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Top 5 ways to study smarter, not harder

We’ve all done it before. Sat down with all of the right intentions to study but not known where to start. Or, you’ve gotten off to a good start but run out of motivation half way through.

These occurrences are all too familiar to students. The good news is, there are lots of ways to get started and break your boredom to work smarter and more effectively. Below are 5 ways to assist you with healthy habits and finding motivation to begin studying smarter, not harder.

1. Planning ahead is key - avoid cramming the night before an exam

It is essential that you leave enough time before your exams to get through all of the content that you have to revise. It is very difficult to effectively study the night before an exam, no matter what you tell yourself! If you space out your study and tackle it in smaller sections, your brain has more chance of remembering the information than if you are studying without breaks – or studying frantically the night before. Periodic review moves information from your short term memory to long term which gives you a better chance of reproducing the information in an exam in a more comprehensive manner.

Effective planning is furthermore key to reducing stress and anxiety relating to exam pressure. Getting on top of you workload early allows you feel confident and relaxed as you will have sufficient time to cover all topics thoroughly and effectively. It will ensure that you're aware of your strengths and weaknesses and which topics require most revision.

“Don’t say that you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr

2. Organise your study space

Where you study is very important in setting yourself up for success. It is important that your study space is associated with learning and not other activities such as sleeping or recreation. The tidiness of your workspace also has an impact on the productivity of your study – a tidy work space improves your ability to focus. The study space must be comfortable, the chair and table that you sit at should allow you to have good posture, with your back straight and feet firmly planted on the floor.

3. Steer clear of distractions

Eliminating distractions is important to study effectively and ensure that you are maximising your opportunities to absorb and recall information. There is nothing worse when you are studying than constantly being interrupted by the dinging of a phone, a television playing in the background or a friend chatting in your ear. A couple of ways to overcome these distractions are to put your phone on silent, or turn it off completely if possible, turn off your wifi when you can and ask people to give you some privacy.

4. Plan your study routine, including breaks

It is important to plan out when you will study, when you will have breaks and what subjects you are going to attempt at what times. It has been proven to be more effective to study multiple subjects at different times each day, rather than one or two subjects for long periods[1]. This is because, if you study the same subject in one day, you’re more likely to confuse similar information. Whereas, by spreading out your study time for each subject, you give your brain a chance to consolidate the information.

Taking breaks enhances your productivity and improves concentration[2]. Your physical and mental health are still important during exams and assessments – if not more so! Breaking up your study periods with a quick walk, some stretching, meditation or a game of sport with friends. Make sure you are eating healthy snacks and proper meals and keeping hydrated!

5. Think positively!

Successful students are generally focused on learning the information, rather than attaining a particular mark or grade[3]. Most importantly, successful students remain positive about learning and growing and they remember that education is about more than just getting good grades.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

[1] Rohrer,D. 2012. [2] Ariga & Lleras, 2011. [3]


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