Well welcome to September! The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are getting cooler and the schools have firmly reopened. While very few of us enjoy getting back to the regular routine of school, homework and early mornings, starting the year with a good study plan is always a good move to unlock your full academic potential.
That being said, while we are constantly told to put our heads into the books, we are often not given tips on how to actually do that. So if you fall into that category, read on and maybe you will pick up a trick or two from my effective study tips..
Turn off your phone
Yes, it’s an exceptionally basic one- but frankly it works. Let’s be honest, it’s difficult enough to concentrate on the ‘Modh Coinníólllach’ without having your phone pinging constantly. Studies have shown that students who study without their phones are 20% more productive than those who do, which leaves you with 20% more free time to do something you actually enjoy.
Have a nice study space
One might overlook the importance of having a good study space in relation to productivity but the link is inevitable. Make sure that your study space is in a nice, tidy area with good lighting and ample space for the work that you are doing. Ensure that you are seated on a comfortable chair and that all your materials ie; highlighters, textbooks, a stapler etc are nearby. Invest in aesthetic notebooks or good quality pens. Research has proven that having a tidy and aesthetic study space makes you more inclined to spend time there and hence increases the amount of time you spend revising. A win is a win!
Make a list
Is there anything more satisfying than crossing items off a list? Making a list before studying provides focus for your session and allows you to keep track of how long you have to go and what else you must do. This forces you to keep organised and keep on top of the work that you must complete. Ticking items off the list also hoodwinks you into believing you are being more productive and gets you into the zone to study for longer periods of time.
Do smaller tasks first
If that feeling of dread and procrastination when it comes to studying feels familiar, then this is probably the tip for you. Start studying the shortest item on your list (or your favourite one!) and slowly work your way up to the bigger tasks. This allows you to ease into your work while also giving you that sense of fulfilment and productivity when you see the items being crossed off your list.
Keep on top of notes
To be fair, this can be a lot easier said than done. However, if you can keep up with your notes each evening, or even each week, you are already streets ahead for your tests. It also allows you to synthesise the information that you have learned from that day into your own words and to revise the material when you are relatively familiar with it, so if any issues arise, you can run them through with your teacher the following day and nip it in the bud. Make sure that your notes are colourful, well spaced out and always in your own words. Also, keep track of the page numbers of the text book that you are referring to so you can always go back to double check anything you’re confused with.
Possibly the most effective way of learning. Take out a blank piece of paper and write down everything that you remember about that particular topic. Then, open your textbook or your notes and compare the information, filling in the information that you missed out on in a different coloured pen. Sometimes you will surprise yourself with how much you remember! I always test myself before and after embarking on studying a topic, so I know what material I need to revise the most.
The internet is a huge resource for revising new material but with the volume of information out there, it can be extremely difficult to know which websites are worth your time. Studyclix is an excellent resource, offering sample essays for subjects such as English and Irish, tutorial videos for maths and archives of all former exam questions organised by topic. Quizlet is also an excellent resource, which gives you the opportunity to test yourself on information as well as create your own quizzes for topics in your own words. Other websites such as DuoLingo can be extremely beneficial, giving you an incentive to immerse yourself in languages, or the Conical Flask which provides notes for science subjects.
Incorporate your studying into your everyday activities
This can be a very easy but effective way of reviewing information. Buy your favourite novel in French and test your ability to follow the story. Pick out a series to follow on TG4 through Irish or watch a documentary on the topic that you’re studying in history. You don’t always have to be sitting reading or writing to learn content and oftentimes you will remember the material you learn spontaneously than the ones you learn traditionally.
Ask for Help
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being confused or not understanding a particular topic (organic chemistry, I’m looking at you!), but remember there are always people that can help. Ask a friend who really understands the chapter to quickly run through it with you at lunchtime. Equally, quickly run it by with your teacher after class. They usually have no problem re-explaining a topic and pointing you in the right direction. Often, it’s only something super simple that you are stuck on and you will be so relieved afterwards.
Change your location
This is something I highly recommend when motivation begins to wean. Sometimes, the idea of sitting at the same desk in the corner of your room for just one more second is enough to make you want to pull your hair out and in these moments, I try to move somewhere new. The local library or coffee shop can be a quiet alternative where you can pack in a few more hours and watch the world go by.
Have a cut off point
This is something that I have really put into practice this year and can already see the benefits of. Set a cut off point of a particular time every evening (mine is 9pm), after which you close all your books and reward yourself with some down time. This forces you to maintain productivity during your study time and gives you something to look forward to when motivation begins to wean. It can be very easy to get worked up over not doing enough and to continue to work late into the evening, however, there is only so much that your brain can take before you begin to burnout or resent studying.
Most of all, don’t be too hard on yourself. It takes time to establish a solid study routine and to learn what works for you. Good Luck!
Have you any more effective study tips?