The ultimate student study guide

by Danya Elsayed

Hit the books, not your head with these useful study techniques.

Nothing sounds more horrifying than spending hours studying…except maybe spending hours studying and still feeling unprepared for exams. We’ve all had those I-want-to-bang-my-head-against-the-wall moments where no matter how much you study, you still don’t understand what’s going on. Unfortunately, the problem may lie in your studying techniques.

Many of us weren’t taught how to study effectively or efficiently, we just learned what works for us from past experiences. But, there are many tips out there that can help you study better, and maybe even learn to enjoy it (okay, I might be pushing it).

Boy with numbers spinning around his head

Know yourself (and what kind of learner you are)

Drake said it, so there’s got to be some truth to it. Knowing yourself and the way you learn is one of the most important things when it comes to studying effectively. This might take some trial and error, but figuring this out will help you a lot in the long run.

The four types of learners are:

  1. Kinaesthetic: very hands-on and like to experiment by doing things, so when studying they may like to have fidget toys or move around to help them concentrate
  2. Visual: prefer to see information and like to use pictures, charts or diagrams to visualize relationships between things
  3. Auditory: prefer to hear information, so when studying they might like to be questioned by a friend that they can answer orally
  4. Reading/writing: like to read and write things down in order to understand concepts, when studying they may like take notes from a text and use cue cards to review

Take the test to find out what kind of learner you are.

Rapper Drake dancing in his music video for Hotline Bling

Make better study notes

Your notes aren’t meant to regurgitate what the lecture slides or textbook say, they’re meant to help you understand better. So when taking notes, what I like to do is come up with subtopics that help link concepts together. If you have a long reading, chances are you aren’t going to remember the small details. So putting things in an organized fashion will help you remember. For example, if the article is about history of Canada, you might want to create subtitles for each time period and begin writing your points.

This brings me to the next tip: writing notes as potential questions. I find this helps me a lot when I’m studying with friends, or going over my notes the morning of an exam. Posing your notes as questions gets you thinking of ways to answer them, which in turn will help you when you are writing your exam.

Hand with pencil about to write on paper

Try active reading

Studying used to mean memorizing formulas, dates, and concepts. However as post-secondary students, application of what we learned means studying becomes so much more than just memorization. So to help you learn better, try active reading.

Don’t think of studying as memorizing for a test, think of it as a way to learn more. Try to find anything that’s interesting and relate it back to things that you like or understand. For example, if you’re trying to understand how society affects what companies make, think of your favourite product and ask yourself why is it so popular? What is it’s use? When we switch to active reading, we use different parts of our brain that enhance your learning, this in turn helps us remember better.

Cartoon character Spongebob wearing glasses and looking through a book

Tips to help you remember

Sometimes we have to memorize things when we study. If you find it hard to remember certain concepts or terms, try using mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices are tools that help you remember, like making a song, an acronym, or associating a term or concept with an object.

If you’re trying to memorize a few theories, you might take the first letter of each theory and create a word; this is known as an acronym. Or,  if you’re trying to remember the capital cities of Canada you may start off with “Manitoba”, which starts with an M, and if the capital is Winnipeg, which starts with a W you might think M could stand for man, and W for woman. This way, you’ve related the information to something familiar that you will easily remember.

Cartoon character Spongebob clinks pencil on his head to remember

Use a reward system

We often delay tasks because we don’t have an immediate reward. With studying, the “reward” of a good mark won’t be given to us until after we do the test and the professors mark it. But, if we use a small reward system while we study it will help motivate us to continue.

Your reward system could be watching your favourite show after finishing studying a unit. Or maybe it can be going out and getting your favourite meal. Studying is all about pacing yourself, and not forcing the information into your head.

Man dusts his hands and smiles at the camera

Studying doesn’t have to be a nuisance when you learn how to do it effectively and efficiently. Need more advice? Check out our midterm study tips!

Good luck and when you take a break from all that studying don’t forget to check out IGNITE events!