How to study effectively
While there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to studying effectively, there are methods you can use to improve your recall and long-term memory.
Remember: everyone has different learning techniques. What works for other students may not work for you.
Just keep trying until you discover the best way to study.
If you are a VU student, we will help you achieve your full potential by developing your confidence, academic ability, and study skills. With our support, you will gain essential skills for university.
Here are our top tips to help you study effectively.
1. Get organised
Taking the time to get organised will set you up well and help you achieve your learning goals.
Top study tips:
- Invest in a diary, and use it to keep track of current assignment deadlines.
- Bring all the material and devices you need to class, so you can participate. You may find it helpful to pack your bag the night before, so you’re ready to go first thing in the morning.
2. Don’t skip class!
Skipping class can be detrimental to your learning and achieving your study goals. It leaves gaping holes in your notes – and in your subject knowledge.
Rather than juggling four subjects at once, you’ll concentrate on one unit (subject) over a four-week ‘block’ period. You’ll attend three-hour workshop-style classes, three times a week. The rest of your time can be used to study, work, see friends – whatever is most important to you.
Remember to practise active listening by focusing on what your teachers are saying in class and taking notes as needed.
3. Take notes
To keep your brain engaged during class, take notes, which you can refer to later, as you refine your study techniques.
Notes can help store information in your long-term memory, right there in class. These notes will be important for reviewing when you’re completing assessments and assignments.
You might find it handy to condense your notes after class, so they’re clear and easy to read. Underline or highlight key points. If anything doesn’t make sense, you can seek clarification from your teacher.
You can also create visual aids like flow charts and mind maps to help simplify information. For some students, these visual aids help them remember complex information and study more effectively.
If you do miss a class, ask a study buddy or classmate if you can refer to their notes. This will ensure there are no holes in your own notetaking.
4. Talk to your teacher & ask questions
Your teacher is, in a way, a resource who is there to be used!
The VU Block Model allows you to focus on one subject at a time. Learning in a work-shop style class, you get the opportunity to know your teacher.
You can take advantage of this interactive learning environment by asking questions during or after class, where you can get fast feedback.
Teachers can further clarify any topics you find confusing. You may even be able to get a little direction on assignments before submitting.
Your teacher will no doubt be impressed with your initiative and happy to help.
5. Space out your studying
One of the most effective ways of studying is to space out your learning sessions.
If you break up your study load over several days, you’ll retain information far more readily than if you crammed in one long session.
This can help deeply ingrain information, allowing you to retain it for the long term.
You’ll find you achieve much better results for it.
6. Create a study plan – & stick to it
One top study tip is to create a schedule or plan.
This is incredibly helpful for time management and can help you reach your learning goals.
A study plan will:
- motivate you to study, as you’ll have time dedicated to learning
- keep you organised around work, hobbies and other commitments, as you can plan ahead
- break your study load into manageable blocks
- give you time to complete your assignments, ensuring they’re not rushed or last-minute.
Is studying at university very different to studying in high school?
The main differences between studying at university and studying at high school revolve around accountability and independence.
High school teachers are more likely to chase down outstanding work. While you're studying at university, the accountability tends to be more on you to get your work done and submitted.
You may have periods of time during high school that revolve around study, such as free periods or the homework you're expected to complete after school or on weekends.
University brings with it more freedom, allowing you to plan out your day. You can independently choose when you wish to study, around commitments such as classes and work, exercise and any social activities.
7. Don’t just re-read but study
When you are reading and re-reading texts and notes, you’re not studying. This is because you’re not engaging with the material.
You’ll discover that you have trouble remembering class notes if you’re not using active studying techniques.
Instead of reading, try:
- creating concept maps and diagrams
- explaining concepts to yourself step by step
- formulating questions and problems that you can come back to and solve, effectively creating a quiz for yourself
- becoming a teacher or tutor to your study group or partner and learning the course material by explaining concepts to them.
8. Set up a quiet study space
It is important to have a designated study area that is free from distraction and will allow you to study effectively.
When you settle into your study area, you will know you are there to learn. This mindset will help with your overall motivation to study.
Choose a study space that is quiet, well-lit and in a low-traffic area. Don’t, say, study at a dining table when you’re going to be constantly distracted by housemates or family members moving in and out of the kitchen!
If there’s nowhere suitable for study at home, try your local or university library. Libraries are naturally quiet and many have designated areas for study. Victoria University has seven libraries across its campuses. Check the to find a time that works for you.
For many students, the greatest distraction is their phone. You may find it helpful to switch your phone to silent – or even off – for the duration of your study session.
9. Test yourself
Getting someone to quiz you – or quizzing yourself – is great retrieval practice. This learning technique helps you commit information to your long-term memory and easily retrieve it when needed.
Recalling an answer to a question improves learning, as does writing down that answer – you’re committing it to memory.
You might find it helpful to create flash cards each time you learn a new topic. Flash cards can have questions on them or have a prompt that triggers the recall of relevant information. Ask a parent, friend, housemate or study buddy to quiz you, using your flash cards. The act of creating them alone will help you better retain information and is an effective study technique.
10. Find a study buddy or join a study group
One of the best ways to study is to share the experience with another person.
It can be beneficial to find a study buddy – or even form a study group with like-minded students.
Your study buddy/group can:
- keep you motivated
- help you stay accountable
- quiz and test you on course material
- read over your work to offer advice
- share resources, such as textbooks, lowering expenses.
Bonus Tip: Use apps to study even more effectively
Need some extra assistance? Well, there’s an app for everything. Download these apps to motivate and help minimise distraction:
- – creates profiles that block your calls, texts and notifications. You can also restrict access to any apps and limit your phone usage, to increase focus.
- – you can plant a seed and watch it grow into a tree, if you can resist closing the app down. If you do shut down the app, your tree dies.
- – forces you to solve a maths sum in order to turn off your alarm, ensuring you’ll get out of bed on time.
- - delivers 45 minutes of sound, designed to increase your productivity by masking background noise.
- - helps you schedule events in a calendar, allocate time to key subject areas, and keep track of the time you spend on each subject.
What is your best way to study?
There is no perfect way to study, as every student is different and what might be a good studying technique for one student might not be effective for another.
While you’re learning how to study, you’ll benefit from trying a range of different techniques, until you settle on a system that works for you.
Can I implement these study tips when I’m studying in high school or at TAFE?
These top study tips aren’t just for university students.
You can use these study strategies to excel at TAFE or even high school – the earlier you learn how to study effectively, the better!
Are there any workshops on studying effectively?
Current student at VU? We can help.