We get a lot of questions from Studyclix users asking us the best way to study. There's a lot of research out there from psychologists who tell us that the best way to learn more is not just to spend more time studying but to make sure you are studying effectively. Here are 6 tips that will help you make sure you are not wasting your valuable study time.
6 ways to make sure you are studying effectively
1. Keep zoning out? Take proper breaks.
Lots of students think the way to do better is to study for longer. This is not the case. If you've ever had the feeling of drifting off in the middle of studying, it's because you are studying for too long at a time. The human brain typically can only concentrate for 25 minutes at a time. It's best to study in 30 minute blocks broken up by the reward of a 5 minute break between each. You can use the Pomodoro technique to help you do this.
At the start of each study session you should decide on a reward for when you finish. It might be to watch TV, go out, go online, whatever. It's important that you have something to work towards so you can reward your efforts with some positive reinforcement. This trains your brain to associate study with positive experiences.
2. Find it hard to start studying? Get your study area right.
Loads of students study in their bedroom or in the kitchen or living rooms at home. The problem with this is that your brain associates these places with activities other than studying. So when you're in your bedroom all you want to do is sleep.
You need to set up a proper study area. If you must study in your bedroom then try and turn your desk away from your bed. Also try to minimize distractions by staying off any social media and your phone while you are studying. Instead use your breaks as a chance to catch up with your friends online.
A nice little trick is to have a "study lamp" on your desk. Every time you study switch on your lamp and as soon as you feel your concentration is slipping switch off them lamp. This will help make you more aware of when you are drifting and will also train your brain into dividing study time from relaxing time.
3. Nothing is going in? Start doing active learning.
Most learning for exams can be divided into either concepts or facts. Learning the names of the bones in the human body is facts but learning how the bones work together is a concept. Understanding concepts is far more important than facts. If you don't have an understanding of the overall concept then you will find it really hard to learn the facts.
Humans are story tellers. The human brain has evolved to be able to remember complex stories. See can you put concepts into your own words, this will force you to add meaning to it and so remembering will be easy.
Recapitulation is when you summarise the main points of something. Psychologists have shown that restating information in your own words greatly improves retention of concepts. You can do this by writing notes in your own words but an even better way to do this is to teach others by explaining concepts verbally. Forming a study group where you and your friends teach each other can be really effective. Even talking to a chair can work. The act of verbalising what you have learnt is when deep learning happens.
4. Can't remember anything? Get proper sleep.
One of the simplest things you can do to improve the effectiveness of your study is to sleep more. Psychologists have shown that our brain forms memory during REM sleep (rapid eye movement). There's no point in studying more hours at the expense of less hours sleep as this will give your brain less chance to sort and file the information.
Everyone is slightly different but teenagers should be getting somewhere between 7 and 9 hours sleep per night. It's also really important to try and get into a regular sleeping pattern. Try and avoid long lie-ins or late nights on the weekend as this will mess up your sleep cycle for the coming week.
There's 168 hours in a week. Try make a proper study plan to get yourself organized.
5. Where do I start? How to use a Textbook
Textbooks are designed mainly for pedagogy i.e. to help your teachers teach you the course. If you've ever stared blankly at a book for hours on end then you'll know that reading textbooks is not always the best way to study.
A good tip for learning from textbooks is SQ3R: Survey, question, Read, Recite and Review. The idea is that you should start by looking through a chapter and survey the various sections to come up with a series of questions, "what are white blood cells for?". You then read through the text looking for answers to your questions. Once you have created questions, your brain will find it way easier to place the answers. Recite the information by rewriting or verbally and finally review all just before the exam.
6. Am I doing enough? Test yourself.
It can be really hard to know whether your study is paying off and you are making progress. One of the best ways you can do this is by constantly testing yourself with past exam questions. Studyclix makes this really easy by giving you all the past exam questions and the marking schemes in each topic. 95% of students who have used Studyclix PLUS+ said it helped them improve their grades.
Good luck with the study and don't forget you can post any questions you have on our discussion forum