If you’ve ever wondered how to study more effectively, this article is for you.
Though Bill Gates’ target audience were the engineering students, the advise holds true for all pupils. At some point in life, everyone has to deal with unexpected surprises in the work field. Exams are just a prequel to the challenges that lie ahead. However try saying it to a student and he/she just might give you a death stare. For students, exams are a matter of life and death. Most students whole heartedly follow Mr. Gates’ advice (unintentionally of course) and try to pull all-nighters just before the exam.
The pre-exam stress can do disastrous things to the mind and memory even when the student is well versed. Exams are just as about nerves as they are about testing the knowledge gained.
Being a student myself, I can relate to the nightmare that the exams can be. Hence I have written this article to help all the fellows out there in their quest to prepare as well as possible in the shortest amount of time.
If you have an exam any time soon then Good luck! I hope you find the tips in here helpful.
How To Study More Effectively:
1. Collect All the Material
Before you sit down to study, make sure that you have everything you need. These include pencils, pens, writing paper, calculator or dictionary. Getting up again and again to retrieve things that you need breaks your concentration and wastes time.
2. Find a Suitable Spot
It is very important that the place where you sit down to study is serene and peaceful. Find a spot away from distractions like television. Also avoid studying in the company of people who might sidetrack you. It is better to have a room to yourself. If you do not have the facility of your own room in your house (for example, you share it with a sibling), a corner in the park or your local library might be good spots to consider.
3. Play Background Music
I personally advise against lyrical songs as they can divert your concentration. However some people find that listening to their favorite artist during studying mathematical subjects actually helps in the process. Listening to light, soft instrumental music is the safest bet as it can soothe and relax you.
4. Workout Before Beginning
Light exercise can vent off the feeling of drowsiness. It also improves blood circulation. As more blood flows towards your brain, your concentration will improve. Exercise also gives you a sense of purpose and determination to do something. This can help you in keeping sight of your exam related goals and targets.
5. Practice Yoga Poses
Yoga is one of the smartest routines out there. Not only is it great for your body and soul, it also does wonders for your mind. Correct yoga practice can open your mind and senses. An open mind that in more in sync with the world around you can absorb and retain knowledge for longer. Some yoga poses have been signaled out to be especially beneficial for mental health.
6. Avoid Studying on Computer
Studying on computer can be immensely distracting. Every ten minutes, you will be inclined to check your twitter or Facebook, even if to just check notifications. I know I advised in favor of educational video but while watching a video you are much more absorbed into it than reading something on the web. Whenever possible, try to read from a book. If you do not have the required book and need to consult the internet, find your desired files and print them out. Your attention is much more focused while reading from paper.
7. Switch Off Your Phone
Just like the internet, your mobile phone can be your number one enemy while trying to study. Nip the problem in the bud and just simply switch it off before beginning your study session.
8. Take Omega 3 & 6 Capsules
Our brain is made out of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Consuming an adequate amount of these supplements can help to increase brain volume; which means better concentration and memory. Both of these can be key players when you’re trying to ace an exam.
9. Build Concepts
Everything on your course is built from some fundamental basic concepts. Just like all of the English language stands upon the foundation of alphabets and grammar. If your trigonometry is weak, your calculus will inevitably suffer. On the other hand, if you have a strong grasp on the basic concepts, then you’ll be able to understand the advanced material with much more ease.
10. Get an Overview First
Before you bother to remember the details and formulas, get an overview of your subject material first. Instead of jumping right into memorizing dates for your history exam, understand why specific events happened, their background and effect on the world population. This way even if you don’t remember small particulars, you’ll be able to answer the question in a general manner.
11. Take Short Breaks Frequently
Expert Educationists advise against studying for long stretches at a time. This manner of tackling your exam, tires out your brain and renders it incapable of processing information after a certain time. Science suggests that the maximum time limit up to which the brain can unvaryingly concentrate on something is one hour.
After ever one hour, take a short 5 to 7 minutes break. Get up, move around and preferably have a little something to eat or drink.
12. Make Bullet Points
For every topic you study, jot the important information that you have gathered in small easy to remember bullet points. For example, Instead of trying to memorize the whole description of the events leading to World War II, jot them down in small two to three words phrases per event. Making bullet points and remembering them will help you recall information during your exam.
13. Space it Out
Instead of understanding and memorizing a whole chapter or topic on its own, divide it under small subheadings. Our brain retains small individual pieces of information better than a long continuous text. Taking the example of the events leading up to World War II. Instead of trying to remember all events at once, break it into small portions such as “Most Important Events”, “Moderately Important Events” and “Less Important Events”.
14. Make a Story Out of It
Human Beings are naturally animated creatures. We love hearing a good tale. You can use this little fact to help you in exams. Theoretical subjects usually have a readymade story to them. However for science subjects, make an animated tale out of it to help you remember the facts better.
15. Write it Out
When you have finished a topic, close the book and write down everything that you can recall from it. Writing it in your handwriting makes it a part of your hand memory. Alternatively if you just read it and move to the next topic, it will all become jumbled up in your mind. Whenever possible, study by writing things out.
16. Understand the Pattern
No matter what exam you are taking, there will also be a set pattern for it. Whether it is a school exam, semester final or SATs, every exam has a certain style of asking questions. For exam success, it is very important that you have prior knowledge of the pattern and the expected answers of the questions.
