Study tips

Study smarter, not harder

Studying smarter is about using strategies that get you the results you want. If you want to get more out of the time you spend studying, consider trying some of the ideas below.

Attend to basic needs first

To retain the most when you are studying you have to take care of yourself first. That means, get a good night’s rest by sleeping 6 – 8 hours per night, exercising a couple times per week, eating healthy, etc.

Attend class

This is perhaps one of the most vital ways to prepare yourself for studying. If you aren’t present in class, then you aren’t experiencing the lecture. You miss out on what information the instructor thinks is most important, class discussions that promote deeper learning, clues on how to study, and much more. In the end, missing class makes studying much harder than it needs to be.

Participate in class

Actively participating in class will not only increase your understanding of the concepts, but will help you retain what you’ve learned better once class is over.

Complete your assignments

Always complete the assignments given to you in class. They are meant to help you learn and understand the concepts in class and the feedback provided by your instructor or professor will help you see where you need to put a little more study time in.

Don’t wait for motivation to strike

The hardest part of tackling schoolwork is simply getting started. Using the 10-minute rule can really help. Begin studying for 10 minutes and many times you will find that you have the momentum to continue with your work.

Schedule study time

You have 168 hours each week. How many of those hours are you currently spending studying? For the best results, study 2 – 3 hours a week for every credit you’re enrolled in. For example, if you’re enrolled in 15 credits. Plan to spend 30 – 45 hours a week studying for your classes.

Set goals for each study session

Identify questions that you want answered by the end of the study session, or specific knowledge that you’re working to gain. Know what it is you want to achieve during the session, not just that you “need to study”.

Minimize distractions

Study in a quiet, distraction-free environment. One key way to minimize distractions is to put your phone on do not disturb or put it in another room.

Take breaks

Studying for several hours straight is not only exhausting but has shown to be detrimental to your ability to recall information. Take 5 minute breaks every 25 – 30 minutes you spend studying.

Study a little everyday

The best way to learn anything is to take in small chunks of information over a longer period of time.

Use flash cards

First decide if flash cards are appropriate for the task at hand. When you’re learning vocabulary and similar things they can be great! But when learning concepts flash cards often cause us to focus on the hard facts and lose sight of the overall idea. If you decide they are good for the situation you’re in, then carry them with you! Quiz yourself while standing in line or waiting for a class to start. There are lots of little moments you can use to learn!

Annotate your textbook

Highlighting is a reminder to think about what you have read later instead of learning the material now. Make the most of your reading by taking notes in the textbook. Write key ideas in the margins. Annotations help you remember what you read better. Research suggests that taking notes in your textbook produces better results than by taking notes in a separate notebook. Keep your annotations in the book and use post-it notes if you have to.

Practice effective note taking

Taking effective notes is not about writing every word spoken by your instructor or copying every printed slide. These practices may actually prevent you from learning the material. A better strategy is to create brief bullet points that allow you to spend more time listening and to draw diagrams to show how all the ideas are connected.  After class, return to your notes and fill in the gaps. If you want to take your learning to the next level, meet with another student from class and discuss what you just learned.

Learn, don’t memorize

When we go over the same material over and over again in the same way we will begin to memorize that information. Unfortunately, this isn’t actually learning the material and if the test asks a question that is more conceptual than direct, you might find yourself stuck. Try to solve new problems when practicing for a test or finding the connections between concepts. This will help you to truly understand the material instead of just remembering it.

Self-test

When preparing for a test people will often “study”, which will often mean reading their book or looking over their notes. An effective method to prepare for exams is to do what you’re going to be doing on the test. If the test is going to be about solving problems, then practice solving problems. If the test is about answering questions, then practice answering questions. Remember to treat self-testing like an actual test. If you get stuck, don’t immediately look up the answer or ask for help. Try to answer the question to the best of your ability first. That way when you do get help you’ll be able to look at where your process in solving it went wrong (or right!).

Speak out loud

When studying talk the material out, instead of just reading. By involving your eyes and ears into the learning process, you will improve your likelihood of remembering the material you studied.

Study groups

Studying in groups or with a partner will give you an opportunity to compare notes, get different perspectives on class material, and practice explaining what you are learning.

Do what works for you

We are all different and we learn in a variety of ways. If your study strategies aren’t giving you the results you want, then try something new. Keep experimenting until you find the strategies that work for you.


The Student Resource Center offers study tip individual consultations if you would like additional help in getting started. To make a study tip individual consultation please call 360-546-9155 or stop by the Student Resource Center to set up an appointment.