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14 Study Tips and Ideas That Really Work

By Team TOK


So your exams are fast approaching, nerves are beginning to set in and you know you should be studying more than you are. Of course it’s ok because all your friends have told you they’re not studying either… WHATEVER, they’re all studying, all of them, every single one of them and not just a little bit either, they are working their asses off to make sure they get the best results they possibly can. Few will admit to it but just you wait and see their results. BUT this isn’t about them, this is about you and below you’ll find a few tried and tested (and quirky) techniques to help you smash your exams!


  1. Exercise

Commonly proven to help your heart, a simple 30-minute workout session will also help your brain. The research is fairly simple too. There is a lot of extra blood produced during exercise which coats the brain in oxygen and glucose; both of which aid functionality. It provides the fuel your brain needs. Exercise is proven to help with attention, memory, accuracy and how quickly we process information.

Why it works: every muscle movement sends hormones to the brain mixing with a chemical known as Brain-Derived Neutotrophic Factor (BDNF) which helps create new cells in our brains. It basically kicks our full bodies into gear. In fact, days with exercise are shown to be 23% more productive than those without. What are you doing still reading this? Go run!


  1. Avoid energy drinks

Yes, they taste good. Yes, drinking them is cool apparently. Yes, they even park outside the library to hand out free cans sometimes. Quite simply though, the overall impact from energy drinks on your studying and performance is negative. Although they claim to improve performance, boost focus and even give you wings, the truth is the only thing they are proven to increase is stress. In fact, studies showed that whatever your stress level is at the start of a study session, drinking an energy drink will almost DOUBLE it.

Why it works: Just one can of energy drink can dramatically increase the levels of stress in otherwise healthy people. The chemical of norepinephrine, which is released during periods of extreme stress, is approximately 70% higher following a can of energy drink.


  1. Find a Study Space

Whether it’s a room at home, a specific desk, the library or a coffee shop; finding a comfortable place to study can make a big difference in your concentration levels, motivation and overall effectiveness.

Having a specific area will not only help to make you physically comfortable but also mentally prepared and ready to work.

Why it works: Just like when you walk into your Maths classroom and are mentally ready for Maths, having a specified area that you only use to study will help to switch you onto study mode making your study time more focused and more productive.


  1. Recognise Your Distractions

Everyone has a study weakness, something that always distracts you regardless of how determined you are to study. It might be your phone, watching television, checking social media, eating or finding any other job to distract you from the arduous task of studying.  Trying to cut out distractions altogether will be difficult and, for most of us, unrealistic.

Why it works: Ask yourself, what prevents you from being more productive and more focused?  Once you are aware of your distractions you can begin to manage them, control them, and use them as a positive distraction when you need a break.


  1. The Feynman Technique

This study technique was popularised by Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, who claimed it could be used to help deepen understanding in any subject, while also highlighting the areas that need worked on. The process is fairly simple, all it requires is a blank document (paper or digital), and your focussed attention. Begin by writing down the title of whatever it is you’re trying to understand at the top of the page. Next you will need to engage your imagination a little and pretend you’ve been tasked with teaching this topic to somebody else that knows absolutely nothing about it (PRO-TIP: speak it out loud at the same time).

Why it works: The key to this technique is breaking everything down so simply that even a 5-year old could follow along, no fancy jargon or confusing explanations allowed. As you go through this process be aware of any points where you slow down or struggle to explain it – these are your weak points, and therefore the points that require most attention in studying. Anything that you can’t explain easily is a sign to go back to the books and find out more about it.


  1. Sleep

For adults, it is recommended you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night and teenagers should get at least 9 to cope with the greater amount of learning. To ensure you’re getting enough you should have a set time to go to sleep and wake up each day – our bodies love regular patterns. If you normally have an erratic sleeping pattern or stay up quite late, it will take a while for your body to adjust to your new sleep schedule. You may find yourself struggling to sleep for the first few nights and tired when you wake up in the morning, but if you persist with the plan for at least a week your body will soon catch on.

