Whether you are a current high school or college student, a parent of one, or you have found a new passion that has brought you back to the classroom, studying is one area that has always seemed more complex than it needs to be. Do I use flashcards or highlighters or write and rewrite? Do I make up acronyms or songs to remember certain types of information? Do I just put the book under my pillow while I’m sleeping and hope for the best? 

We all know that we need to study to retain information for both the short and long term if we want to succeed, but knowing which method works best can seem tougher than actually sitting down and reading the material. 

As a lifelong learner, I have tried my hand at almost all the methods listed in the above paragraph—including falling asleep on my book, albeit not necessarily on purpose! There are some tips and tricks that I have gathered along my educational journey that have come in handy in not only studying, but in getting down to the task at hand, whether that be personally, professionally, or educationally. 

No electronics. Can any of us even remember a world where we did not have the internet literally in the palm of our hands? While it may be hard to distance yourself from your phone, it is so important to do while studying. Placing your phone in another room and not just on silent or do not disturb will ensure you are focused on the task at hand and will keep you from picking your phone up to check one notification and then getting lost in the mindless scrolling that is social media. When you take a much-needed study break, feel free to grab your phone and catch up on all that you missed—think of it as a reward for staying on task!

Set a timer. When sitting down with your study materials and books, it is helpful to set a timer to keep yourself on track and to ensure you aren’t getting overwhelmed with information. It has been said that you will retain information better if you study your materials for short amounts of time, say 30 minutes, and then take a 10-minute break to digest the materials and take a quick stretch. 

Find the right space. Find a quiet space with the least amount of distractions to get your best studying done. Before COVID-19 coffee shops and libraries were great places to keep on task, but now, most of our studying is done from home. Organize a small area in your home that is dedicated to studying. Be sure you have bright light, snacks, and a comfortable chair to sit in. 

Take time to unwind. We can all get overwhelmed when test day is looming over our heads, but don’t forget to take time for yourself. Exercise is a great way to improve your physical and mental wellbeing and it can help you get out of that brain-fog you may be experiencing from all of that cramming. 

Pulling an all-nighter may seem helpful, but chances are you will be so tired you may not retain much of that information for the long-term. It is best to get a good night’s sleep, and if you feel you need more study time, set your alarm and wake up a little earlier to get a jump on the day!

Tell a friend. If you really want to test your knowledge, share it with a friend or family member. Find someone at home or give your best friend a call and ask them if you can talk through and explain the topic at hand. Chances are, if you are able to explain the subject to someone else, you are ready to ace that test!