10 Tips for Better Study Habits This Semester

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Midterm season is here already, and whether you have one or five tests looming over your head, it's time to hit the books and get prepped. You may think you perfected your study habits in eighth grade, but unless you're pulling off 99's every time, everyone could use a little brushing up on their study habits.

Here are the 10 best study tips I've picked up over four years of cramming in college:

1. Get Organized

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This may just be the super-organized Capricorn in me, but having a study plan before I even lift the cover of a book is often my first step to successful studying.

To start with your study plan, gather all the information you have: when the exam is, how long it will be, what resources you can bring with you, and of course, what material will be covered. Set yourself a timetable for when you can study, and break up the material you need to review into manageable chunks you can tackle at once. Save time in the last day or two before your exam to go over everything together and make sure there's nothing you missed.

Having a plan makes it easier to start each study session, and allows you to plan when to end it, so you're not pouring yourself over your notebook for 12 hours at a time. Creating a study plan is the best way to ensure that everything you need to review gets covered, and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed during the process.

2. Get Together

I study best alone, as I think most of us do. Spending time studying alone is pretty much essential to making sure you go over everything you need to cover, and feeling comfortable with the material in your own way. That said, I highly recommend booking in even just an hour or two of study time for a group session.

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Getting together with two or three classmates helps you study in a whole different way. You can use this time to brush up on concepts you didn't quite understand, that other classmates might have down pat. Plus, explaining something you understand to another student is a great way to organize your thoughts and will help you articulate them during the exam.

The bonus is the social aspect of a study group, which makes it feel at least a little less tedious than your solo sessions. One caveat: don't take everything your classmates say for certain - if what they say counters what your notes or textbook says, just brush it off and go with your gut.

3. Get Creative

There are a million different techniques for studying. Some will work for you, others won't, but you'll never know until you try them out.

Midterms are the perfect time to experiment with different study techniques that you can use for the rest of the year. Just because you've always used one method doesn't mean another method won't add to your study experience. Talk to other students to see what they do, talk to your profs to see if there's a technique that's especially useful for the material.

Whether it's flashcards, re-writing notes, reading outloud, or making a game out of the information, spend a bit of time trying something new. It may turn out to be the one way to finally memorize that last bit of data that saves your butt on the test.

Want More?

Here are seven more tips to ensure a successful study session this midterm season:

  • Talk to your professors about what's required for the exam. This is the time when having a good rapport with profs really comes in handy, as they'll be more likely to guide you in the right direction.
  • Start early. Sure, you may have passed an exam before after staying up all night cramming the night before, but the stress and toll it takes on your mind isn't worth it. Give yourself plenty of time, at least two or three days, up to two weeks, to make sure you have time to cover everything.
  • Take a break once in awhile. Even just an hour here or there to veg out in front of the TV or go for a long-overdue jog will help you stay sharp and focused when you return to the material, and gives your mind a break to absorb all the information.
  • Break the silence with a little soft music. As long as you don't find it distracting, music can actually help encourage your brain to stay alert. I like classical, myself, but anything that doesn't distract you should do the trick.
  • Think outside the textbook and go to your library for extra resources. Sometimes another book can explain a concept in a way that works for you and can make the difference between understanding and memorizing.
  • Stay nourished by eating snacks and drinking lots of water. It's important for your brain as well as your body, and helps you to stay focused and productive.
  • Don't panic. If you take every precaution and do your best, it'll be very difficult to fail. Before the test, take a deep breath and know that you've done everything you can to prepare, and you'll set yourself up for success.

What Do You Think?

What are your best study tips? What's your favorite weird/creative study technique? Leave a comment and let us know, and good luck on all your midterm exams!