Study Tips – How to study

5 Important Study Tips 

1. Attention : Focus your attention on what you are studying

Imagine your dentist playing games on iPad while filling your teeth. Imagine the heart surgeon playing “hide the scalpel” in his patient’s body. Imagine your bus driver speeding up the bus while blind folded and hands free!

No matter how familiar you are with the territory, in this case the topic or the subject, don’t loose focus. You must not have anything nearby that could possibly distract you. When properly focused, learning becomes effective. Your brain power is channeled to a particular problem and you would be indeed surprised at the solutions that pop up when effectively channeled.

No distraction, no computers or electronic distractions in general. Make sure your mobile is off. If you cannot even spend an hour of effective and intense learning, what makes you think you can shoulder the responsibility of family and nation in the future? Dream on in your own wonderland, riding magic carpets if you think by being wired to the internet you get connected to knowledge.

On the issue of music in the study environment, you may have friends and relatives who say they can study well with background music. This is sheer nonsense. Your study room is not an airport waiting lounge. Learning cannot be done best when the brain is in entertainment mood. If that is true, then singers, musicians and entertainers would have been intellectuals and thinkers. Can you imagine your PAP minister chosen from a feminised boy-band? Music and TV is a big NO and stays that way. Many students listen to music and some even watch the TV while studying. For the reasons stated above, a simple distraction can render hours of learning to waste.

Let me give you an example on how music can ruin you at a time when concentration is most needed. Ever had a music or movie scene run in your head during the exams in the exam hall and could not get rid of it? That happens to many students and its is not surprising given that those students had the song subconsciously entered into their heads while in serious mode. So when they get into serious mode during the exams, those songs come back and is relived. And the worst part is that you just can’t get rid of it with ease.  If you need background noise during study, to make you feel not alone, then open the windows or use a noisy fan.

2. Establish regular study sessions and avoid cramming at the last minute

Familiarity is important. The more often you play a sport the more interesting and easy it becomes. Same thing for subject notes as well. You should have about one hour of intensive un-distracted learning, then take about 10 – 15 minutes break. Do some house chores like helping your parents to sweep the floor, wash the dishes, play with your siblings and then come back again to the study table. No games, movies, internet.

Increasing the frequency, implies, increasing the familiarity of the notes. I have students, who recall based on where the concept is covered in their own notes. On the matter of developing your own study notes, refer to the article on “developing own notes” below.

3. Developing own notes, i.e. structuring information

Many if not most students nowadays prefer notes to be given and not prepare it themselves. This is a very bad trend and unfortunately its spreading and perhaps its due to this latest “on-demand” age. Students are pampered with notes from schools, friends, tutors and online that they are overwhelmed by it and see no reason to prepare notes for themselves.

Students who get good marks often know where to look for answers. They know what topic, which number, which book the answers could be found. Its because they familiarize the notes and books. Now imagine, if your the author of the book. You will surely know the topic, page, etc with ease.

4. Helicopter View

To be able to recall information in the future, you will need to encode it into long-term memory. I am sure you do not remember what you had for breakfast on the first Monday of January 10 years ago. But you sure still remember your name. Why? because of application and repetition.  That name was applied to you whenever you were called. You must learn the definitions of the terms, and apply them, otherwise at least have a habit of repeating / relearning the material. In that way it stays in the head. Take a look at the “forgetting curve” shown below which hypothesises the decline of memory retention in time. What it shows is that every time the material / diagram / notes is re-learnt, the forgetting curve not only shifts to the right but it also gets less steeper. Which means that what you have learnt will stay in memory much longer when relearned.


With the definitions and concepts enforced into memory, in due time you will be applying them and  you will soon learn about other concepts and ideas that are related to what you have learnt, thereby expanding your scope of understanding. Build upon this network, and indeed the network will become more complicated but you will be able to navigate through it using logic and reason which you had investigated by yourself.

By doing so, you get a whole view, or more appropriately a “helicopter view” of the subject. In this way you can zoom in on that part of the notes which you find difficult to understand or need help with later on.

5. Good quality sleep and rest

A good quality sleep is necessary. If you want your mind to function optimally and to process what you have learnt then you must give it the rest it deserves. Early to bed, early to rise. If you are studying past 11 pm, then it means your study methodology is not effective. And you must upgrade your method. The work load in secondary level does not and should not warrant an over-night study frequently. Wake up early in the morning, before 5 a.m and then study.

Do take power naps between study if you are tired. A power nap of 10 – 15 minutes is absolutely refreshing, especially in the afternoons. A 2 hours sleep after a heavy lunch is not a power nap and that is not going to refresh the mind and body.