Were you hoping to get an A for your last test or exam, but your study habits got in the way?
Maybe you got a B, or maybe you did worse than that.
It’s annoying, isn’t it…
You put in all those hours of studying. You even gave up time with your friends.
So what if I could show you a way to work smarter and not harder, so you get good grades and have time for the things you enjoy and find meaningful?
Even better, what if I could guarantee it?
Well, I can.
All you have to do is adopt these 22 study habits.
(Throughout my career as a student I got straight A’s, so I can promise you that these study habits work.)
Want to get the grades you’ve always wanted while also leading a balanced life?
Then let’s get started.
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The best study habits
Add these effective study habits to your routine to start getting good grades with a lot less stress.
Habit #1: Create a weekly schedule
When you schedule time for a particular task like studying, you’re saying to yourself, “I’m going to focus on studying at this time, on this date, and it’s going to take this number of hours.”
Once it’s down in writing, it becomes a reality and you’re more likely to stick to it.
This might sound weird, but it’s true.
Do this in your calendar, in a spreadsheet, or download a template – whatever works best for you.
First, think about your fixed commitments like school, sports practice, family time, religious activities and so on.
Now, decide which times around these fixed commitments are the best for you to do your work and revision each week.
Don’t worry about exactly what work you’ll be doing, or what assignments are due. Just focus on blocking out the times.
Your weekly study schedule might look something like this (the blue slots are the times you’ve blocked out to do work):
Give yourself a study-free day (or at least half a day) once a week.
Everyone needs a break, so you’re more likely to come back to the work refreshed if you give yourself permission to take some time off.
Habit #2: Create a pre-studying checklist
Have you ever heard your mother say you should never go to the supermarket without a shopping list?
You’ll wander up and down the aisles, wasting time. You’ll make poor choices about what to buy and end up with all the wrong things for dinner.
By using a shopping list, your mind will be focused. You’ll only put items in your shopping trolley that you need, checking them off as you go.
It’s no different from a checklist used by a pilot before he takes off, or a mechanic as he services a car.
Checklists are essential as you learn how to develop good study habits. They ensure that you cover all the necessary steps to achieve an outcome.
Here are some of the things that might be on your pre-studying checklist:
- Set up workspace
- Make sure your phone is in another room or turned off
- Let family members know not to disturb you until the end of the study session
- Gather together all the notes and reference books needed
- Get a glass of water
- Set timer
Keep your checklist handy, and tick everything off at the start of every study session.
Habit #3: Create a study plan
The purpose of a study plan is similar to that of a checklist. It keeps you on track.
When you go camping, you might have a checklist that covers all the equipment you need to pack into the car.
But you also need a road map to show you how to get to the campsite. It allows you to plan your route, and keeps you focused on your destination.
So, at the start of each study session, create a study plan.
For example, today you might need to complete a math assignment and write up the summary notes of chapter 4 of your history textbook.
Write down the key tasks, together with a list of steps you’ll need to take along the way.
To complete your math assignment, you might write:
- Read notes from math class
- Read chapter in the textbook on algebraic calculations
- Do questions 1 to 3
Your study plan will help you concentrate on what you need to get done today, without being distracted by the things that can wait until tomorrow.
Habit #4: Study offline as much as possible
When you study, you want to be focused, which means limiting all those annoying interruptions that happen when you’re online.
Switch off your Internet connection and give your brain the peace and quiet it needs to concentrate.
And while you’re at it, try not to use a laptop to take notes.
This may sound like strange advice, but research has shown that taking notes by hand is a much smarter way of learning.
When you write notes by hand, your brain absorbs the meaning of what you’re writing. But when you use a laptop, you’re not processing what you’re learning as deeply.
Habit #5: Take three deep breaths before each study session
What’s the one thing that comes to you so naturally, you don’t even think about it?
We each take about 20,000 breaths a day, so you’d think we’d be pretty good at it. But did you know that there are better ways to breathe than others?
And guess who breathes the best? Babies.
As babies, we all take deep, relaxing breaths. These breaths push the oxygen around our bodies and into our brains, helping us to concentrate better.
But as we get older, we take shorter, faster breaths. As a result, we have trouble staying alert.
There are plenty of ways to breathe more deeply, but here’s one method you can try before you start each study session:
- Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose for four seconds
- Exhale through your mouth for four seconds
- Repeat three times
Tip: Try this just before you go to bed as well. It will help you sleep better.
Habit #6: Learn how to motivate yourself
Do you find that sometimes it’s almost impossible to start studying? In fact, your body feels like a heavy stone as you drag yourself towards your workspace.
