Tag Archives | study tips

Studying is a fact of life for students, but for many it is a huge struggle and a constant battle. The key is to find a method that suits your style so that you can get the most from the time that you put into it.

Procrastination is the enemy for students and with so many distractions in the world today (namely smartphones and social media), it can be difficult to focus. However, focus is required in order to get the results required to fast-track you to a successful career. Good results from your studies will set you apart from the masses – so be mindful of their importance.

This infographic from Study Medicine Europe aims to give some helpful tips and hints on how to study effectively. All is not lost if time isn’t your friend!

Image by guest author Aris Grigoriou

This article was contributed by guest author Aris Grigoriou.

Image by Jean Henrique Wichinoski, Flickr

Image by Jean Henrique Wichinoski, Flickr

In university there are only two months of the year that really matter – October and February – or, as I personally refer to them, the Midterm Months. Let’s be honest; September is a write-off. Yes, you should be preparing for the eventual demise of any semblance of a life you may or may not have had outside of academia. But honestly, while everyone starts out with the best intentions, most of your time will be spent trying to keep on top of everything as you enjoy the remaining “due date free” weeks. January is the same, unless of course you have full year courses – then good luck with those midterms you should have been studying for over Christmas break. Why not say December or April? Well, assuming that the average student is enrolled in mostly semester long classes (at least at a Canadian university), these are your exam months. While it may seem as if I am belittling the importance of exams/final projects, believe me, I have done enough of them myself to know that would be a foolish endeavour. Nevertheless, classes are winding down or over, the collegiate social calendar is sparse and your motivation to pass is kicking into high gear. Jump to October, which bleeds into November (or February which carries over into March) and life is going high speed. In these months there are no safety nets or extra seconds. This is how you control the chaos and come out ahead.


The first thing you need to do is devise a plan of attack. Literally, you need to visualize what you have to do as a function of when it has to be done. This can mean one of two things (but as per the unwritten code of higher education is actually means both). First, you need to know what the due date is for each assignment and the writing day for every test. All of that information should be in the syllabus you received on the first day of class for each of your courses (if you don’t have a hard copy, it’s probably on the course’s online companion site). However, always clarify these important dates if your professor has not yet mentioned them in class. Any changes made to these dates will usually be announced well in advance, always in class and usually online, so if you are not in the habit of making a regular appearance at lectures make sure you know someone who is and touch base with them occasionally.

Once you have all of these dates, record them digitally on your Google/iCalendar, colour code them by class and set reminders (you’ll thank yourself later). If you still use a paper planner, jot them down there as well using a different coloured pen than what you usually write with (I favour red ink) or a highlighter to make ensure these entries stand out. Finally, make sure to include the exact time and location of each event. This will hopefully prevent you from showing up at the wrong time or in the wrong place (I have seen this happen on multiple occasions). Side note: if you have time, scout out the location beforehand. If you go to school on a large campus and the room is not where your lecture is regularly held, there is no guarantee that you are going to find is easily.

Next you are going to have to engage in the dreaded practice of time management. Better known as the skill most used to pad resumes and probably least put into practice. You need to figure out relatively how long it should take you to complete each assignment or study for each test, and then mark out the corresponding length of time on your calendar. This is where things are going to get tricky. Unless you are very, very lucky, these blocks of time are going to overlap; sometimes significantly (aka four midterms in one week). While making time to complete everything may appear daunting at this stage, it will feel near impossible if you are blindsided by it at the last minute. It is always better to know what you are getting into before attempting to accomplish anything.


Now that you have your detailed plan for the month(s), it is time to get to work. As the weeks wear on, your workload is only going to increase – it’s best to make a start when you still have some time to make mistakes. That said, you don’t just whip out your laptop and attempt to effortlessly complete the introduction to your term paper. You are only going to make yourself frustrated and view the task as futile. Once you start out with this negative mindset it is going to take more time and energy than you realistically have to change it and soldier on.

