Study Less by Studying Smart


No one likes studying – it takes up time that you could be using to do something else, and it’s boring. However, you can cut down the amount of time you study by studying smart. This post is based on the hour long lecture on studying smart, which can be watched on YouTube here.

This post is a summary of the video for people who don’t want to spend an hour watching the whole thing if you don’t have time.

Break studying into sessions

A normal student can only study for 25 to 30 minutes at a time before their concentration starts waning. This is why ‘studying more’ isn’t helpful advice. If you want to study more effectively, you should take breaks every 30 minutes or so, and this break should be 5 minutes of something you enjoy, to refresh your mind.

Create a dedicated study area

If you want to be more focused on the work you do, setting up a dedicated study area is a great way to get things done. For example, studying in the bedroom often distracts you as you want to go and do something else, such as relax, that you usually do in the bedroom. Setting a specific study area will mean that the area is dedicated to studying, and therefore you are less likely to go and get distracted.

If you listen to music whilst you study, it’s a good idea to have lyric-less music or music you know well so that you aren’t distracted by listing to the lyrics. If you want a good white noise app, I really recommend Nozio for iOS.

Study actively

Many people simply read their textbooks or notes that they took in the year, but this takes a while and is often ineffective. The session suggests that you ask yourself what you are learning, and split that into concepts and facts. Studying with friends can also be helpful as multiple people can see problems from many different angles, so you may be able to understand a topic that you did not understand before, and often it is more fun to study in groups.

Highlighting passages can also be risky, as it means that you only concentrate on studying the areas that you have highlighted, and if you didn’t highlight something that was important – you won’t learn it. Make sure you highlight diligently if you do highlight.

A good way to study is by testing yourself on what you have already learnt.

Go over your notes after the lesson

It’s important to take notes during class, but are sure that after class, as soon as you can, you should expand them so that they are easier to understand. When you take notes, often you make typos, spelling mistakes or the sentences don’t really make sense, so after class it’s useful to quickly go over your notes and fix everything, and go over what you learnt in the lesson. This should only take around five minutes for each subject.

This is also useful as it allows you to spot anywhere you missed, and get notes from a friend to fill in the gaps. If you use Evernote, you can check out how to use Evernote to share notes here.

Summarise and teach what you have learnt

You’ll have heard that the best way to learn is to teach others. This reinforces the learning you have done, and it is a great test to see if you know the material and if you are confident about what you know. You may find gaps in your knowledge that you have to go over.

You can do this with your friends if you want, but if you get too distracted revising with friends, you can speak it to a toy, your pet or just an empty chair.

Personally, I like to summarise notes. I go over the textbook and detailed notes and make bullet points of the crucial information.

Using your books correctly

Textbooks can sometimes be overwhelming, but they are full of great information, and are one of the most important things to you whilst you study. The lecture recommends that you use the ‘SQ3R’ reading method. In this you:

  1. Survey
  2. Question
  3. Read
  4. Recite
  5. Review

Surveying is where you go over the chapter and note definitions and vocabulary. Note that this method is very time consuming, so it’s sometimes not possible to stick to it. However, you can still use parts of it on their own which will really help you.

Use mnemonics

Mnemonics are extremely useful for memorising things such as patterns, pairs, names, and nearly everything that you’ll need to learn.

Another way is by using images. For example, you could remember that carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram by remembering that cars and pro cars have 4 wheels, and therefore they have 4 calories per gram.

I hope you found this useful, and hopefully it will aid you whilst studying.

Thanks for reading!