Study Hacks

As a college student, sometimes trying to balance courses, work, extracurricular activities, and everything else life throws at you can be a daunting task. That’s why study hacks can be such a valuable resource! Currently, I have a 3.9 GPA so I figured I could share some of my go-to study techniques that make studying more effective. Basically, this is my guide to getting better grades and doing better in your classes.

1.  Sit At The Front of The Class

Sitting at the front of the class is extremely beneficial for getting that A! It helps you hear the professor better and take better notes. You can see the board more easily and you will be less distracted by what other classmates are doing because no one is sitting in front of you. It’s also beneficial because the professor will see you and recognize you more easily because you are closer to them.

2. Take Excellent Notes

There are certain things that your notes must include to truly be excellent notes:

E – Easy to read. Notes should be easy for you to read use words and phrases that you understand while taking notes. Also, give yourself plenty of space crowded and jumbled up notes are hard to decipher later on.

X – Xylophone. Random jokes or pictures can make your notes more memorable which is ultimately the goal of notes in the first place!

C – Color Coded. Color code your notes to help distinguish your different classes or to organize different types of information. Use highlighters and colored pens to boost the visual factor of your notes.

E – Edit your notes. Go back after your initial note-taking and rewrite or retype them. I personally recommend that you do this within at least 2 days to maximize retention. Rewriting notes is a great way to study, add pictures, and correct mistakes or poor handwriting. Editing notes are something I would label as crucial!

L – Label your notes. ALWAYS title, date, and indicate what class your notes came from. This is a crucial step to maintaining very organized notes. It also helps you remember when you learned about a topic. At the heading of your notes, you must always include date, professor, course, and your own name as well as anything else pertaining to the course.

L – Learn to organize. Learn to organize your notes in a way that works best for you. Everyone has a different way of taking notes. Experiment with bullet points, Roman Numerals, lists, numbering, headers, and subheaders. Not every class will fit into one style of organization,  make sure that you are adaptable to your organization.

E – Examples should always be included. If your professor gives an example you should make sure it’s included in your notes even if it doesn’t necessarily fit into an academic style. Examples are important because they are the key to understanding larger concepts. If you think of a good example also write it down as an aside. The point is this: examples are important. I.e. Pictures or stories that add to the subject to create a better understanding of the topic.

N – Neatly Written. Even if you are going to rewrite the notes later do your best to use neat handwriting the first time so that you can read your notes later. I have definitely had moments where could not read my notes after I wrote them so I can attest to the importance of clear handwriting.

T – Task oriented. Always leave space at the top of the first page of your notes to write down homework assignments and upcoming due dates. It will help you stay organized and keeps your notes task oriented so that you never miss an assignment.

3. Mnemonics 

Part two dovetails perfectly into part three: Mnemonics. Mnemonics’s are a way of organizing significant words into a word or sentence to help you remember them. For example, the best mnemonic I ever learned was “Dear King Philip Come Over For Good Sandwiches.” It helps me remember the scientific organization of all living creatures: Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Class, Order, Family, Genis, Species.

4. Use note cards!!!

Using notecards is a great (albeit dated) mode of study. It’s great because it hits the three learning styles (visual, auditory, and physical) which maximizes study efficacy. Make your own note cards (I could probably make a whole blog post about different ways to make notes cards). This is a physical method of studying. Make them visually interesting so that you can recall the information and say them out loud while flashing them so you hear it. It makes studying quick and painless! You can even run through them right before you go into a test to give yourself added confidence.

5. Get to know your professors! 

I can’t stress the importance of getting to know your professors. Make sure that you meet with them outside of class throughout the semester to talk about assignments and your progress in the class. Having a continuing positive dialogue with your professors can mean the difference of a letter grade! If they know you they will be more likely to be merciful in the event of a misunderstanding or just plain bad luck.

6. Work out a study system

The first time you sit down to study for a class, time yourself. Get a feel for how long you can efficiently study before your brain gets tired and you need a break. You know that you’re tired when your mind begins to wander from the topic you are studying. Personally, I have a max of 30 – 45 minutes before I begin to lose focus. It’s important to gauge that. After you figure that out, establish a routine: create a study cycle. Work for 20-30 minutes then take a break for a max of ten minutes.

7. Help others outside of class

If you are competent in your class, offer to help tutor fellow classmates who are struggling. One of the best ways to know what you know is to teach it to someone else. If you can explain to someone who doesn’t know it, then you can be confident when being tested on it.

8. Create a study guide for yourself 

Use questions from your books or in class to create a study guide for yourself. Oftentimes I use chapters or subheadings from my book to formulate a series of questions that I think are important for the test. Ask your professor for key topics to help you in your studies.

9. Just do it

This seems self-explanatory but accomplishing your goals is only 20% knowledge and 80% action. You absolutely must just take the time and sit down to study. Don’t make excuses, simply set aside time specifically dedicated to studying.

10. Have two different study methods 

Have a study time that is “for books only” that means no phones, laptops, tablets, or anything else electronic in the room. The reason for this is because they are very distracting, also have an “electronic” study time. There are simply some subjects that require online study time. Unfortunately, online tends to lead to other distractions such as social media… That’s why it is so important to segregate your online study time from your other studies: it maximizes efficiency. I recommend that you do the electronic studying after your “for books only” time is completed.

11. Mirror mirror 

Try to closely mirror your testing environment with your study environment. It will help acclimate you to the test before you ever take it. It can help add confidence and recollection.

12. Dumb dumb, give me some gum gum

Chew gum while you study and then chew the same flavor while you take the test. Taste and smell are powerful memory agents.

You can achieve similar results with essential oils too! I diffuse lemon while studying and then put a little on my wrists when I go in for the test. It really helps (it goes back to the mimicking study/testing environment).

13. Confidence is key

Entering a test with confidence versus worrying that you are going to fail can make all the difference. Find small ways you can boost your confidence just before entering the test. Studying well is a good confidence booster. If you feel unprepared you will tend to lack confidence. If you practice positive thinking it can aid you in your quest for a higher grade.

14. Don’t forget to breathe 

A professor of mine once gave me the best testing advice I ever received. He told me to remember to breathe. While breathing seems something that’s impossible to forget, in stressful situations our breathing gets shallower which means that less oxygen goes to our brains. Brains that we have to use to perform well on our tests… Actively practice mindful deep breathing as you take the test. It can really make a huge difference.

15. The Basics

The basics are things you have to do to be successful in any class.

  • Do the homework
  • Read the book
  • Review your notes
  • Get to know at least one classmate in each class (they need to be a good student who seems to understand the course) they will be someone you want to borrow notes from if you miss class or to study with when you need that extra edge
  • Never miss class! Unless both your legs are broken and your friend isn’t strong enough to push your wheelchair uphill to your class never be absent!
  • Be on time. That will make your professor like you better.
  • Establish a daily planner and a schedule.

I really hope that this post helped you with your study endeavors! Please leave a comment below if there’s anything you think I left out. Also, don’t forget to show your appreciation by giving me a like!

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