Work smarter, not harder: Tips for studying and using your time more wisely

Cramming for an exam has hardly ever produced stellar results.
Even if you get a good score, chances are you won’t retain the material. Here are 10 tips for more efficient studying.

1) Change up your study location. Quickly review your notes before class in the hallway. Study in one of the adirondack chairs on the DeRosa University Center lawn while enjoying the California sunshine. Even changing up your normal study spot in the library can help train your brain to retain the information.

2) Gain inspiration. Everyone at some point feels overworked, underpaid and just plain exhausted. Start your study session spending five minutes to get inspired. Write down your goals. Look back. Check your horoscope. Google “inspirational quotes.” Watch funny videos on YouTube. Call your family. Do whatever you need to do to be successful.

3) Review is the key to retention. The initial process of learning the information starts with studying. Reviewing is what will drive the information home and make it more likely to stick. According to a New York Times article, “Studies have shown that for a student to learn and retain information like historical events, vocabulary words or science definitions, it’s best to review the information one to two days after first studying it.” Reviewing also helps assess what concepts have been retained and what to concentrate on.

4) Study with a friend. Talking about and discussing the material really helps reinforce the concepts. This study strategy works better with intimate groups, as large study groups tend to have problems staying on-topic.
5) Space out the material. Trying to cram 10 chapters in the night before the exam is overwhelming. Spacing out the material over a few days helps make the material more manageable and increases retention.

6) Schedule study periods into your planner. Review your upcoming schedule and pencil in study time. College students are notoriously busy and it’s difficult to remember all time commitments. Plan ahead, know your schedule and make study dates with yourself or friends.

7) Use study aids to reinforce the material. Creating flashcards can be a great interactive way to learn. The 3 x 5 notecard is the flashcard standard, as it’s easy to carry around and quickly review. Several homework websites such as Connect offer online flashcards. Two free flashcard apps are Evernote Peek and StudyBlue.

8) Sleep really does matter. A good night’s sleep will leave you with plenty of fresh brain power to conquer the exam. “The first half of the sleep cycle helps with retaining facts; the second half is important for math skills,” reports the NYT. Yes, math majors, that means sleeping in is good for you.

9) Reward yourself. College can feel like a never-ending assault of homework, quizzes, papers, exams and presentations. Plan the rewards beforehand: small rewards for small assignments, large rewards for exams. Rewards can range from extra video game time to Tiger Yogurt to a new outfit.

Remember this quote from one of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

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