Are you frustrated with your academic results despite spending a lot of time studying?
The right study strategies can turn your frustration into success.
When you’ve learned to study effectively, it will boost your motivation to study. Your progress in school will make you feel good about the time you spend understanding the material.
This can result in a lifelong passion for learning, which will serve you well long after you graduate.
Tailoring the way you study to your specific needs and abilities is essential to achieving your goals. By exploring various study methods, you can discover ways to save time, energy, and effort – and get better grades too.
Let’s talk about the 15 strategies that will enable you to make the most of your study time.
(First, make sure to download your free quick action guide below to improve your focus and reduce procrastination!)
1. Use a variety of learning techniques and approaches
Do you use the same approach every time you study?
If so, try this instead: Diversify your learning techniques to engage with the topics in different ways.
The goal is to engage various parts of the brain. You can try a number of techniques, such as:
- Reviewing your class notes
- Reading and summarizing the keys points from the textbook
- Watching lectures and videos online (for example on Khan Academy)
- Creating a mind map
- Discussing the material in a study group
- Doing practice questions from the textbook
Each time you revisit a topic, use a different approach to make your study time more fruitful. Over time, you’ll realize that your understanding of the topic is more well-rounded because of the variety of learning methods you’ve used.
2. Apply the strategy of interleaving
Interleaving is the act of “mixing” the subjects you learn during your study sessions. So instead of focusing on one subject during a long study session, switch between a few.
For example, you could spend 30 minutes practicing math problems, then you could take a short break. You could then review your biology notes for 30 minutes, followed by another short break. Finally, you could spend 30 minutes reading a chapter from the chemistry textbook. After one more break, you could then circle back to math.
According to the Academic Affairs Department of the University of Arizona, interleaving can improve categorization and problem-solving skills.
Cognitive psychologists believe it can enhance the brain’s ability to distinguish between concepts and strengthen memory associations too.
3. Review information regularly to avoid cramming
How many times have you pulled an all-nighter before an exam?
It’s a fact that cramming leads to short-term improvements, while spaced practice leads to long-term understanding.
Instead of cramming, try a more proactive approach—a periodic review. Plan a timeline for these reviews. This strategy is used successfully by straight-A students!
For example, you could review your notes one week after you learn the topic. Then schedule a second review of the material for two weeks after that, then schedule a third review for one month after the second review.
Periodically reviewing new information in this manner helps you to transfer the information from short- to long-term memory. This makes it easier to retrieve come exam time.
4. Use acronyms to study smart
Studies show that mnemonic acronyms can enhance learning and exam performance.
The easiest way to do this is to create a phrase or acronym that represents the information you’re trying to memorize. Here’s an example of a mnemonic acronym:
If you’re taking a math class and you’re having difficulty remembering the order of operations, try using the phrase, “Please excuse my dear aunt Sally.” This phrase is an easy way to remember PEMDAS, which stands for parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.
Another example is this acronym to remember the Great Lakes: HOMES. It stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
It may take some time for you to think of a suitable mnemonic acronym to memorize a specific list, sequence, equation, etc. But it’s worth the time!
5. Test yourself regularly
Have you ever wondered what the secret is to getting good grades?
Self-testing is one strategy that helps. As the research shows, students who test themselves frequently perform better in school.
Rather than passively reading through your notes, test yourself on the key points to see if you’ve learned the information well. Do quizzes and tests on your own, and ask your teachers if they can give you exams from prior years to do as practice.
You can also look online for additional tests on the material you want to master.
6. Link what you’re learning with prior knowledge you possess
We integrate new information faster by building upon the knowledge or concepts we’ve already learned.
Making connections between prior knowledge and new information has proven to aid learning.
So the next time you’re studying a new topic or concept, try to think of prior knowledge you can connect with it.
For example, if you’re learning about the human body, you can think of cells functioning like “factories,” blood vessels as “highways,” DNA as a “blueprint,” and the immune system as a “police force.”
This approach will take some time and effort, but using your creativity in this way will make learning more fun and effective.
7. Read key information aloud
When your studying involves reading, it’s more effective if you do it out loud.
As you do this, not only are you reading the information on the page, but you’re also speaking and hearing it.
Of course, when you have dozens of pages to read, it won’t always be possible to read everything out loud. In such instances, make sure to read aloud key information, definitions, and concepts you want to memorize.
University of Waterloo researchers found that reading something aloud improves your memory.
