Tap. Tap. Tap.
You beat the pen against your notebook as you continue to stare at that same sentence, that same word, in your notes. Your neat row of highlighters sits untouched. Your textbook remains bleakly unappealing. Sunlight streams through a nearby window, and as you imagine all the things you could be doing instead, you start to resent your notes, your textbook, this class—you assure yourself—you’ll never use again. All of a sudden the room is too hot, too quiet, too cramped, so your mind starts to wander.
Anything to get away from this little, well-known practice called studying.
We all hate studying. I, for one, wish that all I needed to do to ace an exam is sleep with the textbook under my pillow and allow osmosis to soak the knowledge into my brain. Alas, life doesn’t work that way.
The difference between passing and failing a course can be directly determined by the amount of time and energy you place into studying for exams. Cramming might have a positive effect in the short run, but when you need that information later on down the road—say, for another class—then you’ll spend precious extra time simply catching up with everyone else. Instead of trying to perfect the art of procrastination this semester, attempt to master the practice of smart studying.
Whenever someone thinks of studying, they picture the situation described above—a boring, mindless practice that reviews seemingly pointless information for hours on end. But in reality, studying is what you make of it. So make it fun by:
1. Turning your review session into a game. Set up a weekly trivia night with your fellow classmates based on the information learned in class that week. Competition inspires the best in people, as horrible as it sounds, so you’ll be more willing to focus on the material so that you can beat your opponents. Sweeten the pot with desserts or prizes a designated team member has to contribute each week.
2. Creating a studying playlist. If you have the ability to concentrate while listening to music, set a background mood to your late-night study session. Pick songs that make you feel relaxed and calm—this helps to ease the pressure associated with studying and increases your focus. Don’t pick songs you think will help you feel relaxed; for me, the stereotypical and relaxing classical music just won’t cut it. Without my heavy metal and punk-rock, I easily become anxious and distracted.
Also make sure to check out some of Seventeen’s ideas on how to make your studying experience an entertaining one.
One of the worst habits a collegiate can learn is studying ineffectively. How your friend or classmate studies may not be the “right” way for you to study. Some naturally read a passage once and have every detail memorized; others have to set aside three or four days each week to go over one concept. Still, others hold short attention spans and need to be entertained while they learn. You have to figure out which study method is the best for you, and then apply it!
However, whatever method you choose to use, you can’t go wrong with these few tips:
1. Location, location, location. It’s been psychologically proven that you are more likely to remember something where you physically learned it. For example, if you’re going to be taking a test in the library, if you study that material in that same room, you are more likely to recall information you need during that test. Crazy, right? Also, try to scout out and utilize secret study spots on campus—like beneath the shady tree in between Business Administration II and Biological Sciences.
2. Practice makes perfect. Practice your skills by scheduling specific days and times to do nothing but study. Invest in a planner large enough to hold all your appointments, class projects, and club meetings so that you can easily squeeze in a few hours of math lab application. Manage your time efficiently, and don’t take on more than you can chew. Most importantly, don’t shirk your study time! The longer you put it off and the more time you invest procrastinating, the harder it will be to maintain higher grades this semester.
3. You come first. Before you start studying, you have to take care of yourself: mentally, emotionally, and physically. Don’t pull all-nighter after all-nighter. Go to sleep for the recommended seven to eight hours. Don’t let yourself become addicted to coffee and energy drinks; take care of your body by exercising and eating healthy, fulfilling meals. If you’re having a particularly tough day today, wait until tomorrow to start studying. Schedule a “me” day; get a massage. You can’t possibly hope to study effectively if you aren’t functioning properly.
Huffington Post also had a few of their own ‘Studying 101’ pointers you should definitely look up.
Studying is a process, one which you will have the next four or more years to master. Studying is also a practice of introspection. In order to succeed in any way in life, you have to know yourself—know your weaknesses and strengths, what will and will not work for you, and which ways you best learn new things every day. Don’t allow stress and a fear of doing poorly to overwhelm you. Be confident in who you are and your academic goals for this semester, and the ability to study effectively will surely follow.