Student Life

Study Hacks: How to Study in College and High School

Shake things up: find a new study spot, listen to music, and more.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

October 16, 2023

Study Hacks: How to Study in College and High School
These simple methods will teach you how to effectively study.
Preparing for class and exams doesn't have to be hard. In fact, there are plenty of simple methods that teach you how to effectively study. Though not all methods work for every person, a little bit of trial-and-error can help you find the methods that work for you. While nothing replaces good old fashioned hard work, every little bit helps when it comes to increasing your efficiency in college. The following study hacks make student life simpler by helping to increase productivity levels, boost focus, help concentration and eliminate distractions.

How to Study in College and High School

Chew gum.

The act of chewing gum is actually a brain booster. Scientists aren't exactly certain why chewing gum helps you focus, but they think it's based on the act of chewing, which keeps you awake and focused. Since there aren't severe side effects, like there can be with caffeine, chomping on your favorite flavor is a great study aid. The only downside is that it doesn’t last. Save this hack for the harder parts of your material.

Control your focus.

Sometimes, your attention span is the problem. You can literally block yourself from getting distracted by websites, email, or anything else computer-related with the apps like, SelfControl.

Download study apps.

You’re probably aware that there are more student apps than you could ever need or want. Choose one or two that suit your study needs and utilize them. If you feel they aren't working for you, try out a different type.


Sometimes students need to be reminded to meet their body's basic needs. Eat healthy, nutritious meals before study sessions. Also, bring along a study snack. Like chewing gum, eating anything can keep you awake and help you focus more.

Search online.

Search outside study resources via the web. You can actually utilize study resources from other colleges on the same subject. If you enter "site:edu [your subject] exam" into Google, you will be able to access exams at different colleges with questions pertaining to your subject for study practice. Or, YouTube may have someone explaining topics you're studying in layman's terms. There are endless channels offering free tutorials, like CrashCourse, Khan Academy, Brightstorm, Bozeman Science - just to name a few. A quick search will likely lead you to a wealth of resources!

Jazz up your notes.

Add visual prompts and colors to your notes to help you recall important details, both of which can aid in your memory recall. This idea stems from mind mapping concepts, or thought diagrams, said to be much more effective in terms of learning than text-based notes. There are even mind mapping programs for those interested, but creativity, pens, and paper, work just fine, too!

Memory aids.

Try using different memory aids, like notecards, etc. These aids come in handy for memorization techniques. You may find it helpful to repetitively quiz yourself on the key aspects, facts, or data you're trying to memorize.

Mnemonic Devices.

Circa grade and middle school, you'll likely recall learning the order of operations through mnemonic devices, like the planets (My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles), the great lakes (HOMES) and so on. If you didn't learn those exact variations, it was probably something similar. There's nothing stopping you from creating your own to help you remember the material for your advanced chemistry test. You can easily remember key concepts, sequences and whatever else you need to learn by creating your very own relatable story. Come up with something you know you can remember and stick with it.

Organize your materials by subject or chapter.

This will help you sort the material by subject matter, visualizing which aspects belong together. Believe it or not, it helps you understand the scope of the topics you're learning and categorizing them allows you to see how everything fits together as a whole.

Rewrite your notes by hand.

Go old school and rewrite your notes by hand. Studies show that when you take the time to rewrite them by hand, you learn more effectively than when using your computer, tablet, or laptop.

Listen to music.

Choosing the right type of music to listen to while studying can enhance your productivity, motivation, and focus levels. Certain genres of music, like classical or electronic, are recommended for studying. Study music should enhance concentration, focus, and allow you to work for longer periods. It should never be counterproductive or distracting – no matter what genre you decide on.

Make a cheat sheet you'll never use.

Though you'll obviously never use a cheat sheet during an exam or quiz, it can help to create one. In doing so, you’ll need to sift through all of your notes and materials to find the key items and rewrite them on your sheet. This helps you recognize what you need to learn, and rewriting helps you remember it.


Again, another basic human need that, unfortunately, needs to be stated. Get plenty of rest while studying as well as before your test or quiz. Your body needs sleep to think properly. A good night's rest is one of the most basic ways you can improve your score because it will help improve your ability to think logically. Sleep affects your cognitive function, thus, your test-taking abilities.

Study early.

Start studying early, instead of cramming the night before. Nobody ever sets out to cram because it's a great idea – they do it because of poor planning. Poor planning tends to cause a domino effect. Other bad habits, like forgetting to eat, start to follow suit because of time constraints, convenience, necessity, etc.

Switch settings.

Vary your study settings. Studies show having a dedicated study area no longer works in your favor. When you gravitate toward the same spot each time, your mind makes subconscious pairing between your atmosphere and the material. This means, if you are constantly in the same space, you would perform best taking the exam in that space. If you change up your space, your mind will adapt more easily to your test-taking surroundings.


Teach someone else the material you're trying to learn. Teaching someone else is such an effective way for you to better understand the material, Plus, you'll earn karma points for helping out a classmate! Teaching is the best test to learn whether you know the concepts. Why do you learn through teaching? If you're teaching someone the material and you find you cannot answer basic questions about it, then you know you need to go back to square one.

Turn on the lights.

Light helps your brain focus, and the wrong lighting can contribute to off task behavior. The best type of lighting for maximum productivity, which you obviously want for studying, is soft and natural, though still as bright as possible so you can see clearly. If your lighting is too dim, it will affect focus and visual clarity. Lighting that is too bright – like fluorescent lighting, for example – can contribute to getting off task.

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