8 Effective Study Strategies

We've put together the most effective study strategies to help you get the most out of your revision schedule

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You may think that you have nailed your preferred study methods, however, we’re here to show you how shaking it up a little could be more effective. 

With that familiar saying of ‘you get out what you put in’, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that hours invested equals better grades. Wrong. We’re humans, we’re not perfect and we certainly cannot maintain focus for long periods of time. In fact, the Independent found that the average attention span of adults in the UK is just 14 minutes. So, to get the most out of your study time, we’ve gathered our top strategies to help you get through exam season and beyond.


1) Space out study sessions

Spread out when you study across a longer period. Instead of cramming for an exam the 12 hours before, spread those 12 hours across the 2 weeks prior or longer. This also allows for shorter, more intense study sessions. We recommend setting a timer for around 15 - 20 minutes to ensure you stop and take a break.

By utilizing shorter, more intense sessions, you can maintain focus. The longer period between sessions will allow for the information to move from your short-term memory to long-term memory in smaller snippets which you are then more likely to recall. 

2) Retrieval 

Once you have carried out a study session, try actively recalling some of the information. Ask yourself questions to answer out loud, forcing the retrieval of information. Other forms of practicing retrieval include: 

  • Creating flashcards (using questions and answers. Be strict with yourself by not turning the card over before answering) 
  • Take a piece of paper and write down everything you can remember. Follow this up with checking your notes to fill in the gaps
  • Try explaining the concept to someone who has no prior understanding of it

This method can also identify what areas you do know and what areas you don’t. You can then use your time more efficiently by only focusing on the areas you currently cannot remember. Practicing retrieval consistently is also key, why not test yourself whilst you brush your teeth or doing your chores?

3) Make handwritten notes 

Research has found that when we make handwritten notes we transform the information into our own words, thus enabling a better understanding. When notes are typed however, we are more likely to transcribe the information word-for-word without processing it. 

4) Question the topic continuously as you study

Similar to retrieval, constantly asking yourself why and how can enable a deeper understanding of the topic as a whole. This moves away from memorising specific content for the sake of regurgitating it in an exam.

Instead of simply trying to remember a perfect answer, boosting your understanding will ensure that no matter how a question is worded or asked, you’ll know how to answer it. A good tip is to also question yourself on how concepts are linked and related. 

5) Dual coding

Dual coding is using different stimuli to aid the encoding of information into your memory. This allows for that information to be retrieved more easily when you need it. Regardless of your learning style, this will boost results. However, it is recommended to utilise your preferred style as one of the stimuli. Therefore, if you are a visual learner, it is advised to combine words and pictures.

Similarly, you can add in audio elements as you study to aid recall. This brings us on to the use of music. 

Whilst some people need absolute silence, some background noise can help you focus. Moreover, if you use certain songs or genres for different topics or subjects, then music can help you recall information through association. You can also make up songs to help you remember particular models. 

It’s also great for motivation and getting you in the right mood to study!

6) Create situations to enter ‘diffuse mode’

This is when your attention is relaxed, therefore allowing you to subconsciously process information. This can be when walking, taking a shower, drawing, or meditating. In between study sessions, try to create situations where you are in 'diffuse mode' to encourage this.

7) Change up your environment

Make sure you don’t always study in the same place. Moving to various locations can enable future recall whilst also keeping revision interesting. Sometimes the hardest part of studying is finding the will power to begin. Take yourself to a coffee shop and treat yourself with a coffee and some cake. Or head to the library to surround yourself by other students who are revising for motivation.

Here study groups can be beneficial, you can hold each other accountable and take it in turns to host the study group, shaking up your environment continuously.

8) Use examples

Examples can really help you to contextualise what you are learning. This enables you to process the information within your memory more easily. If you can, try and relate concepts to your own experiences. For example, if you study marketing, think of a time where you have seen that theory implemented by a particular brand. 

Some final tips 

So, we’ve given you our top 8 strategies for studying, but there some extra pointers we have to offer you: 

  • Sleep – we cannot stress enough how important sleep is. This is when the body and mind is in a restorative state. It is thought that memories transfer from short-term to long-term memory during this time. Consequently, it has been found that quickly revising important information before going to sleep can help with future recall. 
  • Turn your phone on do not disturb mode- ideally don’t have your phone in the same room as you. Or, use your phone to time study sessions, but make sure that do not disturb is on! This way it won't distract you should you get a notification. 
  • Post snippets of information around your house, such as on your bathroom mirror, or where you put your shoes on to increase opportunities for absorbing information during 'diffuse mode'.

These strategies we have provided are not just great for exam season, but can be applied throughout your academic year. Pick a couple to try out and let us know how you get on! 

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