Instead, what you should be doing now is all of the preparation that will allow you to write/study effectively. These exact actions can take many forms, such as researching potential essay topics, consulting with your professor or TA, choosing an appropriate topic, and gathering/organizing all of your source material. You may need to do the required readings, pay attention in lectures and consolidate both of these sources of notes into an ultimate study guide. Do the legwork now and you will be halfway to a better grade without even technically starting anything.


While the other stuff you may have heard before and potentially tried to implement, this is what is going to make all the difference. No matter what your professors think or how your peers appear to act, you’re a student, not a machine. You are a human being that has needs and other interests outside of learning the course material inside out.

The most important, in both a physical and psychological sense, is rest. One way to get this much needed downtime is to sleep, and while you probably won’t feel as if you have time to get a solid 6-8 hours every night, it can make all the difference. However, there will be those days when even a 30 minute power nap is better than nothing. If you still need more convincing it has been shown that while you sleep, your brain is actually connecting and consolidating all the new information you’ve been taking in during the day. This allows for not only better retention of the material but also better retrieval come test day.

Despite sleep being the best way to recharge and refocus, also remember to take “awake breaks” and do something for yourself. Watch a TV show (one episode, not six), take a walk, text a friend or eat something delicious (and healthy of course). Be sure to do this before you begin to crash, and don’t stray from your original task for longer than an hour (15-30 minutes is ideal). Plan some longer fun activities and schedule whole days off from doing any kind of school work. You will find that you are actually more productive when you have something other than cramming to look forward to in a week.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t stick to your plan. Life happens and it is better to deal with it and regroup than bemoan the fact that everything is ruined (which it isn’t) and you are going to fail (which you won’t). One of the most useful lessons you can learn is how to be flexible when faced with obstacles and how to keep calm in crisis. Once you’ve mastered these skills, you pretty much deserve your diploma on the spot (and maybe the Nobel Peace Prize).

Image by Steven S., Flickr

Image by Steven S., Flickr

Exams can be intimidating. There is so much to remember, and tricky questions tend to get you second-guessing yourself. Let’s not forget the pressure to get a good grade. It can be difficult to know what to memorize and what to skim over, but it is possible to make the most of your study time and ace your exam.

To study effectively, all you need is a combination of time management skills and discipline. You don’t need to spend too much time studying in order to successfully retain information (wait, what? I’ll explain), and discipline helps you to ask your professor the right questions, study the right topics and avoid distractions.

Here’s what you need to remember:

  1. Don’t cram. When you cram, you leave yourself little time to look over notes and textbook pages. This makes it highly unlikely that you will cover all the content required. It also isn’t guaranteed that you will be able to remember all that you read. Give yourself at least one week to study, spreading out your studying every day for a few hours.
  2. Take notes, if needed. It can be hard to grasp certain ideas or facts while studying. You may wish to jot these down multiple times. Then, attempt to write down the ideas on your own without looking at the page.
  3. Create acronyms to remember concepts. If you’re trying to remember a list of items, create an acronym to help you remember it. Start with a phrase that is easy to remember, then turn it into an acronym – a series of letters composed of the first letter of each word in the saying. It may help to choose a saying that rhymes.
  4. Avoid distractions. As hard as it may seem, don’t text, go on Facebook or take phone calls while studying. These are unnecessary uses of your time, and you may spend more time doing these things than intended. You’ll be surprised how much time you can pick up by eliminating these distractions.
  5. Ask your professor for help. If you’re really struggling with the course, it may be useful to ask your professor what subjects will be on the exam. Sometimes they may even provide copies of previous exams. Ask your professor to guide you with concepts you’re having trouble understanding.

Renowned astronaut and physicist Sally Ride once said,

Studying whether there’s life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there’s something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge.

Although studying may be tiresome, it helps you to learn. More importantly, it is 100% necessary in earning a college degree. Don’t give up on studying. It is absolutely possible to ace your exam using some helpful tricks.

