Study Hacks for College Students

The amount of study required at college can seem overwhelming, particularly when studying for exams.

It’s important to make the most of the study time you have available to you. By learning how to study effectively, you build good study habits and skills that can turn you into a more efficient student who can get work done faster.

Here are some tips for making your study time more effective so you can study smarter, not harder.

1. Improve Memory for Studying

Having a good, well functioning memory is a very powerful tool. It is of course particularly helpful while studying. Fortunately for us all, a good memory can be learned and is not something that you are just born with.

There are both strategies that can be used to improve your memory as well as lifestyle factors that can enhance or impede your memory. Below is a look at some of the most common strategies for improving memory as well as some of the most common lifestyle factors that may be affecting your memory.

Memory Improvement Strategies

Many various strategies exist for improving memory, so it’s important to find what method works best for you. A strategy that one person finds effective will not necessarily work as well for you. It’s a good idea to try out a few different techniques until you find the one just right for you. Here are just a couple of suggested strategies:

  • Rhyming – Putting information you need to remember into a silly rhyme is a technique that works particularly well as a study hack for auditory learners. Auditory learners are people who learn best using auditory cues. If you find yourself audibly repeating the things to yourself that you need to remember, you are more than likely an auditory learner. Learning through rhyme is a very common technique used with children but it is just as effective for adults.
  • Story or Visualization – The story or visualization technique involves creating a story in your mind about the things you need to remember. It is particularly effective for visual learners who like to be able to see, or at least picture in their own mind, what they are learning about. An example might be if you forget where you place your keys. You would try to picture what you saw leading up to you putting your keys down, the visual features of the room you were in and what you remember seeing around you when you put your keys down.

Lifestyle Factors on Memory

There are several lifestyle factors which can have a dramatic impact on your memory. By making small changes to the way you look after your body and mind you might be able to make significant improvements to your memory. Below are some common factors that affect memory:

  • Sleep – The benefits of a good night’s sleep are well known but several studies have confirmed the link between good sleep and good memory. Sleep performs two very important functions in relation to memory; it consolidates memories and also recovers memories. If you are not sleeping enough you are simply not giving your body the sleep it needs to maintain your memory.
  • Diet – A well-balanced diet is essential to a healthy body and mind. It is very important during periods when you need your memory functioning at its peak (exams for example) to eat well. Studies have proven a link between unhealthy diet and poor cognitive performance. If you need your mind at its peak, you need to be giving it the fuel it needs.

These are just a few ways to improve your memory for studying. Memory is something you can improve over time by putting in the effort, you just need to find the techniques that work best for you.

2. Speed Reading Textbooks

As a college student you will need to read lots of textbooks, novels, notes and other material to get through your classes. This can be exhausting for almost any student. However, if you can perfect the art of speed reading you can sail through almost any assignment and still learn and retain the information.

Speed Reading Techniques

Speed reading is the process of reading faster than your normal rate and still being able to comprehend what you read. Speed reading can be done by almost anyone willing to take the time to learn some simple techniques and tricks.

  • Skim – The most popular form of speed reading is skimming the material. The problem with skimming is readers will sometimes have trouble retaining the information. The trick is to learn what to skim and to actually remember the information. If you are speed reading a textbook, then skim through terms and their definitions as well as the first few sentences of each paragraph. This is where the important information is usually located. Also, read the summary at the end of each chapter. Doing this will decrease the amount of reading time while still learning everything that you need from the text.
  • Don’t Read Every Word – Believe it or not, your brain is programmed to be able to understand words without actually reading the whole word. For example, your brain will easily transform misspelled words and missing letters from words correctly. While reading try to skip over basic words such as: the, as, it, be, etc. Although these are words that tie sentences together, if you skip over them you will still understand the main idea of the sentence you are reading.
  • Assess Your Best Learning Method – Some people retain information better when they read out loud whereas others learn when reading silently. Determine which reading method suits your learning style and apply it to your studies. Although reading out loud reduces your reading speed, there are students who prefer this method to silent reading.
  • Ask Questions – The best way to determine if you are actually learning what you read is to ask yourself questions. Speed read a few pages and then stop and question yourself on the material. Grab a few terms and see if you can define them, or go back and really make sure you understand the main ideas of the chapter. If you are not grasping the information, then speed reading is not doing you any favors.
  • Write it Down – Finally, when you finish reading your material, write down the main ideas you just read. This will not only test if you actually comprehend the information, but it will also provide you with quick notes that you can refer to later.

The average college student reads about 300 words per minute, but if you can learn to speed read you may be able to increase that to about 700-1000 words per minute. Don’t stress if it’s something you can’t properly achieve, but learning to speed read can become a very valuable tool to make your study time more effective.

3. Increase Typing Speed

With most college coursework being done on a computer, it can be helpful to really know your way around a keyboard. Most students may have basic knowledge of typing, but want to improve their words per minute. There are a few ways you can achieve that on your own.