Don’t worry. Everyone feels like that from time to time.
You just need to know how to motivate yourself to study, and to do that we’re going to create another list.
This time, write down all the reasons why you want to study hard, such as:
- I want to do my best
- I want to become more disciplined
- I want to prepare well for the future
- I want to develop perseverance
- I want to learn as much as I can
Put your list somewhere you can see it. The next time you feel like watching TV instead of studying, go through your list.
You’ll be fired up and ready to get back to your studies in no time!
Habit #7: Take notes during class
Taking notes in class is an important study tip to implement.
Think about the number of classes you go to every day at school and the mountain of information that gets thrown at you.
You’d never be able to remember everything you learned without taking notes.
Taking notes also helps you to absorb and retain information much better than just listening.
And lastly, think of your class notes as the backbone of your focused study time. They sum up what you’ve learned, and they make your study time more efficient.
(Here are some proven tips on how to take notes effectively.)
Habit #8: Review what you learned in school that day
Reviewing new information you learned in class is one of the most effective study habits you can develop.
Before the end of each day, read the notes you took or re-read the chapter that your teacher taught in class.
It won’t take long to do, and it will help you retain what you learned. It will also make the process of moving the information from short-term to long-term memory smoother.
Habit #9: Read your notes before you start doing your homework
This is similar to the last study habit we talked about.
The first thing you should do in your study session is to re-read the notes you took in class before you start the homework assignment for that topic.
Don’t forget to include this task in your study plan (see Habit #3).
It will refresh your memory, so you’ll be well prepared to tackle the homework assignment.
Habit #10: Get at least eight hours of sleep every night
We all know that a good night’s sleep makes us more alert and energised the next day.
But did you know that it also improves your memory and makes you a better student?
You probably think there’s no way a top student could get enough sleep, but you’re wrong. In fact, getting eight hours of sleep before an exam is more effective than staying up late, trying to cram all the information in.
The best way to make sure you get eight hours of good quality sleep is to go to bed at the same time each night. (Set an alarm to remind you, if necessary.)
Read a chapter of a book, but don’t read it on your phone or tablet. This is because the light from such screens makes it difficult for the brain to wind down and inhibits melatonin production.
In addition, turn off phones and other electronic devices that may disturb you during the night.
Habit #11: Create an environment that helps you study
Trying to work in a noisy room, or one with poor lighting, is going to make your study time less effective.
To develop good study habits, take a few minutes to ensure your workspace is conducive to studying.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Do you have the necessary supplies and stationery within reach?
- Is the lighting adequate?
- Make sure your desk is tidy and uncluttered (do this before and after each study session)
- Is the room at the right temperature?
- Is your work chair comfortable?
- Is the room quiet? (Use earplugs if necessary)
- Is your phone switched off?
- Delete any apps on your phone that you might be tempted to open when you should be studying
- Are there any other distractions in the room that might disturb you, like a magazine or the TV? Switch them off or remove them altogether.
Habit #12: Time your study sessions and breaks
Do you find it hard to concentrate for more than 45 minutes at a time? That’s perfectly normal.
In fact, I’d recommend that you take a 5-minute break from studying every 30 to 40 minutes.
Don’t fall into the study habit of stretching out your break so it ends up being longer than your study time, though.
When you start a study session, set a timer for 30 to 40 minutes and then take a break. Likewise, set the timer for the end of the break so you know when to get back to work.
Habit #13: When you take a study break, step away from your desk
To develop good study habits, don’t forget to take breaks and use them wisely.
Step away from your desk and do something completely different to give your brain a break, as well as your body. Go for a short walk around the block or get a snack from the kitchen.
I encourage you not to watch a video, turn on the TV or check your social media news feed.
This is because these activities won’t give your brain a proper break.
Habit #14: Make use of the breaks you have during the school day
Do you have a long break in the middle of the school day or after lunch?
Is there something useful you could be doing with this time?
Maybe you could review the notes you took that morning or start preparing your study plan for later in the day.
Another great use of your free time is to seek out a fellow student and talk about what you’ve just learned. This is especially so if you need some clarification, or if you have doubts about something.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s an excellent way to learn faster and better.
Habit #15: Stay on top of your homework
This may sound like an obvious habit to cultivate as a student, but I’m often surprised by the number of students who let their homework pile up.
If it gets out of hand, just the thought of doing your homework can become overwhelming and stressful.
Before you know it, you’ll find yourself working so hard to catch up, you’ll have no time to study for important tests and exams, which are stressful enough on their own.
