How to organise your studies for success: Evelina's top tips

26 July 2021

Final year student, Evelina shares her advice on how you can liven up your studies. From finding a healthy balance between studying and self-care to the clever techniques she uses to organise her study schedule, discover her top tips for success.

Sleepless nights, caffeine, the often-heard ‘I’m so stressed' and the same library desk: a typical study pack for every university student during a busy study period. But let me tell you a secret - studying, especially revision, can be fun (yes, this is not a typo). As a finalist, I want to share some tips that have assisted me throughout the years. At the end, I have also included some fun tried-and-tested techniques to liven up your revision!

Avoid burnout

Firstly, create a schedule with contingency days. Once you have your class and exam timetable, make a study schedule for each module. I always set feasible deadlines for revision with 1-2 blank days in a week with NO PLAN at all. This way I have a guaranteed rest day if needed or a spare day to catch up with studying in case my weekly revision schedule doesn’t go as planned.

Secondly, consider using the top-down approach. Think about your module structure - I have always used a top-down approach to organise my learning materials more efficiently. I start with weekly tasks to get an overall overview and basic understanding of the topic, then I proceed with the lecture. Next, I apply what I have learned to the seminar tasks and problem sets. Finally, I strengthen my knowledge and fill in the gaps where it is necessary by reading and further researching specific areas related to the topic. This way I not only know the core material but also gain some additional context as well. Throughout my studies so far, I have found that the top-down approach makes it easier for me to remember the material step-by-step and not be overwhelmed by information when it comes to revision.

Finally, regularly change your revision techniques and environment. I always avoid using the same study method throughout the day. If I spend a few hours taking notes by my desk, I watch a topic-related video after or use a whiteboard to sketch some graphs for practice. The same applies to your studying environment. Instead of studying at home every day, go to the Learning Grid or the Library. When the weather is good, take advantage of the Piazza and study outdoors; switching your study environment is known to increase your recall performance!

Study smarter not harder

There is clearly no one size fits all approach. However, you can tailor your revision methods to your own preferences. Figure out what type of learner you are. I am personally a visualiser, I draw graphs and sketches to remember the important points, and rewrite my notes as mind-maps. I use colour-coding and labelling for my notes, this way it is easier to highlight the important information or something that I often forget (remember: things highlighted in yellow are easier to remember!).

However, if you are auditory, utilise the recorded lectures and tasks, watch some extra material online or listen to topic-related podcasts. Most of my friends prefer kinaesthetic learning, which involves a lot of practical tasks and activities. Solve problem sets, past exams papers and take notes on what you are doing right or wrong. You can also mentally test yourself while you are active, i.e. exercising or walking to see what you can remember.

Be your own teacher

To be honest, I have never met a person who uses this technique apart from me but, trust me, it works. Put yourself into the role of a teacher. Could you explain the material in your own words to somebody who has zero knowledge of the topic? If yes, you are doing it right, but if not you know what you need to do. Additionally, while going through the material, try to create your own questions that you think could be included in a test and focus on the topics that you are not so good at. You can also practice this study technique with your course mates by coming up with potential questions or sharing research facts with one another. This technique also enables you to create a study group where each of you is both acting as a student and a teacher.

Balance

Most importantly, find a healthy balance between studying and self-care. Eat well, get enough sleep and reach out to your friends, family or university-provided support if you need advice or help.

Some fun tips to jazz up your revision:

  • Associations: make up short stories and link words to key information.
  • Sing it: imagine how easy it would be to remember some facts the same way you remember the lyrics of a song?
  • Watch a movie: take a break and watch a documentary or movie related to the topics you are studying.
  • Post-it notes: write the facts/information which you find hard to remember and stick them all around your house (make sure you warn your housemates first).

Good luck with your studies and I hope these tips are useful to you in the future as well!

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