Study Smarter


In light of the exams for the 11th graders coming up, I’ve decided to write this article with some study-based study tips, and some personal tips I have found, which may or may not apply to you. Either way, I hope this article helps you with any future studying:

Sadly, studies show that just reading and highlighting text is a very ineffective way to study :(. This is because your brain fails to link key concepts together and therefore does not improve your understanding of the knowledge. In fact, it can even be detrimental to your studying, as it pulls your focus to less crucial details.

Your brain is better at encoding information into the synapses in shorter study sessions, so studying for 10 hours in one day is far less efficient than studying half an hour every day for 20 days. This of course, requires extensive planning, so it is good to make a plan as soon as you are told the deadline for something; it doesn’t take long to make and can save you time and stress.

Studies show that going a full night with no sleep results in decreased reasoning and memory usage abilities for up to four days. It is far more effective to create a routine (during the day) during which you study (a study schedule basically). For example studying between 1:00-1:30, taking a break until 2:00, then study from 2:00-2:30, and so on until evening. Studies also show that sleep is less effective in resting your brain if it has just come across new information it has to process, so leave some time between studying and sleeping.

Flashcards, on the other hand, are amazing memory reinforcement tools, and convenient since you can basically study with them anywhere, be it at your desk or in the bus.


‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough’- in a study where individuals were asked to learn a passage, half of them were told they were going to take a test and the other half told they were going to teach it. Those told they were going to teach understood the knowledge better, equating an average up to 12% higher than the score of those taking the test.

This is going to be an obvious one, but PAST PAPERS! I used to never use past papers, I thought: “What’s the point if I can just look through the textbook and get information more directly from there?”, but seriously they are great! they not only reinforce prior knowledge,  encourage you when you get an answer right, they can actually appear on your other tests, they also highlight gaps in your knowledge; which you would then proceed to follow up and learn.

Personal tip- use your space! I find that if I’m studying for 8 or more hours a day (like when preparing for exams), I quickly learn to hate my desk…seriously, just sitting at my desk makes me feel really exacerbated, so often when I change or finish a topic or distinct area of study, I move to my brother’s desk or use the kitchen table or any other place! I find that, personally,  this makes studying easier and much less monotonous.

Personal tip- if the work you are doing can be printed out, DO IT! I find that when working on or with a computer, its much easier to get sidetracked, and honestly, since you can see the time in the top corner of your screen, it feels like time moves slower…it’s harder to really dive into and lose track of time just studying.

Time for an annoying tip which lost people won’t follow (including me)… don’t listen to music and study. While studies show that classical music might increase concentration, and I have found, personally, that getting no outer sound interference (like some guy mowing a lawn) helps me concentrate better, the study also stated that a rhythmic background can be detrimental to understanding.


Colours!! Seriously I can’t stress this enough- invest in like a million different highlighters, multicoloured biros, different coloured post-its…. it not only makes looking over your notes later much less bland, but is also proven to help you associate information. For example, when studying maths if you make ‘quadratics=blue’ then when doing your exam you’ll see ‘quadratics’, think of the blue, then think of all the stuff you highlighted blue.


Personal tip- I might sound a bit crazy saying this, but talk to your pet! Assuming you have one, registering knowledge with as many senses as possible is the best way to really soak up information. I find that, especially for languages, talking out loud (or to your pet who can just sit there looking at you while you talk) makes revision less mundane and more effective (although it takes a bit of time to get used to).

It’s wise to pick one unique goal to work towards when studying, rather than just saying ‘okay I’m going to study’, then proceeding to flip through a textbook and write down things you read which you think are important. By doing this it is easier to categorise and use your notes later on, but also allows you to follow your study schedule more concretely.

If you learn to remember, you will ultimately forget. If you learn to understand, you will ultimately remember