during the time that you do study. So keep track of everything. Carry a day planner or personal digital assistant with you everywhere so you can write down new tasks that come your way.
Make your schedule as specific as possible. Decide not only when you’ll study, but also what subjects you’ll tackle at that given time. Be sure to set aside blocks of time specifically devoted to each course. And take note of which courses require more hours of studying and preparation, so you can keep your priorities in check.
Keep it flexible
Take into account your own limitations and preferences, and keep your schedule relatively flexible. The “2 hours of study for 1 hour of class time” rule is not always true. How much you study for each class will be determined by how efficiently you can comprehend the material.
If you are able to trudge through several hours of studying without taking a break, then go for it. But if you can only study for short periods and need to take breaks, go ahead and take them – either at set periods of time or, even better, as a reward when you’ve accomplished set goals. Just make sure your breaks don’t end up lasting longer than your study periods. Also, remember that some subjects require more time to “get back into” once you return, so try to limit the number of breaks you take when working on assignments that require a special mindset.
Choose an optimal time of day to study
If you’re a night person, don’t schedule your study time over breakfast.