We’ve all seen those students who sprawl out on their beds with a textbook and a highlighter, begin studying…and promptly fall asleep. Obviously that is not the correct technique for effective studying, but many of us don’t know what the proper techniques are.
First, as you may already know, where you study and how you sit matter. Sit at a desk, if possible, or a table, in a comfortable chair that is not too comfortable. Sit up straight and put your book on the table. You’re less likely to get sleepy this way.
Second, plan on studying every night, even if for some subjects you just do a quick review of your lecture notes or the reading assignment. By studying each night for each course, you get in the habit of studying for each course, and your brain gets into gear more easily and stays there.
Third, set a start time for your study sessions, but not an end time. You may find that you can’t concentrate on biology for more than fifteen minutes and need to switch to history, then you may find that you can read your history text, and take notes from it, for an hour. Be diligent about setting a time to start studying, but flexible about when you’re going to stop.
Fourth, if you need sound to help you focus, use it, but keep it quiet. Many experts claim that “no one” studies better with music in the background, but many people find their own results prove that background noise like keyboards clicking or traffic outside are more distracting than quiet music, preferably instrumental music. If you feel you study better with music, study with music.
Finally, keep your mind active. Reading your notes or reading the book will not help you, if your mind is focused somewhere else while you’re reading. As you read, ask yourself questions about what you’ve read. Especially with notes, your mind tends to say, “I remember when she said that!” but not really process the information. By engaging the material, you keep your mind on what you’re doing.