Are you struggling to find the time to study? Do you find that even if you take more than an hour at your desk, the information seems to be going in one ear and out the other? It may be time to consider your college study skills. 

According to the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, in 2010 the faculty expectation for study time was 16.5 hours a week. As you might expect, students reported studying less than half of that time. 

The key to success in your college courses and in your future career is knowing how to study smarter. With this in mind, read on for our top strategies and techniques to hone your study skills! 

Stop Multitasking

Your first step is to schedule out a time each day devoted to your studies. Although you may be tempted to bundle your study time with work time or other activities, it’s been found in multiple studies that multitasking isn’t as effective as we think.

Consider your energy levels throughout the day and choose a time when you feel the most energized and awake. If you’re a morning person, this may be right after you wake up and have breakfast. If you’re more of a night owl, don’t hesitate to schedule studying time a few hours before you go to bed. 

Choose Your Setting

It’s important that you plan out a few study spots in advance. The perfect study spot is comfortable, has a noise level that helps you focus, and helps keep you focused. For instance, the local library may be the first area you think of for long bouts of studying. 

However, if you have trouble focusing when it’s completely quiet around you, this may not be the best setting. Instead, consider a cafe or small restaurant if you need some noise in the background to keep you focused. 

If you study mostly at home, have at least one spot that’s dedicated to work or study. If it’s possible, avoid working in your bedroom or living room. Your bedroom is where you’re meant to sleep and recharge. Your living room is typically the place where you wind down and entertain. 

Distributed Practice

You’ll be pleased to learn that studying longer each session isn’t necessarily better. To keep your mind focused and sharp, you want to distribute your studying times into short, intense bursts throughout the day. If you find yourself dreading studying, focusing on short bursts that are no longer than an hour will help make it easier. 

Between each studying session, remember to move your body if you can and stretch. Rest your eyes by going on a short walk or make yourself a meal or snack. This ensures that you’ll be starting your subsequent studying sessions with a clear mind. 

Active Studying

Along with the short, intense bursts of studying, you want to avoid simply reading your notes or material from the class. Re-reading the material doesn’t necessarily mean your mind is absorbing it. Instead, you want to skim the material while practicing techniques that help you grasp the material better. 

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Create your own quiz with questions and answers
  • Create a study guide as if you were the teacher
  • Create diagrams, concept maps, or infographics about the material
  • Break technical subjects down into multiple steps
  • Find the big ideas and try to summarize them in a short paragraph
  • Create flashcards with memorization techniques on the backs

It’s also normal to have several different kinds of material for the same subject, such as from your textbook, printouts from your professors, and online sources. Before you begin studying, make sure all of these materials are on hand so that you can refer to them easily. 

Active Reading

Effective study skills also have to do with knowing how to read and take notes in a way that benefits your future self. For instance, while you’re reading remember to bookmark pages that you find important.

Don’t hesitate to highlight certain sections and take notes that summarize key points on the margins. If you don’t want to write in your textbook, use sticky notes under key sentences, and use smaller ones for the margins. 

Active Note-Taking

When it comes to note-taking, it’s important that you paraphrase your professor’s words in a way that’s easier for you to understand later when you’re re-reading them. This is especially important for online learning.

Pay attention to your professor–most will clue you in if they’re about to tell you something important that needs to be written down. 

Lastly, make bullet points or symbols to break up your notes into easy to read sections, and consider creating headers and sub-headers instead of a long list. During your downtime in class or after, you can even highlight or underline your own notes. 

Although it’s common now to bring your tablet or laptop into class, consider whether you absorb knowledge better if you write them on paper or type them into a document.

Honing Your Study Skills

As you can see, improving your study skills doesn’t mean you need to carve out even more time in your day. The best skills take into account your daily schedule and focus on intense bursts of active studying that exercise your mind one hour or less at a time. 

By learning how to take better notes during class time with your professor and while you’re reading the material, you’ll also have an easier time grasping new concepts.

Ready to learn more about how to become more successful in the academic realm? Keep reading our blog for more important strategies and techniques!