I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but I was always a star student. I paid attention in class, did the assigned reading each night, and went above and beyond on my projects. Needless to say, I made A/B honor roll every year (I even have the certificates to prove it) and sustained a GPA that got me into my dream college. Now it was just time to do it all over again for the next four years of undergrad. I was set—or so I thought. “College is a whole new world,” my dad warned me. “It’s not going to be the same piece of cake.” But being an all-knowing, cocky 18-year-old, I rolled my eyes and insisted I had it under control.
I did not have it under control. In middle school and high school, your grade depends on participation, homework, classwork, tests, and projects. But in college—or at least at mine—a large percentage relies solely on a few pesky exam grades. And these tests took a little more than cracking open your textbook the night before or reviewing flash cards for a few minutes. So, I had to kick it into high-gear and develop some beneficial study habits on the fly. Sure, it took a few tries to find what really worked, but by the end of my freshman year I was making A’s and B’s again. Now, I’m here to help you do the same—so, take a gander at these 5 easy study habits that actually worked for me and will undoubtedly work for you too:
1) Plan out and write down your study goals.
Your test might not be for another couple weeks or so, but you can create your own “due dates” to ensure you’re on the right track. This might mean mapping out which chapters you’ll read each night, which lessons you’ll review, or which notes to outline—otherwise, you’ll probably end up trying to cram it all in the night before. It’s important, however, that you don’t set too big or too small a goal, so plan wisely.
2) Switch up the routine.
Reading your textbook or sifting through slideshows for hours at a time can get tiring, not to mention you probably stopped paying attention a long time ago. This is why you should switch up your study routine and make it (somewhat) interesting: start with watching lectures, then rewrite some notes, make some flashcards, study with a buddy. Introduce variation however you see fit to keep your brain awake and interested.
3) Create or establish a designated study spot.
My first mistake was assuming college would be a breeze. My second mistake was thinking studying in bed was a good idea. While this might be an effective study spot for you, I definitely wasn’t motivated to get my work done—but Panera was perfect. I like a little bit of bustle and background noise, so studying at Panera proved to be an effective move. You should consider what kind of study atmosphere you thrive in and then designate that as your go-to work zone. Eventually, you’ll condition your brain to get down to business every time you’re there.
4) Take breaks regularly and prioritize your sleep.
It is helpful and appropriate to take a break every 45-60 minutes, according to Oregon State University. Not only will this time allow you to de-stress, but it will also improve your concentration, making the rest of your study time more effective. Similarly, it is important you get enough sleep each night and avoid putting it on the backburner. You may be tempted to pull an all-nighter or power through some extra study guides, but this will only hurt you in the long run if your brain and body are already exhausted.
5) Make it fun.
Studying doesn’t have to equal isolating yourself from friends and fun—it can instead involve them. I found that studying with a couple friends helped me better understand the material because we were constantly talking through theories and answering each other’s questions. We even made up some fun games and quizzes to further cement the information in our minds. They key here is to pick a few study buddies that won’t distract you from studying, but help you ace that test instead. Or maybe you find it impossible to study with anyone; in this case, look for some fun ways to quiz yourself or study the material online—whatever it takes to make studying a little more bearable.