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10 proven tips to study smarter, not harder

23 May 2016

Whether you’re studying for your Bachelor degree, an MBA or simply expanding your knowledge base, these tips will help you get the most out of your study time. We uncover that it's not necessarily about working harder, but how to study smarter.

1. Study in short chunks

Short study sessions help the synapses in your brain process information much better than lots of information in long sessions. Try setting aside 30 minutes before or after work to dedicate to your study. Avoid all-nighters, start planning and reading early in the study period and make a study schedule.

2. Get in the zone

Create the ideal study space, and gather all the books and items you will need. This prep time also prepares the brain for study. Also, limit distractions – if you must listen to music, choose melodic music without lyrics and of course, leave your phone alone and stay off social media.

3. Sleep well and exercise

You absorb information better when you’re alert, well-fed and rested – and even better after you’ve exercised. It's important to ensure you’ve consumed nutritious foods to get your brain powered up – things like fish, nuts, berries and yoghurt. It also pays to stay hydrated and get up to move in between your 30-minute sessions.

4. Write flash cards

Your brain stores information better when you’ve written something down after you're read or heard it. So this means you'll probably have to lose the highlighter and start writing the essentials on flashcards. A good system to use is the Leitner System, which utilises the principle of spaced repetition and increasing intervals.

5. Connect the dots

Learning to make connections when you consume information pays dividends. While you study, think of the various ways that the information you are reading, watching or listening to is connected to one another. This is called contextual learning. Try to group related information on one flashcard.

6. Set goals

Make a list of study goals and tick them off when you complete them. Not only will it motivate you and give you a sense of achievement, it will help you feel in control and reduce any study stress.

7.Test yourself

Practice tests are a good way to see where you’re at, and where you might need to focus. There are some great templates that you can find online to help with the structure. If you come across something tricky in your readings, make a note of it and remember to test yourself later for a challenge.

8. Aim to teach it

Tests have shown that people who study material to teach it to others, absorb the information more logically than those who are merely studying for themselves. A US study has shown that students who engaged in peer learning scored significantly higher on a reading test than the students who had not, indicating the effectiveness peer tutoring can have on academic achievement.

9. Read aloud and recall

Whether it's by yourself, with a friend or family member, read your flashcards and summaries out loud. A handy trick is to close your eyes and try to recall what they say to help further cement your main points and arguments.

10. Lose the screen

A psychology lecturer at the University of Leicester in England has found that it’s harder to remember what you’ve read when reading from a screen, rather than a book or piece of paper. So to mix up your study, try printing out some of your lecture notes or online articles, and give those eyes a rest!

Ready to hit the books? Find out more about how you can put these tips to study smarter into practice through our flexible and affordable online courses or speak to one of the friendly Student Enrolment Advisors at SCU Online today on 1300 863 819.