Creating the ideal study space
Before you start your revision, there are a few simple steps you can take to create a comfortable and well-organised study space…
- Make sure you have a desk, chair and good lighting and heating when required.
- Have all your books and stationery on hand.
- Avoid clutter.
- Have your daily / weekly planner where you can see it.
- Turn off your phone!
Remember, your ideal study setting is unique to you, so experiment with a few ideas until you discover what works best.
How To Make A Study Timetable
A well thought-out study plan will give you structure and help you stay organised. Below are some useful examples and blank templates to help you start planning now!
Plan in advance
Fill out your weekly study plan each Sunday in preparation for the week ahead.
Itemise what you plan to study in each subject (For example, in English on Wednesday you might revise the poetry of Sylvia Plath).
Plan your breaks
Remember to leave time for breaks and be realistic in your goal setting.
Stick to the plan!
Stick the timetable on a wall in your study area or save it on your iPad and refer to it during your homework and study hours to make sure you keep on track.
Plan in advance
Fill out your monthly study plan at the beginning of each term.
Plan by subject
Make a study plan for each subject. This will help with your long-term learning and goal setting.
Include assignments and tests
Mark in important assignments and ongoing revision tests for each subject so that you remember to prepare in advance.
Track your progress
Tick off each task as it is completed. This will help you keep track of your progress throughout the year.
Are you a visual or verbal learner?
The key to studying effectively is finding out what study methods work for you. Every student is different and what works for your friend may not work for you.
If you are a Visual Learner then you will learn most effectively through the use of diagrams, clearly laid out notes, visual organisers, colour-coded bullet points and study techniques such as idea-mapping and flashcards.
If you are a Verbal Learner then you can improve study performance by reading texts and key points aloud, talking to others about what you have learned, recording your notes and through memory techniques such as mnemonics.
A small amount of time spent now on figuring out what works for you will reward you later as you approach exams.
Healthy Eating – A Recipe for Exam Success!
Healthy eating, drinking and relaxation are key to preparing effectively for exams. It’s easy to snack on sugary foods, but this can negatively affect your energy levels and ability to focus. Here are some helpful hints to overcome these nutritional pitfalls…
Start taking Fish Oils
Studies have shown that the long-chain fatty acids (omega-3s) found in fish oils can influence both academic performance and behaviour. It takes about four weeks for the stores of these oils to build up in the body and to take effect. You can also eat more oily fish – preferably fresh tuna, salmon or mackerel.
The right food for the right results!
It’s best to eat small, frequent meals to keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady. Meals and snacks that emphasise protein over carbohydrates are best, as they keep your energy at an even level and unlike caffeine won’t leave you jittery.
Good and convenient examples include bean soups, peanut butter and meat sandwiches, ready- to-eat tuna and chicken salads and different kinds of nuts. If you absolutely crave something sweet, then consider a high protein nutrition bar instead of sweets.
Don’t snack at your desk!
Try to eat snacks in the kitchen or another part of your house, just make sure it’s away from where you study.
Tasty snacks ideas…
Good ideas for snacks include nuts, raisins, cheese sticks, yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, crunchy fresh fruits and veggies (add dip for the veggies), frozen juice bars, wholegrain breakfast cereals, oatmeal, popcorn, herbal teas, etc.
Remember, only eat when you are hungry, not out of boredom!
Cut back on coffee!
Don’t replace protein with caffeine. Limit your intake of caffeine, but cut back gradually if you’re used to it. Drink a lot of water while you are studying.
Take a Nap!
Strong evidence shows that a 15-20 minute nap can improve alertness, sharpen memory and generally reduce the symptoms of fatigue.
But remember, a nap is not a substitute for a full night’s sleep. If getting to sleep or staying asleep at night is a problem, then naps are not the solution. Try finishing up study and eating a little earlier instead.
… and breath!
Make sure to get some fresh air outside a couple of times a day, if even for only ten minutes at a time.
How to set effective study goals
Clear and measured goals are the key to success, no matter what you’re looking to achieve.
Setting study goals at the start of the year will give structure to your revision and keep you focused and motivated throughout the year.
Using the SMART model for goal setting is helpful, as it eliminates generalities, sets a clear finish line and makes it much easier to track progress and identify missed targets.
Take a look below to see what the 5 key ingredients are to this goal setting formula.
Specify your exact goal and not something vague. For example instead of saying your goal is to study maths, you might say your goal is to read the first 10 pages of the Algebra chapter.
Be able to measure your progress. For example, see if you can remember and write down the most important points from the Algebra chapter you just read.
Your goals should be set by you and not someone else. Keep your goals challenging but attainable.
Start small and be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
Have a time limit on when you will the complete the goal. A big or long-term goal can be broken down into a number of short-term goals with specific time frames.
How To Become An Active Learner
The problem that a lot of us face when studying is that we view it as an exercise in memorisation instead of a journey to understand the material. Here’s some advice you can apply when studying any aspect of a subject, to help you move from being a passive student to an active learner!
Think critically about the material in front of you
To truly study effectively, you must do more than just read the text and skim through your notes. Step back from the notes and ask yourself why. Once you have analysed and understood the material, move on.
Test your understanding
Quiz yourself on material you have just learned. Use flashcards and other study methods which don’t allow you to fool yourself into thinking you know it, and make note of areas that require additional study.
Summarise the main points
Once you have studied the material and feel you know it well, see if you can answer a few questions under exam conditions: Can you summarise the main concept? Can you think of your own examples? In the last few weeks do this verbally so that you don’t waste time writing.
Create a ‘Summary Sheet’ for each topic
To save valuable time in the days leading up to exams it’s a good idea to create one A4 summary sheet using bullet points and diagrams for each subject topic.
When doing this, refer to class notes, past papers and the marking scheme. Find a friend who has the same approach and compare your sheets. Did they include anything that you missed and vice-versa?
Finally, if you find that you can’t quite remember a certain point during an exam, close your eyes and imagine looking at your summary sheet for that topic. You’ll find that you can visualise this page more easily than your textbook or your teacher’s notes. Of course you can, you created it from scratch!
Taking good notes while you study
Not only do good notes help us remember facts and ideas we may have forgotten, writing them keeps you focused and helps your concentration. Try to remember a few key things when starting out.
- Arrange topics into easy-to-review chunks of information.
- Use shortcuts (symbols/ abbreviations) that you understand and that will make the writing process quicker.
- Keep your notes neat and easy to read.
- Use your class notes as a basis when starting a new topic. These will help refresh your memory and deepen your understanding of the subject.
Get into the habit of doing these things now and you’ll really feel the difference when preparing for exams.