3 Ways to Improve Your Study Routine

Get on the road to taking better notes, setting realistic goals, staying optimistic and performing better on exams.

By Tiffany Sorensen, Varsity Tutors' Contributor

February 02, 2016

3 Ways to Improve Your Study Routine

With the arrival of each semester, it is upon you to make some positive changes as a student. It does not take much to improve one’s study routine, and as a result, see sweeping improvements in one’s test scores.

To get on the road to stronger testing performance, take stellar notes, set realistic goals, and stay optimistic.

1. Revamp your note-taking

Technically, this step should be done before you begin studying, but it is essential to ensuring successful test preparation. Think of all the occasions on which you have had to recopy notes that were unorganized, illegible, or illogical. Now think of all the time you could have saved by taking notes right the first time around. The time you spent trying to put your notes in the correct order could have been invested in actual studying.

Which note-taking technique works best for you? Do you prefer to use bullet points, charts, outlines, or some combination thereof? Consider incorporating drawings to visualize complex concepts and Venn diagrams to compare two or more items. By figuring out which method is the most practical for you and your classes, you can learn more efficiently in class and study more proficiently before exams.

2. Set rational study goals

Students often establish the wrong types of goals for themselves, which tends to set them up for unnecessary setbacks. Goals that are likely to end poorly include the following: “to memorize all facts surrounding World War II”; “to learn all there is to know about cell division”; or “to become an absolute expert on derivatives.” The downfall of these objectives is their large scope, given the student’s timeline and other commitments.

These goals are nice in theory, but they put a great deal of pressure on students to learn so much so quickly, causing them to feel immense frustration and, potentially, to give up on their study goals when they can’t meet them fully.

To improve your study routine, start with setting healthy and attainable objectives, and work your way up. For example, instead of trying “to memorize all facts surrounding World War II” immediately, make your goal to understand a handful of events that led to World War II. The latter is a feat that is both less intimidating and highly integral to your understanding of history—and from there, you can work your way up to more facts.

Likewise, instead of attempting “to learn all there is to know about cell division” right away, tell yourself you must be able to list the stages of mitosis before moving on to the next concept(s).

3. Think positive thoughts

A student’s state of mind often determines how his or her study endeavors will turn out. Negative thoughts about a test and visions of doing poorly can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This can happen even if the student has studied sufficiently, because anxiety can impede concentration and memory. The human psyche is complex; it can work for or against us.

A positive mindset, however, can work wonders for you. Talk to yourself as you review materials before an upcoming test. When you think you have mastered a topic, congratulate yourself. Reward yourself when you deserve it by taking a break from your studies, treating yourself to a dessert, or listening to music you love.

Focus on all that you do know rather than what you don’t know, and give yourself some credit for your hard work.

On test day, do your best to keep your cool. Do something to relax your nerves before you head off to school, whether that means taking a hot bath or running a few miles. Lastly, remember that it is just a test: even if you fail, life will go on.

It’s a new year and a new semester! Today is the day to reach higher and get those test scores you are capable of earning. Start by taking notes in the way that benefits you; this will save you energy in the long run. Next, ensure your objectives are reasonable, and steer clear of harmful thoughts!



Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

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