How to study smart: 6 tips for students

Use these tips to build your study skills and take on the new academic year.

Sep 2, 2022
How to study smart

After a summer of burnt noses and snoozed alarms, more than just advice about sun cream, we have some ways for you to get back into an effective study flow.

If you’re e-learning, heading back to high school, or leaving for college after the summer break, we have some tips for students who want to know how to study smarter.

Maybe you’ve always struggled with studying or some time off has trapped you with bad habits, be productive with your time by using these study tips for students and get to the top of the class.

1. Organize & set a schedule

You’ve been making the most of having no class and snoozing your alarm, but bad bedtime habits build up to a disorganized workload and failure to take in information. Start waking up early and getting into good sleeping habits, but also find the time that’s right for you to work.

Create a calendar and timetable for what you need to study, and when. People feel productive at different times of the day, so figure out when you work best and plan your sleep schedule and revision around that.

Sticking to your routine is key to successful studying. Studies show that students know what good study skills are, but they fail to put them into practice. Paying attention is key, so don’t get distracted by new plans that will remove you from this routine.

It’s also useful to plan where your study space will be. Having a set study space lets you avoid distractions, as well as set up an environment that’s clean, light, and helps you to work as efficiently as you can.

2. Don’t just re-read

A common mistake made by students is too much focus on re-reading text. Whether it’s notes or textbooks, the process of reading isn’t itself enough for skillful learning. A study found that students answering questions from someone else remembered the most, followed by those who wrote questions about the material.

Having a study group is a useful way to be quizzed about your subject, and although writing questions yourself was less successful it still provided better results than just reading. The idea is a more interactive process of writing and answering questions enhances memory.

Study sessions with classmates also lead to another study method that prevents re-reading. Instead of reading to yourself, tell a story. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to your classmates or your neighbor’s dog, the act of having a conversation is an effective way to remember information and study smarter because you have to try harder to recall the information.

Another study tip for students is to create a mind map with everything you remember after reading a text for the first time. You will see which parts of the material are stuck in your mind and which parts you need to spend more time on.

3. Test yourself

Take a practice test before an exam or write a quiz on the content of your essay. Testing yourself is an efficient way to study, and research shows that this type of retrieval practice helps a majority of students.

Creating your own flashcards is a useful way to test yourself, and you can download apps that make it even easier and accessible on the go. Brainscape and Anki are two of the most popular flashcard apps out there, so test your knowledge by creating questions based on your subject.

When you’re reading study material, stop after each section and try to write down as many of the important points as you can. Summarising in this way actively engages you with the text. This is also a valuable study method you can do when you’re in the classroom, so try to summarise after each class to test your knowledge and revise at the same time.

4. Use images

There’s science behind the saying “a picture paints a thousand words”. Evidence shows that pictures boost our ability to memorize, so take time to focus on anything visual in your subject material. If your topic is text-heavy, then create your own visual elements.

This study hack helps the brain to associate information and recall it easier. You can get creative with this when you’re making your own image association. Use humor to improve this retention and recall even more by taking your study material and drawing amusing pictures that relate to it in some way to spark your memory.

A practical way to use images to improve your study is through PDFs. Lots of study material comes in PDF format, especially at college with academic articles. This opens the door to easily adding images to your material by using an Edit PDF tool. Upload your material, choose your images, and start to associate text with visual cues to study smarter.

Here’s how to add an image to a PDF:

  1.  Go to the Edit PDF tool.
  2.  Select the file from your computer, Google Drive, or Dropbox.
  3.  In the main toolbar, select the Add image icon to import a file.
  4.  Click on the image to drag and drop it to its correct position.
  5.  Hit the Edit PDF button.
  6.  Download your edited PDF file or save it back to the Cloud.

5. Take useful notes

If you want to know how to study smart, then take careful notes and study what your teacher includes in their lessons. Teachers are almost certain to include versions of exam questions or essay topics in lessons, so proper note-taking is a key tip to narrowing down your study. Listen to their hints attentively.

Taking notes is also general good practice for students. Note-taking involves summarizing information, and this is a practical study strategy. Typing your notes is useful and quick for getting more information down, but writing things by hand can make you even more effective at remembering information.

Whether you prefer typing or writing by hand, use an Edit PDF tool to save time by taking notes directly on your course material. Editing PDFs also makes using digital textbooks smoother. As so much school material comes in digital format, it’s convenient to make notes directly on the document.

More than just practical, the edit tool has creative options that change the color, size, and thickness of your notes. Keeping things more visually appealing is a good technique for effective studying.

6. Create a digital study guide

Study guides are useful for summarizing information and finding out where you don’t feel so strong. Use digital tools to create a guide from your online documents, as well as your physical ones.

After you’ve made notes on your digital documents, use a Merge PDF tool to combine the pages together and create a digital study guide. A digital study guide has the benefit of being easy to organize because you can sort, add, and delete pages as you please.

Don’t worry if you’re more old-school and prefer to write your notes with pen and paper. You can add your handwritten notes to the guide in seconds with the Scan to PDF tool. After scanning, use the Organize PDF tool to add these pages to your digital study guide.

Scanning your documents online blends your digital content and physical notes for a more complete and organized study guide, but is also great for adding your physical textbooks. Just scan the page from your book, upload it as a PDF, and use the Organize PDF tool to add the selected parts to your digital study guide.

Prepare for the next academic year

The time for snoozed alarms is over. Don’t let yourself fall behind before you’ve even started, prepare yourself for the next academic year by starting your studies early using these tips, and getting into the study habits that will make your school year a successful one.

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