Image by rabiem22, Flickr

Image by rabiem22, Flickr

Another exam season has arrived – and you’re probably thinking it came way too fast. Don’t panic – we’ve compiled a few tips to make sure you study the best you can to retain the most information.

  1. Stay healthy, both mentally and physically

  2. Your body won’t function properly if your brain is lacking energy. Now is not the time to eat chips or skip meals. Eat on your normal schedule, and eat well. The last thing you want to do is get sick or feel lethargic when you need your brain in tip-top shape. Remember to also keep a positive attitude about exams (as difficult as that sounds) – you may be stressed, but know you’re trying your best and keep your focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. Stay focused and eliminate distractions

  4. Shut off your phone and put your technology away. If you need your laptop for notes, disable your internet connection; that way, if you’re even tempted to log onto Facebook, the “you are not connected to the internet” warning will remind you of what you should be doing. If you live with roommates, make sure they know you need space and silence for your study time; if they can’t help socializing, relocate to a library.

  5. Give yourself time

  6. Generally, exam season comes right after end-of-semester essay season, which follows almost-end-of-semester presentation season, which follows midterms. You feel like you have zero study time. Realize that even if it’s not much, you just need to make the most of it. Postpone outings with your friends until after exams. Stop complaining about not having time (you’re just wasting it!), buckle down and use the time you’ve got. If you have a free night in between assignments, use it to review what you’ve learned recently. Anything you can do during the semester will help when it comes to exam season.

  7. Create a plan

  8. Spend the first half hour of study time preparing yourself mentally and getting organized. Figure out what you need to study, and how much time you have. Divide the work up over that amount of time and study different sections each day/hour (depending how tight your schedule is). Use the last day of your study time to do a full review. Don’t get stuck on one concept and spend your entire study time on it.

  9. Stay organized

  10. Make sure your study space is clear of any distractions, extra papers, or garbage. At the beginning and end of each study session, clean up your workspace. It will help psychologically – your brain will feel decluttered. Start each day fresh and keep track of what you’ve made progress on. If it helps, make a list of the topics you need to cover, and cross each one off as you complete it. You’ll feel accomplished.

  11. Draw pictures

  12. We’re not talking about scribbles of cats and dogs. Draw a chart or image that pertains to your studies. Even a simple flow chart of steps in a process could do wonders. Sometimes in exams, these are easier for your brain to remember than pages and pages of words. Don’t be afraid to use some colour, but keep your drawings simple; don’t waste your time getting that arrow perfectly straight.

  13. Use old exams and practice questions

  14. If you can get your hands on exams from previous years (which many professors give out as examples), don’t discount them. Study for a while, then try the exam. Chances are your professor will not use the exact same exam, but at least you’ll get an idea of their style and how questions might be phrased.

  15. Talk about it

  16. You’d be surprised how much easier it is for information to stick in your head when you say it out loud. Meet up with a friend and talk out your responses to questions, and you’ll quickly realize which concepts you understand, and which you may need to spend more time on. Take this opportunity to ask your friend questions about topics you’re fuzzy on, or book an appointment with your teaching assistant or professor.

  17. Take breaks

  18. Don’t try to study for 24 hours straight. You will get tired, and your brain will get tired. You’ll stop retaining information. It’s a good idea to take short breaks, even just for a 5 minute stretch, every half hour or hour. Get some food and fresh air. Give the information you’ve been studying a chance to sink in, and then get back to the books. Set aside time at the end of each study session to relax – don’t go to bed stressing about the exam. Your body needs sleep! Listen to some music or read a book to wind down.

  19. Know your study style

  20. Not everyone studies the same way. You may retain information the best when you talk to a friend; others may need quiet reading time; others may need to write things out repetitively. By now, you should know what works for you. Don’t study with your friends because it’s what they need. If you don’t work well that way, do your own thing. Your friends won’t be writing your exam with you, so make sure you do what’s going to work for you.

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Good luck with your studying – the end is near!