- How many words answer is expected for a 10 marks question?
- What answer is expected if the question says “Define”?
- How do you tackle a question that asks for your opinion?
You must know all such facts before taking the exam.
17. Set Up a Schedule
Some people study better in the morning, some perform better in late afternoon, while others are night owls. Observe yourself and know what is your most productive time. Then set your study schedule around it. For example, if you perform better in the morning, wake up early to utilize most of that time. You can compensate for sleep by dozing off at some other less productive time.
18. Avoid the Television
While you’re taking your hourly break, avoid the television during this time. If possible, do not walk past the television at all. It can quickly grasp your attention and make you lose sight of your goal. You might find that your 5 minutes break has been stretched to an hour. Find other means to relax yourself any by no means resort to television.
19. Be Selfish
During the exam session, your first priority should be your studies. If any of your family members ask for help around the house, refuse blatantly. Your prep time is there so that you can prepare for your exam, not so that you can mow the lawn.
20. Make Flash Cards
If you have to memorize something like dates or formulas, the best thing to do is to make flash cards. Take colored pieces of paper and cut them into appropriately sized squares. Then write the facts to be memorized in colored pen. Keep these flash cards with you wherever you go so you can keep revising them.
21. Connect Things
As you progress and move into higher studies, you’ll find that all things ultimately interconnect. You’ll find traces of calculus in subjects of industrial manufacture, statistics in quality control. If you are able to make these connections, you can cover a lot of subjects under one topic.
22. Recite it Out Loud
Some students report that reading aloud instead of silently works better for them. This does not hold true for all students out there though. If you’re someone who gets drowsy while reading, try reciting the text aloud and see how that fares for you.
23. Avoid Over Learning
If you have a goal of say completing two chapters per day, then once you have achieved that goal don’t over learn. Just like not completing your daily target can make you lose sight of your goals, similarly going over will tire you out. Once you have completed your daily target, reward yourself by relaxing and doing things that you enjoy.
24. Clear Your Head
It is a common complaint amongst students that when they sit down to study all the thoughts of the world come to reside in their heads. If you’re familiar with the practice of meditation then doing it before you start your study session will help clear your head and make you feel more focused. If you are not aware about it, reading about it and practicing beforehand will come to your aid during your exam time.
25. Make a Web
Once you have finished studying for a subject, take a blank piece of paper and randomly write down everything that you can remember in short phrases. Once you are done, open your book & notes and see how much you have covered. Go over again over any points that you might have missed. This will really cement the whole text in your mind.
26. Test Yourself
Most of the time, reading and memorizing on its own is not enough. To really make sure that you are prepared for the exam, test yourself. Write out some exam style questions and attempt to answer them. Alternatively you can also ask a friend or family member to test you.
27. Promise Yourself Treats
If you love chocolates or pizza or just enjoy going to the movies, use you interests as an incentive for yourself. Promise yourself that once you finish two chapters you’ll reward yourself with a pizza. Doing this will ensure that you don’t lose sight of your goal.
28. Rely on Caffeine
I know that this is not the best of the advice but when time is short and sleep is knocking on your door then caffeine can be your best friend. If you have very limited time and you want to cover as much as possible, rely of coffee or tea to keep you awake. This is not a long term strategy but it will get you through the day.
29. Break into Smaller Portions
Instead of studying at a stretch for some hours, break your study time into smaller portions. If you have a target of studying for four hours a day, you can divide it into two hours in the morning and two in the evening. You will be able to cover more content this way as your attention will not wander.
30. Avoid Revising your Weak Areas
The night before or right before an exam, do not look at content that you have not prepared well. Doing this will only make you realize how much you do not know. There is no point in making this realization now. Right before you exam, you should be stress free and confidant. Going over your weak areas will have the opposite effect. Instead revise things that you have prepared well. This will give you a much needed confidence boost.
31. Attempt All Questions
If you’re running short on time during an exam, complete all questions. The average of all questions attempted with mediocrity is greater than for some questions attempted excellently. If you’re in the middle of answering a question and you realize that you will not be able to complete the paper, abandon that question and move on to answering all of them.
32. Don’t Watch Others in Exam
When writing your exam, focus only on your own paper. Do not worry about how many sheets the person at your right has filled or if someone else has already completed his/her paper. This will only cause you to panic which is the last thing you want in an exam. Remain focused on your own work and avoid looking at others as much as possible.
33. Learning is more Important
Remember that exams test your ability to memorize and reproduce information. No exam in the world can test your learning and knowledge. In the process of exam preparation, keep this in focus that exams are just the obstacles you have to clear to get your degree/diploma. Your real aim is true learning that no exam can evaluate. So in the midst of all the exam preparation, remember that even if you ace the exam but gain nothing, it will be of no use to you in the long term.
34. Everyone is Unique
The widespread system of education treats every individual as the same which is as far from truth as possible. Everyone in unique. Some people are better at reproducing information than other which makes them achieve great success in exam. If you are such a person, then good for you.
However if you are not, then do not fret and never think of yourself as being less intelligent than your high scoring fellows. Intelligence equates to originality and creativity NOT with the grades on your result card. Be Original. Be Creative. You are worth more than what your report card says.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my article about how to study more effectively. I sincerely hope its contents have been a good help to you.