Why it works: Sleep is very important regardless of exams, but during the exam period it becomes even more so. A good night’s sleep provides us with increased motivation, greater focus, and a more positive mood. It is also well known that sleep improves our ability to recall information, it is a time for our brains to process and consolidate all the new information absorbed during the day.


  1. Chunking & Spaced Repetition

Study sessions are most efficient in short chunks. So choose a series of ten 30 minute intervals spread out over a few weeks rather than a five hour cramming session. When it comes to repeating certain study material, leave increasingly longer gaps between study sessions for that specific topic. This is the best way to test whether or not the material is being transferred to your long term memory.

Why it works: This works because your brain is better at encoding information into the synapses with short, repeated sessions as opposed to one large one. This is why learning different skills such as sports and music often follows the same format.


  1. Study Buddy

Get yourself a study buddy, or a study group, and hold each other accountable for your learning. Make sure you can explain the concepts or recall the information without referring to notes. Be specific. Don’t just say ‘we’ll talk about physics on Tuesday’. Set the details: ‘By our study group meeting on Tuesday I will be able to explain Newton’s laws of Motion’.

Why it works: Studies have been conducted in which individuals were asked to learn a passage. Half of the group were told they would be tested on the material while the other half were told they would have to teach it to other students. Participants expecting to teach it performed much better at understanding the main points. When you’re expecting to teach in the not-too-distant future, your brain goes up a gear and organises the information in a more logical, coherent structure.


  1. Skill Gainz

Trying to learn studying skills the night before an exam is impossible and should be treated the same as any other skill, sport or challenge. Get the books open months in advance and look over what you have to learn. Practice how you will learn what you need for the exam. Mind maps? Flashcards? Speaking out loud? Talking with friends? Try them and see what works for you.

Why it works: Improving study skills skills is one of the most useful and pertinent tools in college. But even before that, high school and middle school are times for students to prepare and train the brain for the high volumes of reading and accumulation awaiting them. Instead of studying longer and harder, scientific research has proven ways on how the brain can process and learn information smarter and within shorter time spans


  1. Procrastinate Properly

There is a proper way to procrastinate: Start revising a long time in advance. Months and months in advance. Then stop for a bit, a week or two. Then pick it up again, then stop for a bit. Keep doing this. Don’t try to learn everything perfectly at the first go but make an early start and cover as much of the material as you have available.

Why it works: Your subconscious will start to pick away at problems, at tricky bits, questions you need to ask will start to bubble up in class when you have the teacher right there and when you open the books again an amazing thing will happen, the material will be more familiar and extra details are so much easier to be absorbed. Maybe you still have stuff to do the night before but you’ll find yourself using that last-minute adrenaline for creativity instead of stress.


  1. Take Breaks

Lots of them. Regularly walk away from your studies, just for a few minutes though. Enough time to grab a quick snack or enjoy a short walk. 5 mins max. Stay off social media though as that’s more about distractions than a relaxing break. Experts suggest you should break from studying every 25 minutes.

Why it works: Research states that the number one mistake we can make is studying for several hours in a row. A professor actually tested the 25 minute technique on his students and saw grades improve almost instantly.

  1. Be mindful

Mindfulness may seem strange to begin with but taking a few minutes before each study session to relax, take deep breaths and focus might just be what the doctor ordered.

Why it works: Check this – mindfulness can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, exhaustion, depression and irritability.  BUT it also improves memory, reaction times, creativity, attention span. It also enhances mental resilience.



  1. Study Ninja

Study Ninja is a kick-ass app designed to help you smash your exams. Think of it as the ultimate study planner. Choose your Ninja, enter your subjects and Study Ninja will plan your entire study programme. However this is no regular study planner. Study Ninja will motivate you, teach you, track you, challenge you and kick your ass on a daily basis.

Why it works: Through fun, interactive games it will arm you with the skills to read faster, memorise more and recall huge amounts of information. Study Ninja knows when you need a break, knows when you are being lazy and knows when you need to be left alone. Study Ninja will track your progress and record exactly how you are feeling throughout your extraordinary journey of learning.


Download now!




  1. Turn Off Your Screens

Seriously, turn them off. Now.

Why it works: Nope. Your screen should be off. Stop.