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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Barnwell

10 Ways to Get the Absolute Most out of Your Study Time

As the school year ramps up and workloads begin to increase, it is more important than ever to ensure that your study efforts are as efficient as possible. Read below for 10 highly effective ways to maximize your results- and minimize your time- during study sessions.

Create a Distraction-free study zone.

1. Find your spot. This is a big one, folks. Where you study is just as important as how you study, so take some time to seek out a study spot that works for you. If you’re at home, choose a place with comfortable seating and good lighting, away from the noise of tv, family members, or other distractions. If you have trouble getting quiet time at home, consider heading to your local library, a book store, or a coffee shop to get your work done.

2. Declutter your space. Before you get to work, take a few moments to organize your work area. Clear away trash and unnecessary books/papers to help create a clean slate for your study session. The clearer and more organized your space, the clearer and more efficient your mind will be.

3. Disconnect from the internet. Unless you need to be online for researching a paper or class project, try and stay away from Wi-Fi altogether. The internet, with all of its distractions, can easily get in the way of productivity (think social media, text notifications, etc.), and keep you “studying” for much longer than your assignments and tasks actually require. Help yourself stay on track by either disconnecting completely from Wi-Fi, or minimize interruptions by keeping just one tab open at a time in your browser and logging out of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. This will help to give you “tunnel vision” as you work, so you’re more likely to stay focused.

Pro Tip: If you always have your phone nearby (and who doesn’t, really?), either turn it off, or switch on Airplane mode (on iPhone: swipe up and tap the airplane icon; on Android: swipe down). This will keep all those pesky notifications from interrupting your focus as you study. Don’t worry, though: they’ll all be waiting for you as soon as you switch Airplane mode back off again. :)

4. Manage noise levels. If you prefer a little background music to get you through study time, choose your soundtrack wisely. Classical music has been shown to reduce stress, so opt for a playlist without lyrics. Classical or other instrumental music works well, as does simple white noise (this is especially effective for cancelling out ambient noises in public spaces).

Study Smarter, Not Harder.

5. Make a to-do list. Grab a Post-it note or some scratch paper, and make an itemized list of the specific tasks you’ll need to complete during today's study session. This gives you a clear picture of what’s on the agenda, and will help you keep track of exactly what to do next as you are working, and when you are finished for the day. Plus, it is so satisfying to cross out items on a to-do list!

6. Get yourself together. Now that you’re clear about what you need to accomplish, take a moment to gather all of your materials upfront. Grab your textbooks, notes and other relevant items before you sit down to work, so that you can avoid getting up again and again (and breaking your train of thought) to find something you need.

7. Take regular breaks. Instead of working for two or three hours straight, break up your study time into shorter, intense bursts. This helps you to maintain better focus, and get the absolute most out of your efforts. For example, if you are studying for a science test, try working at your highest and best level for an hour at a time (use a timer so you won’t need to keep glancing at a clock). When the timer goes off, take 10-15 minutes for a short walk, grab a snack or drink, call a friend, or check social media. Once your break is over, set your timer for another hour, and start Round Two of study time. Repeat as needed until you’re all done. :)

8. Space it out. Rather than trying to learn an entire set of vocabulary words in one sitting, break them up into smaller chunks, and review a few new words every day for a week. Then, at the end of the week, you can practice all of the words you’ve covered so far. This is a learning technique called “spaced repetition”, which has shown to help leverage the way your brain naturally works: by reviewing information regularly and frequently, your brain will strengthen and consolidate memories of that information. In short, it works. Pro tip: Use “spaced repetition” with your class notes by reviewing them daily, and you’ll automatically build long-term, durable retention. With very little additional effort, you will be studying for your tests as you go along, making “cramming” a distant memory!

9. Put yourself to the test. As you study, take steps to measure your progress, so that you’ll know when you are ready for test day. One of the best ways to do this is to work through old exams or test bank questions. By simulating test-day conditions, and practicing test-level questions, you’ll have a clear indication of whether or not more studying is necessary.

10. Talk it out. Once you have studied as much as you can on your own (shoot for at least 75% of your studying to be done independently), get together with a friend or two for a study group. If you have any lingering questions, your friends may just have the answers. This is also a perfect opportunity to test your own knowledge and understanding: try to answer someone else’s questions, and explain ideas and concepts as thoroughly as you can. The better you can do that, the more prepared you are for your test!

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