Everyone is familiar with this situation. You’ve sat down at your desk or in the library with the intention of smashing out your assignments, catching up on your notes and watching those missed lectures. However, a few hours pass and you realise that all you’ve done is read the same line over and over again, spent too long searching for articles and eaten a whole packet of pizza shapes.



This happens to the best of us and rest assured it’s not because you’re a terrible student but rather, you’re not enhancing your learning capacity. I thought I’d give a few tips on how to optimise your study, to leave you with time for the more important things in life like the new season of Game of Thrones.

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I’m one of those people that can’t study after eight at night because I’m aware of all the quality Australian reality TV series I am missing out on.. Married at First Sight anyone? I know that if I’m going to get any solid study done, it has to be in the morning. My brother on the other hand, has no qualms about staying up till one o’clock in the morning to study. Although I would not recommend becoming a nocturnal studier, it does show that everyone is different. Having gone through primary, secondary and now tertiary education, you should by now have an idea of when your concentration levels are at their peak.



However, whether you consider yourself an early bird or a night owl, research based on your cortisol or energy levels suggests that there are peak times to study throughout the day and night. These are 8am-10am, 12:30-1:30pm and 6:30-7:30 pm. I know that most of us would never dream of waking up that early to study, so effectively look at the optimal study time as being after every main meal.



It can initially seem easier to try to memorise your whole pile of notes as your study technique. That is, until you realise you don’t have a photographic memory and you’ve only learnt page 1 out of 36.



Before you rage at me for being the thousandth person to tell you to use a mind map, hear me out. You need to organise what you’ve learnt in a succinct way and meaningful way and mind maps help you do this. They also aid retrieval if they are colour coded due to associations being made more easily between concepts. I have previously been a non-believer in mind maps and this is mainly because they can become messy and disjointed if written by hand. However, I recently discovered GoConquer, an app that helps you to create online mind maps, as well as making quizzes and flash cards.




Reading lengthy research articles is the pet hate of any SHE student. We do it a lot, and the only saving grace is when you see n extensive reference list which means less reading for us.

Or worse still, when you’ve gone to the effort of reading through the whole article  and you can’t remember one thing about it. I go especially blank on the results section that just looks like a whole lot of dots on a screen. I was told about the SQR method of reading only a few weeks ago but I have found it already is helping me retain information about what I have read. It takes a bit of discipline and patience to implement but its worth it!



Source: Columbus State Community College 


Answering exam and assignment questions in the same way you did last semester  could be a waste of your time if you’re method is wrong. I know it’s easier and less painful to shove a bad assessment or exam to the back of your mind to never be seen again.


When you get your mark back


However, it pays to spend a few minutes reviewing your marks so that you can improve! Have a read of my previous post ‘Reviewing the Marks of your First Assignment’ for a more detailed discussion on how to get the most out of a bad mark!



Checking your phone after answering one question is not a good way to break up your study. Yet, a brief rest can help you remember and retain what you’ve learnt. Having a ten minute break every half an hour is way more efficient that sitting at your desk for three hours with no interruptions. Those that have tried this will know that it’s a fail because procrastination and playing with your cat takes over.

Taking a break can be anything from watching a couple of YouTube videos, going for a walk, phoning a friend or even taking a nap. Anything that will take your mind off your work for a moment will keep you motivated throughout your study session. Also, it’s important to remember that getting a good night’s sleep after studying will help to keep those concepts you’ve just learnt in your memory. So essentially, a good rest is the final step to consolidating your study, so get to it! (but try not to skip steps and go straight to sleep)



Hope this helps!