Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Top Studying Tips


Every time exam season approaches, I find myself struggling to remember how to simply get my head down and study. There's always something more pressing to sort out (like my passport application or uni stuff, gahh), or something more appealing such as the entirety of the internet. While it always just about works out in the end, time after time I feel like my studying techniques could be a lot more efficient, so I decided to properly assess the situation and come up with some top tips for studying - which I should probably also take note of!

Get organised, NOW
I find this is often the most daunting part of actually getting down to studying: facing the stacks of sheets and piles of folders vs preferring to take the ostrich approach and pretend it isn't there. Instead, take the plunge as early as you can! Go through each subject in turn and make a list of everything you have to study. It might still fill you with dread and panic, but at least your mind can stop massively over-exaggerating how much you have to learn - and you never know, there might actually be less than you thought.

Don't overestimate your productivity
Once I know exactly what I have to study, I make a list of everything I plan to do every day. This was I can spread the workload out over the time available and I can tick things off as the day goes on and end up feeling like I accomplished something. But it's easy to plan to do too much and end up feeling like you didn't get anything done in comparison to what you set out to do, which is why it's important to be realistic. You're never going to review 20 pages of notes, read that book, make notes on that entire section AND go over all those character analyses in one day, so be reasonable and don't give yourself too much to do. If you manage to get it all done, treat yourself!

Make it fun/interesting
I've realised lately that some studying is just so boring. If you can, try making your revision more interesting than just staring at your books and notes: make flashcards so the process is less monotonous, write things out so you're active, or get someone to test you on what you've just learnt. Or go even further: if I'm really trying to get to grips with a character I like to make a collection about them on Polyvore with some character analysis, or draw a family tree to remind myself how a bunch of characters are connected, or construct a timeline for historical events. And of course, if there's a film of your book then you have the perfect opportunity to make revision more fun: turn your phone off and give the film your full attention, pausing it to take notes or follow the play's text for added productivity. I tend to reserve this kind of 'fun' studying for late in the evening when my brain can't cope with the more traditional methods.

Colour code
This applies to just about everything. I have a weird thing where I automatically associate each of my subjects with a different colour, so that gives me a starting point. Then I use a standard combination of pink and green for writing key words and definitions in my notes, so I can always spot a definition because I know it's in pink, no matter what subject we're talking about. If you're going through some handouts, have a few highlighters to hand to highlight different elements, such as causes and consequences, important names, key words and so on.

If you're going to procrastinate, do something productive
It might seem like a paradox, but if I'm going to put off starting the next section of my revision by half an hour I tend to commit to tidying my room or sorting through some scrap paper or even writing a blog post (for instance I am currently procrastinating maths revision to write this post), so that at least I can maintain the illusion of productivity. This technique also gets more done in general, as all those things you keep meaning to do aren't there to distract you while you're studying.

Limit your internet access
If you can't do anything without your laptop being less than a metre away (I am guilty of this), at least lock the screen so you have to actively put a password in before you can get to your internet browser, which will hopefully make you stop and think. I use the internet a lot while studying, for looking up definitions, online translators and just generally googling things to clarify what I'm learning, so I could never turn my laptop off entirely, which for me works okay. But if you can't resist the temptation to check Facebook, Instagram and Twitter every five minutes, you might want to at least put some distance between you and the interwebs.

Have a clear workspace
I do everything at my desk, from studying to blogging. Which can sometimes be a problem since my brain associates that workspace with both fun and studying - I wish I had a separate space for both, but I don't really have the option. Instead I just make sure I move everything unnecessary off my desk before I start any revision, so I won't get distracted by it. Equally I like to have everything I might need within reach, including relevant books, folders, pens, pencils, scrap paper for scribbling on etc.

There are a bunch more things I could say about studying, but I think I'll leave it at that for now. If anyone reading this is doing exams anytime soon, GOOD LUCK!


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