If you’re studying for exams, then one of your biggest challenges will be how to make the most out of the time you spend studying. There has been plenty of material published, both online and offline, that tells you all about the conventional wisdom here; set yourself a plan, find somewhere quiet, avoid distractions, eat and sleep well etc. So rather than reiterating this, here are five extra things that might help you.
1 Always make sure you have a sense of achievement about every period of study.
This links in to making sure you have a study plan and are following it, but consider this extra angle. When you finish each period of study, do you feel a sense of achievement over what you’ve just done, or do you feel like you’ve wasted your time? The trick is to make sure that when you plan your study, think a little bit deeper about whether you can realistically achieve what you’ve set yourself to do – and if not, scale it back a bit. There’s a huge degree of motivation to be achieved when you move from one period of fulfilling study to another. Without this, you may feel like your studying turns into a bit of a struggle, even though you may feel like it’s going according to plan.
2 Give yourself credit for what you have done, not what you haven’t done.
Many “How to Study” guides will tell you to reward yourself when you reach certain milestones in your studies, and that’s fine. But think about this. Along the way, do you say to yourself “well done” for doing what you have managed to do in your session, or do you beat yourself up because you’ve slipped behind in your planning? Try and do the former rather than the latter – and remember, you can always revise your plan if you hit a setback; just remind yourself you are still on your journey.
3 Find your optimum study conditions
Are you absolutely sure that you’ve found the conditions that you best study under? Conventional wisdom is that people study best in quiet conditions with no distractions. But could you perhaps concentrate better if you had some music on in the background? Or perhaps a different, calmer style of music? Also, have you considered white noise? As odd as it may seem, sometimes a constant sound in the background, such as a fan, stormy weather or rainfall, can aid concentration. If you’re not sure what I mean, go to YouTube, search for “White Noise” and try one of the videos – it works for me.
I’m not saying start listening to music. The point is; have you established once and for all what works best for you or are you just doing what books and web articles tell you to do?
4 Try using a voice recorder to summarise
Or if you have a smartphone, you could use the voice notes facility instead. The point here is that one of the most effective ways of building your knowledge and recall is to summarise what you have studied at the end of each session. And the quickest way to do that is to quickly record a summary on a voice recorder or mobile phone. Then when you come back to study next time, play this recording back and see how much of what you’ve learnt previously is triggered off in your mind. If you do this every time you study, you might be surprised at how well you’ve covered the material.