Developing Better Study Habits: How to Study Better and Retain More Information

student study tips

As a student, you want to retain as much information as you can -- not only to pass your exams, but to also effectively apply the knowledge you acquire in the real world.

To help you, we’ve compiled a list of tips for developing better study habits:

1. Find a Conducive Place to Study

Studying and absorbing lots of information is no walk in the park, even more so if you’re doing it in a place full of distractions. It’s vital, therefore, that you find a place where you can concentrate on your lessons. 

The ideal place for studying, however, is not the same for everyone. Some students prefer to study privately, others want a little background noise. The trick is to find a place that coincides with your method of learning and allows you to focus. 

If you prefer some ambient noise, a coffee shop or the library are good options. If you want to study privately, your bedroom is an excellent location. If you need some peace and quiet to retain more information, the study lounge in your school or a private cubicle in the library are suitable options. 

2. Stay Away from Distractions

Distractions are everywhere: your phone ringing, someone texting, the urge to clean your messy room, or update your status on Facebook -- the list can go on. 

While it does sound like you would need a ton of willpower to win the battle against distractions, it’s, fortunately, winnable if you do the following:

  • Keep your phone in silent mode and place it where it would be difficult to reach, such as in another room. Then, resolve to only check for messages or social media updates when you take a short break (ideally, after 30-45 minutes of studying).
  • Turn off the internet. Just like the smartphone, the internet is a wonderful but extremely distracting invention. Access to it is just a click away. So you don’t fall victim to its wily charms -- one quick Google search can easily turn into 20 minutes of mindless browsing! -- simply turn off access. Download all research materials you need before the study session.
  • Ask for privacy. If you’re studying at home, let everyone know you need to focus and what time you will be studying. Ask that they refrain from interrupting unless it’s an emergency.
  • Focus on the now. As soon as you notice your attention wavering, take a few deep breaths and will yourself to “be here” now. Repeat as needed.
  • Don’t multitask. Focus on one subject at a time.

Related Article: Tips for Online Classes

3. Keep Your Notes Well-Organized

When it comes time to study for your finals, well-organized notes can make studying multiple times easier.

So how do you keep your notes organized?

  • Keep them in one place, such as in a binder. If you’re saving your notes on a computer, create folders for each class.
  • Organize your notes by date, heading, and subheading. This way, it’s easy to track which note goes with which lesson -- and even easier to understand the big picture even if professors jump from lecture to lecture.
  • Combine all your notes from, say, the lecture, the textbook, and the slides into one file so you don’t have to go through all three.
  • Throw out old notes you no longer need. As long as your notes are properly labeled, as soon as they’re saved on your computer, the original papers or computer files can go. Less clutter, less material to wade through later, the better.

Related Article: 5 Organizational Tips for Grad Students

4. Practice Close Reading

Close reading is an active reading strategy that involves reading and re-reading complex texts “to uncover layers of reading that lead to deep comprehension.” 

Here’s how close reading is done, according to the Harvard University Writing Center:

  • Read and underline (or highlight) key text.
  • Look for noticeable patterns, such as contradictions, repetitions, or similarities.
  • Ask questions, particularly how and why, about the patterns.

The objective here is to first make observations about the text, then come up with a conclusion based on your interpretation of those observations -- pretty much the same process involved in inductive reasoning

The close reading technique works well both when preparing for your exams and researching.

Student life is hectic. Between getting good grades and performing well in other aspects of your life, there’s so much that needs to be done. The above study tips should streamline your productivity and help you achieve more in less time.