One of the most effective study habits to practise is to start your homework on the day it’s assigned.
At the very least, take a look at the questions while the information you learned is still fresh in your mind.
That way, if you have to come back to it later, you’ll have a rough framework as a starting point, making it much easier to complete.
Habit #16: Ask your teachers for help at least once a week
Your teachers are there to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
Asking for help is a crucial study habit to cultivate.
Include asking for help in your weekly schedule (see Habit #1) and keep a list of any questions you think of during the week.
Bring the list of questions with you, and don’t let them pile up.
If you let the questions pile up, you may start to feel overwhelmed, and you may become reluctant to seek help.
Habit #17: Use a planner to keep track of assignments and deadlines
If you’re not organised when it comes to things related to school, you’ll waste precious time doing last-minute work you forgot about.
Or you may stay up late to finish an assignment you should have started a week earlier.
Use a planner to keep track of important dates, tasks and deadlines. You can either use a physical diary or an online one like Google Calendar.
The important thing is to keep your planner up to date, so you don’t have to rely on your memory or wait for your teachers to remind you.
Planning and studying effectively will improve your test-taking skills and performance.
Don’t just include the date of a test, for example, when you use your planner. Include a reminder to start revising for the test well in advance.
And review your planner at least once a week. Every Monday, go through all the upcoming deadlines, and prioritise the tasks and projects you’ll need to keep on top of for the week.
Habit #18: Test yourself periodically
Don’t wait for regular tests and exams to come around before you start studying. Set mini-tests for yourself every few weeks.
You may have reviewed your class notes once, but it doesn’t mean the information has been absorbed or effectively memorised for a future exam.
Here’s how to test yourself…
When you review your class notes, highlight some of the key things you’ve learned.
For example, in history it might be the date of an important event. Write down some test questions on a separate sheet of paper as you go, such as “When did the war start?” or “What caused the civil war?”
The next day, pull out the test questions and see how many answers you can remember.
It takes some effort to succeed at a test you give yourself, but that effort will be rewarded when it comes to exam time.
Habit #19: Check your work before you consider it done
When you finish an assignment, don’t consider it done until you’ve double-checked your work for careless mistakes.
Here’s what you should be looking out for:
- Spelling mistakes
- Grammar mistakes
- Poor presentation
- Have I responded to the question?
- Have I left out key facts?
- Have I got the equations correct?
Habit #20: Keep a “worry” list
It’s common for students to worry about not doing well, but it’s a distracting pastime.
When you worry about something, it can hinder your ability to focus on learning and improving.
That’s why you need to keep a “worry” list.
Strange as it may sound, research has shown that writing down a list of your fears about school can actually improve your grades.
When you write down a list of your worries, it’s as though you’re unloading your anxieties and freeing up your brain to concentrate on learning.
So whenever a worry pops into your mind, write it down and move on.
Habit #21: Use online resources (if your teacher isn’t available)
Your teacher should be the first person you go to with a question or concern about the class material – unless you can easily find the answer on the Internet.
But if your teachers aren’t available when you need something clarified (which often happens in the middle of study time), there are some great online resources you can use.
Here are some of them:
Habit #22: If you struggle with procrastination, use the Pomodoro Technique
Procrastination or a lack of focus is a big problem during study time.
We’ve already talked about the need to take regular breaks (see Habit #13), but there’s another method you might find useful.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
The idea is that you’ll stay on top of your work if you break your study periods up into focused but manageable bursts of 25 minutes.
This is instead of trying to concentrate for two hours or more at a go, which takes a lot of energy and willpower.
The objective is to train your brain to focus on a task that needs to be completed and postpone all distractions until later.
Here’s how it works:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Concentrate 100% on studying until the timer rings
- Take a five-minute break – and remember to step away from your desk
- Repeat until the end of your study session
Here are some apps you can try:
- Focus Booster – This is available for desktop and mobile devices. You can download the starter version for free.
- Marinara Timer – This one is free and doesn’t need downloading. Just open it up and start the timer.
Check out this article for even more apps you can use.
Start practising your new study habits
Well done! You’ve read about the 22 study habits that are guaranteed to improve your grades.
(On top of that, here are 8 bad study habits you’ll want to avoid.)
Reading about these habits is a great start. But nothing’s going to change if you just click away from this article.
If you’re wondering how to get good grades, you need to take action – every day, every week, and every month. Start tomorrow with just one new study habit. Make it part of your daily routine.
After a week, pick another one and put it into practice.
Before you know it, you’re going to turn those disappointing B’s and C’s into straight A’s. I guarantee it!
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