The only difference between average, good and excellent students is their study habits!
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – a quote attributed to Aristotle
Doing the same thing over and over again will not get you different results. If you want to improve your grades, you need to change your study habits. We surveyed students that are excelling in the most difficult programs to get into in Canada, and organized their suggestions in chronological order to help them achieve higher grades in less time.
Establishing good study habits is the key to being successful in university, high school, professional school and in life.
The top 15 study habits to get maximum grades in minimum time that appear below are universal, in that they will help any student regardless of their learning style.
Study Habit #1: Go Through Learning Material Ahead of Time
Before classes and lectures try to read any course materials, reading chapters or presentation slides the day before the actual class. Learning material ahead of time has been proven to show increased academic performance in students.
Pre-learning lecture material will allow you to have a good understanding of what is about to be covered before the lecture and can help improve your ability to take notes and soak up new material during lectures.
Study Habit #2: Take Notes During Class
On a regular school day, one can expect to get around 5 hours of information. The truth is, it is almost impossible to remember everything that your professor or teacher says.
Try to take notes during lectures and be actively engaged in the material. Not only are you providing yourself with material to study in the future, but it also helps you absorb new information.
When taking notes it’s recommended that you avoid transcribing notes and instead focus on writing condensed notes in your own words. Being able to put information into your own words increases your understanding of the material.
Also, carefully consider whether or not you want to take notes on paper or with a laptop. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, on a laptop, you never run out of space but increase the likelihood of being distracted. You can check out our full note-taking breakdown here.
Study Habit #3: Review your Notes after Lectures
After lectures and classes, we recommend consolidating and organizing your notes and creating a summary sheet that you can review regularly to help build your long-term memory.
Reviewing doesn’t have to take a long amount of time, but it can go a long way to helping you retain new knowledge that you have learned.
Study Habit #4: Use your Teacher as a Resource
Teachers want to see you succeed in their classes. They are, more often than not, happy to help you work through difficult problems, proofread your work, and offer feedback. Do not be afraid to reach out to them for help.
Just like when planning for your studying sessions, come prepared with a list of questions and problems that you want to work through with your teacher. Keep them organized and concise to help you make the best of use of your and your teacher’s time.
Study Habit #5: Use Online Resources to Supplement Learning
Despite wanting to help, your teacher is only one person with a finite amount of time on their hands. If your teacher is busy, consider using online resources to help supplement your learning. These resources shouldn’t be your main source of learning, rather a way to look at topics from a new perspective.
Fortunately, the internet has made it so much easier to find online resources and answers to questions. A lot of these resources are free and provide up to undergraduate-level content! Here are few free resources that we recommend you try:
Study Habit #6: Consider Working in Groups
Finding other students who are working to achieve the same goals as you and working together can help boost your productivity. Even some of the hardest undergraduate programs and professional schools in Canada such as McMaster Health Sciences understand the value of group work. Not only are you able to work through problems you are struggling with the help of others, but you are also given the chance to test your knowledge of the content by potentially teaching it to others. Group work is all about helping each other succeed!
Make sure to be a part of study groups that will help you succeed. Study groups are just as likely to provide a distraction as they are to provide you with help. So pick your group members wisely.
Study Habit #7: Have a Good Study Environment
Creating a study environment free of distractions that can help you keep focused on your work is key to making your studying more effective.
Some common places that students often use as study spots include a library, Starbucks, or designated university campus steady spots. If you’re looking for an outdoor study space consider going to a local park or recreational center.
When picking a study spot there are a few things that you may wish to consider. What kind of lighting is present? Different light levels have been shown to affect one’s alertness and overall performance. If you want to preserve your eyesight and maximize your time and energy make sure that you use light that doesn’t cause eye strain or fatigue.
If you plan on studying around other people, such as family members, make sure to establish rules. Asking the people you live with to stay quieter and not disturb you when you are studying as well as not responding to phone calls or texts will help you stay concentrated. In addition to this, when studying from home we recommend that you create a separate study space for your work to help you get in the right headspace and keep your workspace organized.
Study Habit #8: Create a Study Routine
Creating a written schedule of your studying routine is one of the most important study habits of successful students. This simple trick can help to prevent cramming and decrease your stress levels when studying. There are a plethora of mediums you can use to create your routines, such as calendars, spreadsheets, Google, or even an agenda, so there are no reasons for not doing so. Every person’s routine will be unique to their study habits, preferences, and schedules.
When creating a schedule one of the first things you want to note is your fixed commitments including classes, chores, family activities, appointments, and extracurricular activities. With that done you can begin blocking out specific time periods where you can have uninterrupted studying. We recommend having at least 1-2 hours of study time planned out each day but adjust according to your needs.
The important part of creating your routine is consistency. Consistency is the key to getting into good study habits, which makes it more important to plan for a schedule that you can maintain throughout the school year.
Study Habit #9: Keep a Checklist for Things that Need to be Completed
Having a checklist and plan is super important in managing the time you have set for studying and keeping you on top of your work. Let’s face it, we are extremely busy people, and that often leads to a lot of forgetfulness. Forgetting about important test and assignment deadlines can be devastating to any student, and leads to many unnecessary all-nighters.
Your checklist will help you plan how you use your time and keep you focused on what needs to get done during each study session. Ideally, your checklist should be with you at all times, for example electronically, so that you can add and remove homework, assignments, and test dates as you receive them.
We recommend that your checklist includes all assignments, tests, and homework as well as the date they are due so that you can prioritize the order in which you do them based on importance.
Study Habit #10: Plan what you will do During each Study Session
At the beginning of each study session take a look at your checklist and determine what needs to be completed by the end of the day. Prioritize the work that has the closer due date while keeping in mind that some assessments may need multiple study sessions to complete. Studying for tests or working through assignments are great examples of work that should be completed over multiple sessions to improve learning and performance.
