Coursework deadlines, revision timetables, hours-long exams: studying is no easy ride. Of course, the learning career opportunities are more than worth it.
Luckily, there are ways to make it easier. If you’re struggling with your revision, our study technique tips will get you to your exam feeling fresh and ready to go.
1. Look after yourself
You’ll get the most out of your study time if you feel fit and healthy. You can do this by:
Eating healthy, nutritious foods (including ‘brain foods’ where possible).
Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Getting regular exercise between study sessions.
Getting enough sleep – seven hours per night as a minimum.
Above all, you should avoid eating processed, sugary snacks while studying. These might seem like a good idea when you’re tired, but they’ll make you feel drowsy and sluggish. Keep water and a healthy alternative, like fruit or nuts, near your desk.
2. Prepare your study area
Next, you should make sure your study area is clean and tidy. This will help to keep you focused. Remove clutter and unnecessary distractions such as smartphones. Always make sure you’ve got room for your books and notes.
Then, make sure that you have a comfortable, supportive chair. It’s not healthy to sit for long study sessions in a chair that leaves you tired and achy. Finally, make sure you’ve got enough light so that you’re not straining your eyes – consider getting a desk lamp if needed.
3. Plan your timetable
It’s crucial to know when you study best. Plan your schedule around your strengths, whether you’re an early bird or a night owl. Don’t force yourself to study every hour of the day. You’ll be far more productive if you know your best time to study and schedule around it.
Use this information to make a study schedule that includes subjects, exam dates and regular breaks.
4. Break subjects into chunks
Once you’ve planned your study time, you should break each subject into manageable chunks. This step is vital – if you try to study everything at once, it’ll be confusing and ineffective.
A good way to break subjects down is by weeks of study, textbook chapters, or smaller themes. Don’t forget to review all topics, even if you know them well.
5. Active recall
Sometimes when studying, it can feel like the information is not sinking in. That’s when study techniques come in handy. A great technique is active recall.
Active recall is a straightforward but highly effective study method. It aims to move knowledge from short term memory to long term memory through self-testing. There are a few ways to do it:
Test yourself – leave questions on post-its around your room
Write pop quizzes for yourself
Train yourself – once you’ve read a section in a book, try and write down everything you remember about it.
By doing these, you’ll remember and absorb the information – not just read it.
6. Spaced repetition
Another study technique is spaced repetition. This aims to revise information repeatedly at specific intervals. The key with this is to leave gaps between revision sessions to let information sink in.
Spaced repetition is built on the idea that people forget old information over time. By revising study material regularly, you’ll build a stronger memory for the material. Revising the same material may sound boring, but spaced repetition is a very effective study technique.
7. Use visual revision aids
Studying doesn’t always need textbooks or a computer. In fact, writing down revision notes is an excellent way of learning. You can do this in a few different ways, each helping you learn visually:
Flashcards to help revision and self-testing
Mind maps of your subject
Flow charts of information
Each of these will help you to study later on, and you’ll learn while making them. Diagrams like mind maps and flow charts are also handy for understanding relationships between aspects of your subject.
8. Take past papers
One of the very best revision tools, if available, are past exam papers. Not only will these give you an idea of how your upcoming exam might work; they can highlight knowledge gaps.
Once you’re getting confident in a subject, you can also take past exams under a time limit. This way, you’ll get used to the speed you’ll need to write at, as well as working under pressure.
Ask your module tutor if any past exam papers are available. Some exams, such as GCSE or A-Levels, might have more than others.
9. Study with classmates
Another great way to learn more about a subject is by discussing it. Meet with classmates in person or online and talk about the subject. You can test each other or help where needed. Explaining topics to other people often makes you realise you know more than you thought.
If your exam is essay or report-based, be careful that you don’t accidentally break any applicable rules when studying together.
Take a break. Step away from your study for a while to refresh, perhaps with a walk outdoors.
Use tools, such as the Pomodoro technique, to manage your study time. This way, you can focus for short periods with regular breaks.
If you need to avoid distractions, turn mobile phone notifications off.
However, sometimes you just need a rest. If you’ve got enough time, there’s nothing wrong with completely switching off for an evening – you’ll feel much more motivated the next day.
11. Don't leave it until the last day
Finally, you shouldn’t leave studying until the last minute. Exams can be stressful enough without leaving yourself with lots of cramming to do, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
Pass the exam
Studying is a balancing act. You should spend a good amount of time on it, but remember to look after yourself and take regular breaks. By preparing well and managing your time, you’ll be ready for whatever the exam throws at you.