Tips for Effective Studying

I’m sure quite a lot of people reading this despise studying and doing homework, especially when it comes to revising for a test or exam. A lot of people hate it because they don’t know where to start. So, I have laid out some crucial points when it comes to getting your revision done for the upcoming test.

  1. Print off your specification. I feel like this point is underrated. Everything you need to know in an exam will be in the specification, so make sure you learn material from there. The examiners cannot test you on anything that is not shown in that document, so make sure you have a copy for yourself. You can find these on the exam board’s websites if you just search in Google for them. Highlight the points you need to know for the test, or the ones that you need to work on.
  2. Make a list of what you need to do. If this upcoming test includes a few topics or there’s a lot in the topic that you need to cover, make a clear list of exactly what you need to do. You can also use a colour coding system to highlight which areas of the topic(s) you understand and which you don’t: the best way to do this is using the traffic-light system (red for areas that need work, green for ones you understand and orange for those that you need to have a brief look over and perhaps do a few questions on it.)
  3. Get set up. For me, this is the fun part of studying (if you can say that any part of studying is ‘fun’). Using pastel highlighters and gel pens is my haven for revision. Colour code your work. Use cute notebooks. Do it all.

4. Have breaks. When it comes to studying, probably the most ineffective way to do so is go at it for hours on end. Using preferably a timer on your laptop (not your phone- this will cause distractions), set a timer for no more than one hour (depending on how you personally benefit from studying; it’s different for everyone, some can indeed study for hours, others can only do so for around 40 minutes). Get up from your desk and stretch, get a glass of water, and have a 10 minute break.

5. Sticky notes! These are a life-saver. I stick them all around my room and over my notes when a thought comes to mind. For remembering equations or things to do, stick these around your room, or I like to stick them to my laptop so that I am always aware of them there. You can use these also within your notes, to make them prettier and more colourful and to point out key ideas.

6. Turn off your phone. Put your phone in another room or just switch it off. It is so tempting to scroll through social media after every piece of work you do – but don’t! This will slow you down up and could take you up to 5x longer to complete your work or revision.

7. Have snacks. Next to you, have a bowl of fruit or even chips and dips to keep you going, whatever you need to get you through it, if you are one of those who just can’t get down to work. My personal favourite is grapes or Doritos. Tea and coffee is also a good idea, and you could possibly time yourself to get a piece of work done or part of a past paper done by the time you have finished your drink, for example.

8. Find what works for you in terms of material. Past papers, flash cards, mind maps, or simple notes. It’s different for everyone. Personally, I use all these ways to revise, depending on what I’m doing. If you are learning a language, Quizlet is the BEST for vocab-learning, or anything really. You can make flashcards for vocabulary, key terms, definitions, anything you need to know, and you can find thousands of sets already done by other people (and it’s free!). For different subjects or even different topics, I use a different format of note-making. Mind maps are used for general overviews of a subject, flash cards for key terms, and written notes for more difficult topics that I need in more detail. Make these all colourful too!

9. Past papers are a brilliant way to learn material, as these are the questions that have been used time and time again and will come up in your exams. I tend to have a crack at these after I have learned my notes, but they are also useful to do before you even take a peep at your notes, to eliminate the things you know well and don’t need to focus on, and point out the areas you definitely need to look over. Physicsandmathstutor.com is an excellent website for those doing GCSEs or A-Levels. It has past papers and notes for sciences and maths – the notes are laid out according to the exam board specification so get your hands on these!

10. Don’t leave all of your note-making until the weekend before. Make notes throughout your course, on the weekends, whenever you have less homework, and whenever you have a spare few minutes. Schedule in an hour or two a day, or do it whilst watching TV.

11. Study all day long. On the way to school, as you brush your teeth, in the bath, even exercising. Podcasts or voice memos of yourself reading out notes are fab ways to learn material whilst on a run or walk, for example. Don’t be complacent that you don’t have enough time to revise – you will find that you have lots of spare 5 minutes all throughout your day where you can fit some extra work in.

12. Have a rest. Despite the point above, make sure to take a day off here and there. Your mental health comes above anything else, in spite of what teachers may say at school. If you’re stressed, have a bath and chill out. I don’t recommend studying before going to sleep as this will just get your brain racing before sleep, but this method can work for some people.

13. Study groups. Sometimes studying can be lonely, so working with friends or others in your class is a really good way to help each other with revision. Everyone will have different strengths and weaknesses – you bounce off each other and learn from each other. During the current times in the pandemic, this is easily done over Zoom, Snapchat etc. Just make sure you aren’t getting distracted, and if it gets to a point where you start chatting about what you ate for dinner last night or what Netflix show is trending at the moment, end the call and get back to it on your own.

All of these tips may work for some and not for others. This is just a list compiling my top tips for effective studying – bear in mind that this may not guarantee you an A, but it may help boost your grade!

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