10 Smart and Effective Study Tips for University Students

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There is no other place where the statement ‘work smart, not hard’ applies more than at university, a place with unlimited freedom jostled by numerous events and activities, which create a sense of confusion and constant distraction from academic focus. This is unlike any other stage in life prior to and after. This is where working smart really separates you from the rest. Therefore, here are some smart and effective study tips you should apply in your university work-smart strategy.

1. Write colored notes

Back in elementary school, our teachers insisted that we use a number of colors to write different sections of our notes; Red for titles, Black for dates, subtitles and calculations, and blue for paragraphs. Well, some thought this was just to make our work look beautiful.

Little did we know that color improves our memory through enhancing mind-mapping capabilities. Notes written in color are easily readable and can be organized into structures in the mind, which are easier to recall. This hack is greatly underrated but it’s one of the most effective study tips.

2. The Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management method; developed in the 1980s by a university student – Francesco Cirillo, enables a person to maximize productivity by crunching work into small intervals of 25 minute of pure focus separated by short breaks. It involves the following steps;

  1. Choose a task you’d like to get done
  2. Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings
  4. When it rings, put a checkmark on a paper
  5. Take a short break (5 minutes): Meditate, walk or take some water
  6. Repeat from step 2 and after every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break (20 minutes)

If you seriously want to know how to study smart, you need to understand how to make good use of the limited time you have. This method helps you to learn how to work together with time, eliminate distractions and balance your life and work. A recommended app for this technique is Pomodoro Timer

3. A snack reward for each milestone

Human beings are suckers for motivation and the end goal in mind keeps them focused. The product of studying is, better grades but why don’t many people like studying? Because we prefer the quick reward! That’s why so many people try their luck in gambling in order to make quick money. If we apply this concept in studying, we’d benefit a lot.

How about this, promise yourself a snack after you finish revising a past paper or a nice meal after finishing your report. If you are a foodie, this kind of motivation will make you ace your exams. I personally consider this one of the best study tips for college.

4. Google searching techniques

Google can be very instrumental in our study, in fact since it gives you access to almost anything you would want to know, it is indispensable. However, if you don’t know how to search for information, then you will not understand its full potential

  • If you want access to quick information about anything, add “filetype:ppt” in your search. This gives your PowerPoint presentations which are the briefest means of understanding anything.
  • If you want pdf books with deep information about the concept, add “filetype:pdf”
  • To Google exams samples for your given subject/ topic  search; “site:edu [subject] exam

5. Listen to lectures at 2X speed

More often than not, we fail to prepare for CATs and Exams until the very last day and resort to cramming in a bid to salvage our grades. Well, a more effective way of grasping concepts fast in limited time is listening to a recorded lecture at 2X the speed. This increases your brain activity, sharpens your focus, organizes concepts in your mind and helps you cover more in less time. To do this, use Audacity software for audio files and VLC Player for video files

6. Write a cheat sheet you won’t use

A cheat sheet is a small piece of paper where you write the most important concepts, which are likely to be tested in an upcoming exam of a certain unit. So before any CAT or exam, write down testable concepts most preferably from your mind into a small piece of paper. Then once you are done, put the cheat sheet away from access and do your exam.

You will be surprised how well you remember whatever you wrote in the cheat sheet. Writing the cheat sheet concentrates your thoughts onto the most important concepts required to in an exam and gives you a boost to your short-term memory. If you studied well and hacked this clever study technique, you will be surprised at how effectively it works

7. ‘Unfamiliarize’ your environment

This hack involves doing something that will affect one or more of your six senses differently. First, you can try chewing gum of an unfamiliar taste or you could spray an unfamiliar scent.

Chewing gum is a brain activity booster, but chewing something with a new taste activates your mind and welcomes new creative ideas. Spraying a new scent works in a similar manner too; it welcomes new ideas.

Another very effective tactic is changing your environment which has been scientifically proven over time to improve your understanding and memorizing capabilities since it exercises your brain and makes studying much more enjoyable

8. Watch a documentary or read the history of the concept

One way to get a deep understanding of any concept or idea is to dig into its origin and history. This can be done through watching documentaries or studying some historical articles concerning the concept. Documentaries can be limited depending on what you’re studying but if you manage to get one with relevant information, do not hesitate to watch.

Digging deeper cultivates an interest in the concept and motivates you. In addition, it equips you with extra information that might be very instrumental in class and even while in the field. Libraries like the Wikipedia have more information than you can ever assimilate, so utilize them

9. Listen to instrumental music or Ambient Sound while studying

Depending on your tastes, listening to music has been proven to increase productivity focus and motivation levels during study sessions. Classic music, for instance, is universally known to improve the mood of a student thus creating room for creativity and better assimilation of ideas.

In fact, until recently, it was thought that listening to classical music improved IQ courtesy of the many testimonies given by people who had benefited from it. Ambient sounds such as that of the oceans, forests, and chirping of birds work even better in optimizing your brain. If you are looking for any scientific study tips, this one must be the easiest to test and prove.

10. Keep track of the forgetting curves

The forgetting curve concept shows how information is lost over time by humans if there is no attempt to regain it.  For instance, we forget more than 50% of any new concept we learn within the first 24 hours and if we fail to revise the concept within a week, even the smart people can barely remember 30%.

This calls for continuous revision of newly acquired knowledge for full comprehension assimilation of new information. If we revisit or relearn material, our brains retain it for longer as shown above.

Any more TOP SECRET study tips you’ve got there pal?

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