1. Use a mnemonic device.
Easily remember sequences and key concepts – like PEMDAS – by revamping them into a story you can relate to.
2. YouTube it.
Channels like CrashCourse take big topics and break them down into short, easy-to-understand episodes. (And there’s an episode for just about every subject under the sun.)
3. Download free apps to study on the go.
4. Caffeinate (in breaks!)…
Caffeine helps kick the brain into gear, but you’re better off opting for frequent, small coffee breaks, rather than downing that venti before you hit the books.
… and pop some gum in between.
Studies suggest that chewing gum can boost concentration and focus. (Plus, all that chewing should keep you awake, right?)
5. Give your notes a makeover.
Amp up your notes with colors and visuals, and you’ll be more likely to recall the details when it’s game time.
You also learn more effectively when you write things out by hand – so ditch the laptop for a bit.
6. Block distractions. Literally.
Can’t focus? SelfControl is a free app that will eliminate your access to distracting websites for a pre-set amount of time.
7. Tackle small sections at a time…
Need to memorize a huge chunk of information? Don’t try and do it all at once. Instead, learn a new chunk every day – and don’t start the next portion until you’ve got the last one down.
…but don’t procrastinate!
Make a schedule – and stick to it. If you’re especially prone to putting things off, use the Pomodoro technique to structure your time.
8. Get loud.
Read your notes aloud to yourself, or pair up with a friend and read sections to each other. Actually speaking and hearing the words – instead of just silently reading them on paper – will reinforce the material in a whole new way.
9. Switch up your space.
Avoid studying in the same place every day. Changing spaces forces your brain to reform memories every time – and makes you more likely to retain all that new material.
10. Do the reading before the lecture…
Easier said than done (we know!) but it’s also an ideal way to a) get the most out of class, b) reinforce the material twice, and c) impress your teacher with your super on-point questions.
…or power through lectures in half the time.
Short on time? Record lectures then listen to them back at twice the speed using free programs like Audacity.
11. Make a cheat sheet – even if you can’t use it.
Think of it as a crucial practice test: It’ll force your brain to quickly recall and summarize the most important pieces.
And speaking of practice tests…
You can Google “site:edu [subject] exam” to find different college exams featuring questions about that subject.
12. Ditch the all-nighters.
The brain needs sleep to strengthen new memories. So while it’s tempting to cram until dawn, remember that without some ZZs, you won’t retain the information as well.
13. Choose the right soundtrack.
14. Stick to your guns.
Morning person or night owl? Studying solo or cramming in packs? Find out which works best for you, then run with it.
15. Actually talk to your teachers.
They’re the minds behind the exams – so get to know them. Pop into their office hours armed with a specific question or two. Just chatting with them 1:1 should give you insight into how they think.
Plus, when they’re grading later and you’re on the cusp of an A or a B, it never hurts to have them like you.
16. Treat yo’ self.
Trekking through nine chapters of Psychology means you get a cupcake. And a nap.