Make sure that your plan is reasonable, don’t try to complete too much in too little time. This can harm the overall quality of the work you do. Success is based on the quality of your work and the quantity of your work.
Study Habit #11: Time Your Study Sessions and Take Breaks
Let’s face it, we have extremely low attention spans. Finding it hard to concentrate after spending a considerable amount of time working is perfectly normal. Instead of trying to concentrate for hours at a time why not try to focus for smaller quantities of time with small breaks in between.
Using breaks in between work has been shown to increase one’s ability to concentrate. The important thing is to make sure that your breaks are short and quick so that you don’t fall out of the rhythm of studying.
Try setting a timer and working for 25-30 min followed by a 5-10 min break. This is known as the Pomodoro Studying Technique. Again you can change these numbers according to your needs and attention spans, just make sure that your break time does not exceed the amount of time you are working.
Breaks can serve both as a reward for working well and help to postpone any distractions until later.
Study Habit #12: Avoid Distractions While Working
Speaking of distractions, we live in a time where distractions are numerous and at our fingertips. Many people try to multitask, but the truth is it doesn’t work.
Trying to concentrate with the lure of online activities such as youtube, social media, and video games just a click away is hard enough. This is made even harder by the alerts we get on a daily basis. And once we oblige our curiosity in other activities we can quickly find ourselves falling down a rabbit hole of TikTok feeds and YouTube recommendations until hours have passed by.
Your education is a big priority, so don’t let distractions get in your way. To help avoid distractions we recommend a few easy tips:
Stay Away From Your Phone
The constant notifications from friends, family, and peers on our phones are a gateway to distractions. Think about turning your phone off or keeping it on silent and flipping it upside down or even putting it in another room. Out of sight out of mind. This way you don’t have any temptations coming your way while you are working.
Consider doing work Offline without the Internet
In this day and age, the internet has almost become a necessity. But we recommend taking some time to unplug when studying to help you get some peace and quiet you need to concentrate.
Use some Apps and Programs to Help You!
Trust me, you aren’t the first person to have problems with distractions. That’s why apps and programs have been created to help remove online distractions altogether. These apps can block access to websites and applications for a preset amount of time so you couldn’t use them even if you wanted to! Some of these apps include:
Study Habit #13: Test Yourself Before Assessments
Just because you have attended the lectures and reread your notes does not mean that you have learned it. Don’t wait until an actual assessment to learn what you do and do not know.
The great thing about this is nowadays there are a plethora of questions online, in your textbook, and from your teachers that can help you test yourself on your knowledge. If you have absolutely no access to practice questions, create your own questions based on what you learned in advance and test yourself on them at a later date.
When doing practice tests a common mistake made by students is looking at answers while you do the questions and assuming that because they understand the answers they can recreate them in an actual situation. Treat your practice like a real test. Go through questions without notes to see where the gaps in your knowledge lie and adjust your studying accordingly.
Study Habit #14: Understand Your Learning Style
Different students learn in different ways. Use the style of learning that is best suited for you and will help you to retain the information you learn. Here are some examples of learning styles and techniques that may help you:
- Visual learners learn best when pictures and spatial understanding are used. As a visual learner consider using diagrams, pictures, and drawings to help improve your learning
- Auditory learners learn by hearing and listening. Consider recording and rewatching lectures and reading out loud to help improve your learning
- Kinesthetic learners tend to learn best during hands-on activities. Try working on projects and hands-on activities to apply your knowledge.
- Logical learners like to apply existing knowledge to new situations and concepts, connecting it with existing information. Work through plenty of practice problems!
- Verbal learners will prefer using words in writing and speech. Try presenting and teaching what you’ve learned to peers.
- Social learners work well with others. Discuss and share ideas with others.
- Solitary learners are able to learn best when alone.
Think about which style, or styles, of learning most describe you and implement strategies that we’ve discussed that you believe best play to the strengths of those styles.
Study Habit #15: Take Care of Yourself
We as students live in a time where compromising one’s health in the name of success is seen as something to be proud of. Students regularly boast about the lack of sleep they had and the intense amount of hours they spend studying. Some students have come to believe that no sleep, no food, and no social interactions are the key to success and we need to get rid of the stigma attached to taking the time to focus on ourselves.
Running your mind and body into the ground not only compromises your health outside of academics but can also be detrimental to your education. Here are some things you should do to take care of yourself!
Get lots of Sleep
Despite what many students may think, studying in excess, while forgoing sleep can harm one’s performance throughout the day. The recommended amount of sleep for a teenager and young adults is in between 8-10 hours!
Getting good sleep can help you feel more alert and energized and also plays a vital role in memory consolidation.
We also recommend that students try to sleep at a consistent time every day so your body builds a habit and maintains your body’s internal clock.
If you’re having trouble sleeping we recommend staying away from electronics 30 minutes before bed and staying away from bright lights before bed.
Don’t Forget to Exercise
Likewise exercising regularly has also been shown to boost memory and thinking, and reduce stress and anxiety.
We recommend starting with as little as around 15 min of exercise each day and working your way to up to 150 min of exercise each week. This doesn’t have to be intense exercises, just moderate jogging, brisk walking, or some laps in your pool.
We know the stereotypical university diet is instant noodles and maybe a drink if you’re lucky. But eating healthy can help improve your mood and learning. These foods don’t have to be expensive to be good for you.
Eating 3 meals a day and including multiple food groups can do wonders for your health and learning.
Take Time to Spend with Others
Humans are social creatures. Take the time to spend with friends and family and stop thinking about classes all the time. We promise it will help!
Bonus: Inspirational Quotes to Help you Study
Need some more motivation to help you study? Check out our list of 100 Inspirational Quotes to help motivate you to work hard!