It might feel awkward at first since you’re probably more accustomed to reading silently. But I encourage you to give it a go and see for yourself that this technique of reading aloud works!
8. Make summary notes of each textbook chapter
Making summary notes is an effective study method.
As you move through the topics in your textbook, create summary notes at the end of each chapter. Write down any areas that you have questions about.
It’s still a good idea to read through the entire textbook chapter occasionally, but the summary notes will enable you to understand the material more deeply.
In fact, the process of making summary notes is what will benefit you the most as a learner.
9. Write down the questions or doubts you have
When studying, you’re sure to come across some concepts you have questions or doubts about.
Spend time trying to understand the material on your own. But if you’re still stuck after 15 to 20 minutes, write down your questions and move on.
It’s important to write down your questions, so you don’t forget to ask for clarification from your teacher as soon as you can.
Writing the questions down and knowing you’ll get help with them later will free up your mind to focus on studying.
10. Give another person an overview of the concept
Explaining a complex topic to someone else is an excellent technique for mastering it.
Your understanding of the topic will improve as you explain the concept to another person. You can do this with your parents, a sibling, or a friend.
After you explain the topic, ask the other person if there are any areas you didn’t explain clearly.
Try to explain the concept as if you’re talking to someone who has no prior knowledge of the concept. This way, you’ll cover all the key points while ensuring that you understand the concept well.
11. Make a list of all the learning resources available to you
If you take advantage of all the learning resources available to you, your test and exam preparations will be far more thorough.
Start by making a list of the learning resources for each subject.
Here are some examples of learning resources:
- Class notes
- Practice questions
- Online quizzes
- Graded assignments
When preparing for an exam, go through all these resources for the various topics you need to cover.
Most students who don’t make a list of the available resources will often forget about one or two resources. This can significantly impact how prepared you are for the exam.
12. Review new concepts you learned earlier in the day
Review and consolidate all the new information you learned earlier in the day during your classes. This will make it easier for you to remember the information in the long run.
Doing this review will also ensure that you understand the material.
The forgetting curve demonstrates the importance of reviewing new information soon after you learn it.
Three days after you learn something for the first time, you only retain about 60% of the information. However, when you review the material soon after, you can retain up to 90% of the information.
13. Decide on a date when you’ll start studying for a test or exam
This is an effective study method because it will help you to avoid procrastinating.
When you have a specific start date in mind, you won’t keep telling yourself that you’ll start studying for the exam “soon,” while continually putting it off.
Instead, you would have already made a commitment to yourself about when you’ll get to work.
Getting started is often the hardest part, and a plan will help you overcome this hurdle.
14. Write down the key tasks you plan to complete every day
You can make the most of your time by prioritizing your most important tasks or those with the most urgent deadlines.
Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
This quote suggests that you kick-start your day with the most challenging task. That way, everything else you have to do will seem easy in comparison.
Before you start work for the day, take a minute to check if you have any exams or tests coming up. Also, review what homework you have to do.
After you’ve done this, write down three to five important tasks you want to complete that day.
For example, you might write down:
- Do math homework, questions 1 to 6
- Read biology textbook chapter 8
- Make flashcards for Spanish vocabulary quiz
Research suggests that most people reach peak energy levels soon after they wake up. This makes mornings an excellent time to study.
During the school week, you can use what time you have available to study because you’ll probably be in class in the mornings.
But avoid procrastinating during the mornings on weekends. If you put important tasks off until later, you’ll need more energy and motivation to finish the work.
15. Create a productive studying environment
Your environment is more important than you might think when it comes to maximizing your study time.
Learning environments play an important role in student success. Seating, light, noise, and even color can influence your ability to learn.
Science backs this up. A positive learning environment can motivate and engage students. Conversely, students in environments that aren’t conducive to studying – such as cluttered spaces – find it much harder to stay on task.
Here are some factors to keep in mind when creating a productive study environment:
- Comfortable seating
- Bright, natural lighting (which can enhance student performance by 25%)
- Room color
- Music (for example, listening to classical music can significantly improve working memory)
- Clutter-free space
In this article, you’ve learned 15 study strategies that have been proven to work.
Try out the strategies one at a time, and I’m confident that you’ll make excellent progress!
Now that you know these effective study strategies, the only missing piece is a step-by-step system to enable you to prepare for exams as effectively as possible.
So check out this comprehensive course I’ve created called The Perfect Study Plan. It comes with a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee, so give it a try risk-free!