Aaron’s Top Tips on how to Study in First Year

Girl sitting on blue chair looking at laptop

One thing that I learned over my first year were some efficient study tips. By optimizing the way you study, you will be able to spend more time actually learning the useful material and wasting less of your valuable time. With that being said, these tips will not work for everyone, because we are such a diverse population after all! Take a look at these 5 tips, and try and implement a couple of them into your studying habits for the semester and see if you notice an improvement!

tRuST Me I’M an iNdY, i OpTimiZe

  1. I know I know, you hate that I’m going to address this but also know that it is super important. PROCRASTINATION. However, I am not simply going to address the timing of procrastination, because there is a trick out there on how to use procrastination to study effectively as well!

In terms of timing of your procrastination, whether it is putting off studying something until the night before because “you work better under pressure” or taking a break from studying one day because you did not go to bed early the night before, these are both forms of procrastination. As I will say in my later tips, organization and time management help a lot, but procrastination can also be fixed through one simple concept: Productive Procrastination. For example, if you want to take a break during your study session because you really don’t want to study for that Calculus Exam, by using that break to then study Physics, your brain still thinks you are procrastinating for your Calculus Exam, but you will still be utilizing all your time, and actually using a study technique called spacing and interleaving, which is known to help study efficiency.

  1. “Ring Ring, Ring Ring”  

I know you want to check your phone, whether it is in case you get an important call or message, but I have to tell you; we both know that message can wait. When you are studying, either put your phone somewhere – in a different room – where you will not go back right away, or if you live with someone else, give them your phone (I know, this is the hard part) to keep or put away while you do your studying.

Now, for those of you who find yourself hanging out on Youtube or any other websites while you do your studying, if you use Google Chrome, download the Block and Focus extension (google it) and add all your common websites, and set timers for your studying. One timing system I recommend is 20 minutes study, 3 minutes break and doing this 3 times before you get an 11 minute break. Block and Focus has cool helpful features, so take a look at all of them!

  1. In many courses, the material you can study is endless, whereas it is limited in others. By focusing on the most relevant information and practising problems accordingly, you can optimize your time spent studying on each subject. One good way to figure out what is most relevant, is if you can look at a practice or previous exam as soon as you can. Familiarize yourself with the types of questions; especially in math and you will soon know what the professor expects you to know. Practising these particular questions will give you an edge when it comes to writing your exam. 

For courses that have limited material to study off of, try and find external sources! Whether it is watching Youtube tutorials or getting quizzed by your friend, external ways to learn and practice the material are crucial to making sure you get a complete understanding of the course so you can cover everything you need for the exam!

  1. As I alluded earlier, time management and organization are valuable skills to master in order to take your studying to the next level. By using checklists, or other ways to know when everything is due or taking place, you will ensure you; 

a) do not miss a deadline or assessment and 

b) leave enough time in place to properly study for each course. 

By blocking out certain times in the weeks leading up to the assessment, you can figure out what your schedule is looking like. It is always important to block out more time than you need, because stuff comes up that sometimes derails your schedule. As long as you stay organized and make sure you stick to the schedule you create for yourself, then you have already won half the battle.

  1. Finally, the last tip is know when to stop. That’s right, I said it, there IS such a thing as too much studying, and I see it far too often. Issues arise when you start pulling all nighters, especially the night before an exam. What this means is that you likely procrastinated or did not stick to your schedule. Even if you have also worked the weeks leading up to this, then it is also usually an indication of overstudying. Sleep is the number 1; the most valuable thing you need when writing an assessment and by taking it away to keep cramming you will find yourself doing worse than if you had just not done that extra studying at all. 

When you find yourself asking, “I’ve done everything I can do. Now what do I do?”. As you say this, I understand your pain. Sometimes it is hard to say that you have done everything you can do for an exam and stop studying even if you have extra time. By walking away when you have covered all the material, you give your brain a chance to rest, recuperate, and process all the information you just studied. This is so valuable when it comes to your study efficiency as your brain works in the background to truly make the most of your time. 

With all of that being said, I do hope that you go out and try at least one of these tips! These tips work for me, but they may end up being stressful or confusing for you. Finding out what tips and tricks work best for you are necessary to truly master the art of studying. Good luck to you all on your future exams, and best of luck with your studying!

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