With the return to school imminent, I know a lot of us are feeling stressed about grades, projects, exams.
But as much as we can prepare for that by studying, we also have to protect our mental health and take time for ourselves.
So, I’ve compiled my top tips to study smarter, not longer, to ensure you still have time to care for yourself, even during exam season.
Use different methods of study
There’s no one perfect way to study. Flashcards will work for some people, whilst videos will work for others.
The only way to figure out what works the best for you is to experiment. Take into account both which methods you enjoy most (therefore are most sustainable) and which help you to absorb the information best.
But studying in just one way will get boring! Mix up your study often to prevent it becoming tedious.
And don’t just focus on one topic. A lot of exam questions interlink different concepts, so make sure you prepare by switching between revision topics regularly. You could also answer parts of practise papers at the end of each session to make sure you would be able to tackle more practical questions.
Use a power hour
This is a tip I’ve picked up recently, after hearing it from quite a few places.
A power hour means taking one hour to get all the little, niggly tasks done. This saves them from breaking up the bigger tasks that may need more concentration and means you can cross them off your to-do list in one go.
Take regular breaks
No matter what you might think, studying for hours and hours at a time is not productive.
Sure, different people can work for different amounts of time, but everyone needs breaks to prevent burnout. Additionally, spacing out studying in small chunks (rather than cramming) has been shown to help you remember information more effectively.
Instead of having to take a break after pushing yourself too hard, schedule in regular breaks (where you can do things completely unrelated to study).
And don’t be afraid to take an extra break if you need it! We’re all working so hard at the minute and that extra break is not going to derail your work (it’ll likely actually help you come back to studying stronger).
On the topic of taking breaks, going for a walk or sitting out in the garden (if you can) is a great way to refresh your mind.
Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is also really important for both your physical and mental health. This is especially important if you’re spending most of the day sat at a desk or in front of a screen.
It’s important to have a clear divide between study space and rest space, and getting outside can help your brain to make this distinction and switch off completely from work/revision.
Find gaps in your knowledge
Making notes and highlighting passages works for some people. But for most of us, we need an active way of figuring out gaps in knowledge.
Past papers will allow you to experience exactly the types of questions you are going to come across. This will help you to directly identify any concepts you don’t understand (that you maybe thought you did from just reading the textbook).
Often, we try to stick to our comfort zone, whether that is certain topics we understand well, or more passive revision techniques. It’s important to remember that mistakes are absolutely necessary to improve. You will probably make lots of mistakes at first, but if you don’t make them on practise papers, you’ll make them on the real exam.
Explain a concept to a friend or family member
One of the most effective ways to test if you’ve actually understood a concept is to try to teach someone it.
If you find yourself going round in circles or not explaining clearly, this is a definite sign that you need to spend a bit longer on a topic.
Alternatively, you could ask a family member to quiz you on a concept. Retrieval practise works especially well to test yourself directly before an exam (i.e. a few days before or on the day). Create a set of flashcards for any topics you particularly struggle with (simply creating the flashcards will also help you to remember the information), with example questions on one side and answers on the other.
Find something you enjoy in your study
I know- it can be incredibly difficult to enjoy studying. But it’s something most of us have to do for the majority of the first ¼ of our lives.
It’s a lot easier to remember information if we’re actively engaged. And one of the easiest ways to engage is to find a concept or part of the topic that you enjoy learning about.
You could even take it further and look deeper into something that interests you, even if you know it isn’t going to come on the exam. Studying doesn’t always have to be working towards something- it can often just mean learning about something that really interests you.
Are you going back to school soon? Are you going to try any of these tips out? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or in my Instagram dms.