10 Ways to Maximize Your Study Time

When you're trying to really learn something for a test like a midterm or final exam, but you don't have 14 hours of study time to get in prior to your test, how in the world do you commit everything to memory? It starts with maximizing your study time. Many people study in truly ineffective ways. They choose a poor study spot, allow themselves to be disrupted time and time again, and fail to focus with laser-like precision on the task at hand. Don't waste the precious little time you have before your test! Follow these 10 tips to maximize your study time so you utilize every second learning as much as is possible. 

01
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Set a Study Goal

Set a goal for your study time

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What is it that you're actually trying to accomplish? How will you know if you're done studying? You need to set a goal so you can answer those questions. If you’ve been given a study guide, then your goal could simply be to learn everything on the guide. You'll know if you've achieved it when a friend asks you all the questions and you can answer those questions eloquently and completely. If you haven't received a guide, then perhaps your goal will be to outline the chapters and explain the key ideas to someone else or be able to write out a summary from memory. Whatever you're trying to achieve, get it on paper so you will have proof you've accomplished your task. Don't stop until you've met your goal.

02
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Set a Timer for 45 Minutes

Deadline and time is money concept with hourglass

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You'll learn more if you study in segments with short breaks in between. An ideal length is 45-50 minutes on task and 5-10 minutes off task between those study times. A range of 45 to 50 minutes gives you enough time to dig deep into your studies, and five- to 10-minute breaks allow you enough time to regroup. Use those short mental breaks to check in with family members, grab a snack, use the restroom or just hop on social media to reconnect with friends. You'll prevent burnout by giving yourself that reward of a break. But, once that break is over, get back at it. Be strict with yourself on that time frame!  

03
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Shut Off Your Phone

Woman on her phone

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You do not need to be on call for the 45 minute increments that you'll be studying. Shut off your phone so you're not tempted to respond to that text or call. Remember that you will be getting a short break in just 45 minutes and you can check your voicemail and texts then if need be. Avoid ​external and internal study distractions. You are worth the time you'll be devoting to this task and nothing else is as important at this very moment. You must convince yourself of this in order to truly maximize your study time.  

 

04
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Put Up a "Do Not Disturb" Sign

Do not disturb signs are great for maintaining study focus

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If you live in a bustling house or busy dorm, then the chances of you being left alone to study are slim. And maintaining laser-like focus during a study session is incredibly important to your success. So, lock yourself in your room and put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door. It will make your friends or family think twice before barging in to ask about dinner or inviting you to watch a movie. 

05
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Turn on White Noise

Student with laptop and headphones learning at the park

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If you're really easily distracted, plug into a white noise app or go to a site like SimplyNoise.com and utilize the white noise to your advantage. You'll block out distractions even more to focus on the task at hand.

06
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Sit at a Desk or Table to Organize and Read Content

Studying with music on

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At the beginning of your study session, you should be seated at a table or desk with your material in front of you. Find all your notes, pull up any research you need to look at online, and open up your book. Get a highlighter, your laptop, pencils, and erasers. You'll be taking notes, underlining, and reading effectively during study time, and these tasks are most easily accomplished at a desk. You won't be sitting here the whole time, but you definitely need to start here. 

07
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Break Down Large Topics or Chapters Into Smaller Segments

break down into parts to study long passages

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If you have seven chapters to review, then it's best to go for them one at a time. You can get really overwhelmed if you have a ton of content to learn, but if you start with just one small piece, and focus solely on mastering that one part, you won't feel quite as stressed.  

08
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Attack the Content in Several Ways

Woman on her bed

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To really learn something, not just cram it in for the test, you need to go after the content using a few different brain pathways. What does that look like? Try reading the chapter silently, then summarizing it aloud. Or draw little pictures related to the content next to important ideas to utilize that creative side. Sing a song to remember dates or long lists, then write out the list. If you mix up the way you learn, attacking the same idea from all angles, you'll forge pathways that will help you remember the information on test day. 

09
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Get Active When Quizzing Yourself

get active when quizzing yourself

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When you've mastered the information, then get up, and prepare to get moving. Grab a tennis ball and bounce it on the floor every time you ask yourself a question, or walk around the room as someone quizzes you. According to a Forbes interview with Jack Groppel, a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, "research shows that the more you move, the more oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and the better you solve problems." You'll remember more if your body is in motion. 

10
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Summarize the Most Important Facts and Key Ideas

Summarize during study time

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When you're finished studying, take a clean sheet of notebook paper and write out 10-20 key ideas or important facts you need to remember for your test. Put everything into your own words, then double-check your book or notes to ensure you've gotten them correct. Doing this quick recap at the end of your study session will help cement the most important facts in your head.