What if you could study less and improve your grades?
You can learn study tips and strategies that can increase your effectiveness so your high school assignments fit into your life rather than consume it.
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We also created a more comprehensive Study Skills Guide - Study Tips & Test Preparation Strategies for High School Students filled with study tips and test preparation strategies for high school students.
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This post discusses some of the study tips and strategies you will find in the complete Study Skills Guide.
In particular, it covers how to:
- Establish and follow a study schedule.
- Increase your concentration during study times.
- Strengthen your “memory muscle.”
- Take notes effectively.
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Your outlook deeply influences your productivity. Consequently, if an approach can change your attitude, it may also give you the power to change your actions.
If you approach study times haphazardly—expecting to suffer through long hours of rote memorization and overwhelming assignments—don’t be surprised when you feel discouraged.
That state of mind can seriously undermine your performance.
But if you approach study times strategically—armed with tools and techniques that enable you to reduce study time and improve your grades—most likely, you will feel empowered.
That state of mind can substantially increase your effectiveness.
Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.
Strategic Planning Steps
Effective, reality-based time management is one of the most significant skills a student can develop.
Many students have crammed for a test at least once. However, if cramming has become your habit, it’s time to experience the benefits offered by proactively scheduling study times.
With a little strategic planning, you can reduce your stress, increase your retention of the information you study, and actually enjoy your learning experience.
Here’s a roadmap:
- Choose a calendar.
- Review your assignments and due dates.
- Break assignments into bite-sized tasks.
- Estimate the time needed for task.
- Schedule detailed “study appointments” in your calendar for the upcoming week.
- Honor your study appointment commitments.
Choose your study calendar.
To get started on a study schedule, you will need a calendar. Choose one that you can easily access every day.
Your calendar can be a physical planner, software on your computer, or an app on your phone.
When are your assignments due?
Avoid the stress of cramming for the unexpected. Review your notes and course syllabuses to be sure you have correctly identified all due dates.
Create a quick reference list of those dates, and also record them on your calendar. Be sure to keep your list and calendar updated.
Divide and conquer.
You may have heard that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Likewise, the best way to tackle big assignments is by breaking them down into bite-sized tasks.
Divide your assignments into specific tasks. Next, estimate how long it will take to complete each one.
How much time do you need?
Tell yourself the truth. Be realistic about time.
Here are a few questions you can ask to help you determine how much study time you actually have available—and how much time you will need for each assignment:
- How many weekdays do you have available to study?
- How many opportunities to study will you have between now and your due dates?
- How well do you understand the course material?
- Do you need intense study or only a quick review before taking any upcoming tests?
Schedule your study appointments.
Determine which tasks you need to complete in the coming week. Next, group them into logical study sessions. Then, block out the appropriate amount of time for each study appointment.
Keep or reschedule your study appointments.
Honor your commitment to study.
Life happens. Study appointments are flexible, but treat them like you would any other appointment.
If you schedule a study session and something comes up that requires you to change your plans, reschedule your study appointment immediately.
Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.
Study Tools and Habits
Concentration vs. The Daze
It's late at night and you’re cramming for a test. Although your eyes scan the page in front of you, your mind has long since drifted away.
You really need to concentrate, but you're dazed.
We’ve all been there at one time or another. How can we avoid going there again?
Let's explore a few tools and habits that can help:
- Choosing your study locations.
- Use background music.
- Start early.
- Use a timer.
- Use rewards.
- Be consistent.
- Set goals.
- Establish healthy life habits.
Choose a distraction-free study environment.
Where do you plan to study? The spots you choose will greatly influence the productivity of your study sessions. If possible, identify multiple study locations. Changing locations can be refreshing.
Choose a distraction-free environment. Look for a place where you can be left alone.
If you cannot isolate physically, consider wearing headphones, which brings us to our next tip.…
Use background music.
Sometimes studying in silence can be distracting. This is especially true when you’re not particularly interested in the subject you must study.
Instrumental music playing quietly in the background can improve your concentration. But avoid music with lyrics or you may find yourself focusing on the words instead of your lessons.
Most attention spans are better suited to intense study sprints rather than prolonged study marathons.
Whenever possible, once you become aware of an assignment or exam, schedule a series of short study sessions to complete it.
Don't wait until a deadline approaches before you begin. Start early and work in bursts.
Use a timer.
Take a short break every 25 minutes.
- Set a timer to make sure you return to studying after five minutes.
Do something refreshing on your break.
- Take a walk around your house.
- Grab something to drink.
(Steer clear of activities that are likely to derail you—like checking your email or social media.)
When an extended study session is unavoidable, or when you must study a subject you dislike, when you’re finished, treat yourself to a reward.
Use common sense if your reward is food related. Too much sugar or eating a heavy meal can undermine your study efforts.
Another key to effective study is to schedule sessions at the same time every day.
Timing is important. Be a student of yourself.
- When are your best times to study?
- When are you most alert?
- When do you start to fade?
Establishing regular study times will train your mind to shift into “study mode.” When that becomes a habit, being consistent becomes much easier.
Make sure you know what you want to accomplish by the end of your study session. Do you need to:
- Read a set number of pages?
- Study a particular aspect of the assignment?
- Memorize a specific set of facts?
Revisit the group of bite-sized tasks you identified when you originally scheduled your study session.
Push through the hardest tasks first, when your mind is fresh, and pace yourself so you actually finish what you set out to do.
Establish healthy life habits.
Remember how I cautioned you to use common sense when selecting food-related rewards? That brings us back to our discussion of “Concentration vs. The Daze.”
Your physical health contributes greatly to your mental focus.
When you eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to do its daily tasks. That frees up more energy to be devoted to processing the information you need to be successful in your courses.
Take care of your body and mind!