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How to Study Smart: Advice From a Psych Major

As college students, we spend most of our time doing homework and studying. So much so that we barely have any free time to relax and have fun. We believe that this is how it’s supposed to be; we think that our intelligence and our chances of acing a test lie in the number of hours spent studying, but that’s not true. Quality always surpasses quantity. Study smarter, not harder, and these are the best ways to do it. 

Go To Class And Ask Questions 

The first step to study smarter is going to class. Even if attendance isn’t required or your professor records the lectures, show up. Class time is already time set aside for learning, so use it. In class, your professor can answer any questions that may come up as you’re going through the material. You can ask them to clarify something, give another example, or even just confirm your understanding. You can also listen to your classmates’ questions. Sometimes they have questions you haven’t even thought of, and that can reinforce what you learned or make you come up with new questions. 

Spread Out Your Study Time

Three one-hour-long study sessions are better than one three-hour-long study session. Think of it as watching a TV show versus watching a movie. It’s a lot easier to find the time to watch an episode than it is to make time for a full lengthed movie. The same goes for studying. 

The best way is to sit for at least thirty minutes, study in a focused and attentive way, then take a five-minute break before going back to studying. This makes your studying more efficient and less time-consuming. 

Quiz Yourself

Unlike reviewing your notes and rereading textbook chapters, quizzing and testing yourself gives you instant feedback. You know right away what you have a firm understanding of and what you need to study more. This way, you don’t waste any study time going over what you already know and you don’t ignore what you don’t know. Try it every other study session, that way you test your knowledge and your ability to recall new and old information. 

Motivate Yourself To Study

Even thinking about studying or sitting down and opening your textbook can be enough to deter you from actually studying. So, how can you overcome this? How do you get yourself to study? 

For starters, pick a place that you want to study at. Make it a place you always go to study, associate it with learning (check out The Best Study Spots On Campus for inspiration). It sometimes helps to surround yourself with people who are also studying. If you see other people studying and working, then you’re less likely to get distracted.

You can also create a starting ritual, something that’ll help you get into the right mindset. It can be drinking chamomile tea or putting on a specific sweater, anything, really. The point is to transition into a studying mindset.

Sleep

The benefits of sleeping are too many to count, but in terms of studying and learning, it helps you retain information better. All-nighters have been romanticized and glorified, but they are literally the worst thing you can do. Your brain processes information while you’re asleep, it’s when your brain transfers what you’ve learned from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. It is also the time when your body rests and recuperates from the day and recharges for the next. A good night’s sleep keeps you healthy and energized, it helps your concentration and improves your mood. 

You’re already smarter than you think. You know more than you think you do. But studying smart helps strengthen your knowledge and develop your intelligence. And an unexpected result you may see is an increase in confidence, the secret ingredient to ace your exams. Study smarter, not harder, and you’ll find yourself understanding your classes better and with a lot more free time than you’ve had.

Mariana Bastias

CU Boulder '25

“It takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it.” -Oscar Wilde. I’m finding my place in a world that is changing faster than anyone can keep up with. Raised in Santiago, Chile, and settled in Boulder, CO, I’m an aspiring novelist with a passion for words, arts, and life’s idiosyncrasies.
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