Strategies to Get the Most Out of Study Time

Strategies to Get the Most Out of Study Time

Last update: 18 June, 2017

Studying is a task that requires your full concentration and attention in order to achieve the best results. It’s not just spending hours and hours looking at your notes, but rather taking full advantage of your study time.

It’s important to develop good strategies so that you don’t waste time or get carried away by the anxiety produced by somebody evaluating your knowledge and having to remember all the material you learned in class. Here’s a little advice that can be quite useful when it comes to preparing for an exam.

1. Find the proper environment

It’s important to have a place to study where you can be comfortable, with the proper lighting and temperature. Find a place where there aren’t too many distractions or people to interrupt you. It could be an isolated and peaceful room in your house or at the library. Avoid places where you could be distracted or tempted by electronic devices like the television.


2. Prepare your materials before you start

Make a list of everything you’re going to need. Constantly interrupting your concentration to go find materials is not only counterproductive, but also gives you an excuse to not continue studying. Put everything that you’ll need to use on the table. Try to eliminate distractions by moving everything you don’t need away from the table, like notes from another class.

3. Take short breaks

Maintaining concentration for 8 straight hours is practically impossible. You need to rest and distract yourself from the task for a few minutes. Experts recommend taking 15-minute breaks every 2 hours. Don’t exceed 5-15 minutes, but also don’t skip them, since fatigue interferes with learning.

woman holding mug

4. Prioritize

Not everything is of equal importance, so prioritize your tasks. Start by studying the subject you think is the most important and ensure you spend enough time on it. If you leave the most difficult or complicated for last, you might be too tired to face it. Plan your day by putting the most important tasks first and estimating the amount of time they’ll take.

5. Use motivation strategies

There are some days when making yourself study is a huge challenge. That’s why you need to motivate yourself. For example, give yourself a reward after you achieve a goal. Establish what you want to get done that day, and once you achieve the goal, do something that you like, such as watching an episode of your favorite show or grabbing a drink with your friends.

6. Internalize the material

We all know that studying math is different from studying history. Some subjects require you to learn some concepts by heart. One way to facilitate learning is to internalize what you’ve read. This means not just reading the material until you memorize it, but also understanding it and being able to explain it in your own words.

Memorizing something without even trying to understand it can be useful if the goal is to keep the information filed away in your short-term memory. But for it to last over time, it can help to think of real-world examples of what you’ve learned or relate it to something you’ve learned previously.

7. Listen to music

Not everyone concentrates in the same way. Listening to music helps some people concentrate, but it all depends on the way you study and the material you’re studying. In general, classical music or chill-out music can be used to help you study. M usic can play a helpful role in learning, especially with tasks that involve creativity.

8. Turn off your cellphone

If you’re about to study, don’t have your phone by your side. Reading e-mails and checking texts constantly will interrupt your studying every few minutes, which makes it very difficult to concentrate. Use your breaks to check your phone or talk to people.

person on cellphone

9. Don’t use the last few hours before the exam to study

It’s counterproductive. It’s best to study on the days leading up to the exam and sleep well the night before. Studies show that sleeping after storing new information in your brain helps consolidate that information into your memory. It’s more important to sleep the night before than to spend the night trying to review information that will never be consolidated. Also, a lack of sleep will negatively affect your performance during the exam.

Everybody knows which study strategies work best for them, so approach and interpret these suggestions based on your own abilities and goals. Attention, motivation, and concentration are important variables that you must learn how to regulate if you want to squeeze the most out of your potential.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.