BlogWednesday 16 Jul 2014

Five tips to make your study more effective

Do you start your study sessions with good intentions? Do you spend hours hunkered down in study mode but feel like you’re overwhelmed and getting nowhere?

These simple tips may help you enjoy really productive study time.

Tip 1 - Study when your brain is at its best

Are you a ‘morning person’ or a ‘night owl’?

The answer to this simple question is determined by your circadian rhythms, that is the pattern of energy highs and lows you experience in a 24 hour period as a result of your sleep patterns.

Tired student

Study when your brain is at its best.

If you are not sure of your optimal study time try this easy Daily Rhythm test to help you figure it out.

Once you have an idea of when you are at your most productive slot your study sessions into periods of high energy; and schedule breaks, or rest periods, for your down times.

In an interesting aside, Sian Beilock, writing for Psychology Today, notes research that shows creativity happens best at non-optimal times.  It’s worth a read if you want to know the type of study tasks to schedule when you are tired.

Tip 2 – Study in short bursts often

According to linguist, Sam Gendreau, the best way to learn a new language is by doing it in short bursts because of how our brain works in storing and recalling information.\

This is backed up by a Washington Post report on research that ranks frequent short bursts of regular study (known as distributed practice) as one of the most effective study methods.

“Studying for shorter periods will enable you to retain more knowledge and be more productive”

If you are focussed and consistent in your efforts, studying for shorter periods will enable you to retain more knowledge and be more productive.

Tip 3 - Set a realistic goal for each study session

Goal setting does not just apply to big life goals – you will gain much more personal satisfaction (and stay motivated) if you set small realistic goals for each study session. It might be to review a single concept from within a much larger topic or to prepare an essay plan for an upcoming assessment – whatever it is, be specific.

Many students study long hours, and yet, feel they have achieved nothing because they failed, at the outset of their session, to give direction to their learning.

By thinking, in advance, about the purpose of your study session your work will be more focussed and your progress will be easier to track.

Tip 4 – Use active study techniques

The ability to take good notes and to understand what you have read is a skill learned through persistence and practice.

By actively making notes as you read – whether it’s noting what you understood or questioning what you didn’t – you will be surprised how quickly your ability to take in new information develops.

Tip 5 –  Use study support services

Many organisations provide helpful ‘how to’ guides for study.  For example, at North Coast TAFE, there is a study skills section on its library webpage that provides free information, and links to useful sites, that will help you improve your referencing, report writing, presentation and research skills.

Make good use of them until you discover the pattern of study that works for you.

Invest time in learning to study effectively and you will reap the rewards of feeling less pressure and be more confident in your ability to learn well.


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