Strategies to Improve Typing Speed

  • Don’t Look Down – One way to surely slow down your typing speed is if you look at the keys while you type. Familiarize yourself with the keyboard and then your fingers will learn where the keys are and after awhile you will be typing without thinking about each letter.
  • Online Typing Tests – You can run a quick Google search for online typing tests and you will find many websites that will offer to time you while you type. The end result will tell you how fast you type by measuring words per minute and/or characters per minute. If you are not satisfied with the result, you can use these tests as practice to build up speed in your typing.

    Suggested Resources:
  • Typing Games – Learning to type fast does not have to be a chore. There are some typing games on the web that will make learning to type fast enjoyable.

    Suggested Resources:
  • Memorize What You Are Typing – Some people find it easier to type faster if what they are typing is coming directly from memory. For example, if you are trying to read something and type what you are reading, you may type slower because you are concentrating too much on the letters. Instead, read a few lines of what you want to type and then type it directly. You may find that you type faster if you type from memory rather than copying notes or a manuscript.
  • Don’t Forget The Numbers – If you have not already memorized the numerical keypad on your keyboard, it would be helpful if you learn. Some jobs require an individual who can not only type fast, but is also fast with data entry. It will be beneficial to you to know the numbers on the keypad without having to glance at them.

Learning to type is like riding a bike, you never forget. By improving your typing speed you can become a more efficient student. Speed comes with practice and experience.

4. Cramming for Exams

Procrastination can get the best of almost every college student. With so many responsibilities in college, some things, such as studying well in advance for an upcoming exam, are bound to hit the back burner. Although cramming for an exam should not be used as your primary study method, you can use it for last-minute preparation for an exam.

Study Hacks for Exams

  • Notes – This is where your class notes will come in handy. Usually, some professors will casually mention what will be on the exam during their lecture and if you took note of these points you should be able to determine exactly what to study. This is a good time to check with your peers as well and see if they have notes that you can look over or even compare to yours.
  • Study Groups – Surely, you are not the only student in the course figuring out how to cram for a test. Check with other students in the class and see if anyone wants to work together cramming for an exam via a study groupUsually when you bounce information off of another person you tend to memorize the facts better.
  • Do more than just Read – Don’t just read the textbook word for word and expect to memorize the information because most likely it will not happen. Go through your text and highlight important ideas such as terms and their definitions. If you are studying a subject that would have case studies, such as Business Law or even Education, then study them. Professors like to throw in real-life situations that may have been mentioned in your textbook.
  • Flash Cards – Flash cards are an excellent way to learn material and learn it quickly. It works two ways because you are learning while you write the information down on the flash cards and then when you test yourself later, the information is reinforced. Run through these cards as much as possible to help the information stick in your mind.
  • Be Creative – A proven way of memorizing information is by attaching a song to the material. Think of your favorite song and try to incorporate the material into the beat. You can also relate the information that you are studying to real-life events to help make it easier to remember.

Other Exam Preparation Tips

  • Do not stress. If you stress and get nervous about the upcoming exam, then chances are you are doing more harm than good.
  • Get some rest. Staying up all night will not help because the next morning you will be too tired to concentrate. Make sure you obtain a sufficient amount of rest.
  • Go easy on the caffeine. While studying the night before, keep the caffeine to a minimum. Yes it will keep you awake enough to study, but when you come down off of that caffeine high you will be tired and your body will be too run down to properly concentrate.

5. Create a Study Plan

Take time to plan out your school work.

Decide how much time you will set aside for study, what tasks you will complete in this time, and the order in which you will complete them.

When creating a study schedule, think about the times when you are most productive. If you find it easiest to study in the morning but have a hard time concentrating at night, schedule as much of your study time for the mornings as possible.

Once you have a study plan in place, exercise the self discipline required to stick to your schedule. It can become very difficult to stay on task with all the distractions that come with college.

Avoid Procrastinating during Study Time

Procrastination is the single biggest threat to productive and effective study time.

When you feel daunted by a task, try to break it into smaller, more manageable chunks and tackle those small chunks one at a time. Think less about what you need to do to complete a project and more about what you can do to get started on a project.

Another great strategy is to do the tasks that you enjoy the least first. If you leave them to the very end of your study session, it is simply too easy to put them off for another day.

Block Out All Distractions when Studying

During your study time you need to commit to making study your priority for that short period of time.

This means blocking out all physical and mental distractions.

Always study in an environment that you are comfortable in. You probably already know which sort of environment you are the most productive in so try to recreate that environment where you choose to study. If you have other thoughts on your mind, write them down on a piece of paper before you start studying so you can clear your head of them.

Take Regular Breaks when Studying

It might seem tempting to work for hours on end when the exams start drawing close but you are actually doing yourself a disservice. Retention of information is best when your mind is fresh, so take short breaks regularly and remove yourself from studying so you can come back refreshed and ready to absorb more information.

Know the Course Content

Be sure that you are studying the most relevant information. It is important to ask lots of questions of your lecturers and tutors to make sure that you are expending your energy wisely on the content that really matters.

Increase your productivity by following these college study hacks that actually work. These techniques will provide you with more efficient study time and turn you into a better student.

By Ryan Daymon
Ryan Daymon