Sure there will be days when it is more interesting to watch Big Brother than it is to open a biology textbook. There might even be days when X Factor out-ranks psychology. Hopefully these days are few and far between but if they are not then you’d better hide the remote control because you are losing out on valuable study time. Even if you’ve wasted a good portion of the term stationed in front of the telly, addicted to the X Box or glued to the Internet, with a few good study skills you can still make up for lost time. Just make sure that you are in a room free from distractions when you implement them!
Failing to Prepare is Preparing to FailFailing to prepare for a productive study session may well leave you out in the cold – literally. Avoid such an extreme result by preparing your study space at the start of each term and using it often throughout. Make sure that wherever you choose to study is:
- Cool enough for comfort. Remember that you can always put on a jumper later if you start to feel chilly, but sweating it out due to algebra AND a high temperature is no fun.
- Well-lit by natural or overhead light. This will allow you to read and write comfortably without straining your eyes.
- Quiet and removed from distractions such as your radio, TV or Internet connection. A perfect place for studying is often (gasp!) your local library.
- Well supplied with storage areas for your mobile phone, mp3 player and any other gadget that you check routinely, but will be turning off and putting away during studying.
- Framed with a door so that you can let others know that you are busy and do not want to be interrupted. Doors also make excellent backdrops for “Do Not Disturb,” “Quiet Please” and plain old “Go Away” signs.
- Equipped with a desk large enough to hold all of your materials and a chair comfortable enough for you to sit for 30 to 45 minutes at a time.
Reading Efficiently Will Have You Writing SmoothlyMuch of the work that students complete independently involves reading. Textbooks, novels, essays, lecture notes, articles and even past exam papers all require you to ready them carefully for content in order to learn more. With so much of your education coming from reading, learning how to read efficiently is imperative so that when it comes time to write your own essay or exam you can do so smoothly. Learn to read:
- Quickly, and first by skimming through your material so that you know where all of the sub-topics are located and what the entire chapter/essay/article/etc. covers.
- With concentration so that you can absorb the details on your second read-through.
- With particular questions in mind so that you can answer them as you go.
- With a highlighter handy so that you can clearly mark key words, phrases, or dates.
- With a pencil in your hand for taking clear notes as needed.
Studying Often Takes Away the StingPart of the pain of studying is that when you decide to do it there’s just so much to work through that it seems like you might be buried alive. Studying often takes away the sting, so be sure to schedule in time for daily study sessions. If you need some help with your organisational skills:
- Invest in a week-to-view student diary. This will allow you to mark in all of your lectures, deadlines and commitments as well as view the hours that you can carve out for studying.
- Make a daily “To Do” list that involves all of the activities you will complete that day, including clear goals for your study sessions. Reward yourself with a little free time (fifteen minutes max) when you reach your goals.
- Rank your assignments by priority and do the most urgent tasks first. There’s no use studying for next week’s exam if you haven’t finished tomorrow’s essay yet.
- Join a study group. Regular group meetings will keep you on your toes and also help motivate you.
- Visit your student support centre. Even if you think you’re a hopeless case it’s almost guaranteed that they’ve seen worse!