Five Tips for Study Success

The exam period is fast approaching and if not managed effectively this can often lead to anxiety and stress. To help, we've compiled a list of our top five study tips to make sure you're exam ready.

1. Consider giving up social media and turning off your phone during study hours

  • As Adam Alter pointed out in his excellent Ted Talk, the problem with browsing the internet and social media is that there are no natural stopping points or ‘stopping cues’. The newsfeed just keeps rolling on and time disappears before you know it.

  • Another reason you feel compelled to check your phone constantly for notifications is due to the force of intermittent reinforcement – you only get the reward of a notification or ‘likes’ at variable intervals so you keep trying until you do and when you do, dopamine gets released, which makes you feel good and of course this reinforces the behaviour.

2. Prioritise self-care

  • Schedule time for your ‘fundamentals’ – the things that help you maintain your equanimity. Whether it’s sport, yoga, meditation, music, writing, talking to a friend or something else, make sure it’s part of your everyday routine.

  • Eat healthy food – your brain requires proper fuel to function optimally so this is not the time to be eating processed, sugar-filled junk, especially late at night. Also remember to hydrate! Even mild dehydration can disrupt brain function.

  • Get adequate sleep (it’s important for the development of enduring memories) and rest when you need to. Try to study when you have the most energy and take breaks to do something physical or fun.

3. Develop a realistic study timetable by working back from each deadline

  • List everything you need to cover for each subject, assign a priority value and work out a daily schedule. Be generous in your time allowances for each topic as you don’t want to be cramming at the end! Visually displaying these tasks on a calendar, Gantt Chart or project management tool like Trello can help enormously.

  • Procrastination can be a symptom and/or consequence of anxiety, so make sure you get help if you find your mental wellbeing suffering for this reason.

4 Learn so you can teach

  • Use active study techniques to develop deep learning. Retrieval practise, where you constantly self-quiz to test how well you’ve understood the material, is one such technique. Write your own study questions, constantly summarise what you’ve read and explain what you’re learning to others. Their questions will also help you identify any knowledge-gaps you might have.

5. Divide your study time into short chunks

  • Research shows that your focus and performance starts to diminish after about 20 minutes of study so scheduling in brief breaks can help you maximise energy levels and productivity. 

  • The Pomodoro method timer is a popular online tool you can try.

Further Reading



20 Oct 2017
Category: Learning