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Tips to Study Smart and Efficiently

By Ritvi Ranka

Being able to productively study for long periods of time without getting distracted is the ideal model for studying, but that doesn’t always happen. Procrastination was honestly one of my worst habits. I spent a little too much time thinking mindlessly when I really should have been doing work, but that’s okay! Because over time, I have learned to stray away from procrastination and work towards productive learning. During my (almost) three years of high school, I’ve been able to compile a list of things that have really helped me get my work done in a timely manner while still having time to pursue personal activities like being active, hanging out with friends, cooking delicious food, and going on boba runs! So here goes my list…

  • Make a To-Do List. Write your list and place it somewhere that is always visible to you. For example, write on a sticky note placed in front of your workspace, on a whiteboard, in a planner, or even on your hand (if that’s how you can force yourself to remember). Personally, I like to time-block my day; I will wake up at 6 am and finish my literature homework, I will take a practice test for AP Biology at 7 am, and so on. I feel like this helps me prioritize my top tasks so I can finish my work in the allotted time. 
  • Set up reminders. in your Google calendar. You can block out time for meetings, classes, and hanging out with friends. 
  • SCHEDULE BREAKS! Never fail to take brief breaks between your study sessions. Honestly, I am not the best at taking breaks, but I know that they help you clear your headspace and give you time to think of other things than just the work you have to get done.
  • Make a Priority List. When you have many tasks to finish around the same time, making a priority list will help separate tasks that are more important from the ones that aren’t as crucial. If I Have to fold my laundry, make an outline for a research paper, and study for an upcoming test, I would finish studying for the test first when I have my full attention guiding me to complete it. Next, I would do the outline for the research paper, as it is still an important assignment that I have to finish. Lastly, I would finish the day off with my laundry, because this task doesn’t require as much brain power and can be done  mindlessly.
  • Everyone is not the same. This isn’t much of a study tip, but realizing that we are not all the same helps remind us to stop comparing ourselves to our peers. Imagine this scenario: your friend just told you she spent 4 hours studying for that chapter 7 calculus test. You start to hesitate–thinking that you only spent 2 hours–and believe that she will get a better grade than you because she spent more time reviewing the content. That might not be the case–she may have spent 4 hours because she wasn’t as prepared or perhaps took longer to process the material. You may have only 2 hours of study time because you grasped the material quicker. For that reason, never doubt yourself and trust the process. 
  • Be honest with yourself. A factor of genuine learning is being honest with yourself. At the end of your study session, truly analyze the work you have finished and ask yourself, “Are you happy with the material you just covered? Did you thoroughly go through every topic? Is there anything else you can do?” If you begin second-guessing yourself, do what it is that you have to do in order to be happy with your studying. 
  • Motivate yourself. Many times, especially near the end of the school year, students lose motivation. Their quality of work begins to deteriorate and grades begin to drop. It doesn’t always have to end like this, though. My biology teacher told our class to think of this school year as a marathon: you push yourself for 25.5 miles to run, to put in your best effort, and persevere through it all. Instead of walking that last half mile, keep up your momentum, because you are almost at the finish line!
  • Motivation through others. I love looking up to people that are living the life that I want to live. If you aspire to become a doctor, lawyer, chef, or even just want to move to a foreign country when you grow older, find people that are living that life at the moment and get inspired to work towards your goals. 
  • Find a method of note-taking that works for you. Some people are visual learners; they need to watch videos to grasp the material. Others are good note-takers or like to annunciate information to remember it. Find what fits your style and stick with that.

To get started, I have listed different types of note-taking formats for you to take inspiration from:

  • The Cornell Method
    • Step 1: Take lecture notes on the right side of the page.
    • Step 2: Review your notes and write questions answering the topics of the lecture on the left side of the page. 
    • Step 3: At the bottom of your page, summarize your notes. 
    • Step 4: Test yourself!
  • The Pomodoro Method 
    • This technique requires time management. It gives you 25-minute sessions of working followed by a 5 min break. You repeat this process for as long as you need. 
  • The Mapping Method 
    • Mapping is a process that involves the use of comprehension and concentration abilities which matures into a note-taking format that connects each fact or concept to the next. Mapping is a visual description of a lecture’s content.
  • The Sentence Method 
    • A style of instruction reading that focuses on phrases and sentences first; then breaks them down into their verbal and alphabetic components.
  • Reward yourself! Celebrate those small victories. Get some ice cream after turning in that history paper. Personally, I love to watch my favorite tv show or get a meal from an exciting restaurant. Remind yourself that you are more than just a student. Allow yourself to be spontaneous and have fun from time to time. If you stick to your study plans and schedules, you will be able to fit in fun activities that have nothing to do with work or school!

Overall, having good time management skills and understanding your mode of learning–through trial and error–will allow you to work efficiently and productively!