Skip to main content

10 Tips for Studying Smarter, Not Harder

Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

How to Study? Study Tips That Will Help You Study Smarter

How to Study? Study Tips That Will Help You Study Smarter

That’s one of the things students everywhere want to hear. Instead of struggling into the wee hours of the morning, straining your eyes deciphering the prose of a dead author, or grinding through equations without any motivation except passing the test, you can study smarter so you’re actually prepared to show up and do well on that test. You can study smarter, but there is a difference between studying smarter and studying harder.

Studying harder leads to burnout. You’ll spend more time trying to cram information into your brain than it would take for you to understand it if you study smarter. In this article, we’ll go over 10 of the best study tips out there to help you master your courses with less effort and stress.

  1. Set Smart Goals
  2. Design Your Studying Schedule
  3. Get Lots of Sleep
  4. Have the Right Mindset
  5. Create an Ideal Study Environment
  6. Use Technology Wisely
  7. Organize Your Notes
  8. Skip the All Nighter
  9. Study in Groups
  10. Reward Yourself!

1. Set Smart Goals

Goals provide direction, focus, and motivation. They help you manage your time and resources so you get the most out of your efforts. A good study goal might be to cover one chapter of a textbook in three days, for example, or to write an essay in two hours. Be specific about what you want to accomplish, and then commit yourself to achieving it.

For best results, make sure your goals are SMART: Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; Time-bound.

Study goals are more effective when they're connected to broader life goals — the things you want to achieve in the world outside of school. For instance, maybe you want to be a nurse because you enjoy helping people and making a difference in their lives. That's an admirable goal that can keep you motivated while studying chemistry or anatomy or microbiology — subjects that may not seem interesting at first.

Studying is not an abstract concept — it's something real people do every day. To get started, find out how other students approach the study process:

How long do they study each day?

What kind of environment do they create?

What materials do they use?

How do they organize their time?

How do they prepare for tests?

2. Design Your Studying Schedule

Before you start studying, you have to plan your time. There are two main things to consider: when you are going to study, and what you are going to study.

If you just take a bunch of notes from the textbook and then try to cram them into your head the night before the test, without any thought as to how they fit together, then you will not learn much.

So, instead of just reading chapters in order, break down the material into small pieces. For each topic (or concept), figure out how it fits into the overall picture of the course. Then plan out what topics you need to study each day or week.

In general, when planning your schedule, it is best to spread out your studying over several days instead of trying to cram everything into one night or weekend. If you study a little bit each day, then it will be easier for you to remember things than if you try to learn everything in one session. However, if you do have a lot of material that you need to cram into one night (e.g., for an exam), then make sure that you give yourself breaks!

You should also make sure that you get enough sleep before an exam so that your mind is fresh and alert. It is better to go to bed with too much energy and wake up feeling refreshed than it is to stay up late only to fall asleep in class because you were exhausted.

How to Study? Plan Your Time to Study Smarter

How to Study? Plan Your Time to Study Smarter

Scroll to Continue

3. Get Lots of Sleep

Better sleep may be the key to better studying. A study by researchers at University of California, Berkeley, found that sleep spindles — bursts of activity in the brain during a type of sleep called slow-wave sleep — help store memories. It's also been shown that people with higher IQs have a greater amount of slow-wave sleep.

These findings are important because they show that there is a direct correlation between sleep and intellectual performance. Namely, if you want to study smarter, you need to get good quality and quantity of sleep.

This is particularly true for college students who are often tempted to pull all-nighters or stay up late studying for their exams. It can be tempting to cram for an exam when you know you're unprepared, but even pulling one all-nighter can negatively affect your test scores by up to 50 percent.

In addition to not getting enough sleep before taking an exam, many students often underestimate the importance of getting quality sleep on a regular basis. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that less than 30 percent of college students get the recommended eight hours per night during the school year.

4. Have the Right Mindset

You're smart. You've always been smart—and you're ready to prove it.

The problem is, you don't like studying. It's boring, it's a waste of time… and even when you do it, you don't feel like you're as prepared as you want to be. If that sounds familiar, we're going to show you how to change your mindset about studying so that it becomes something you actually love to do.

When . . .

Your mind is cluttered with the nagging thoughts about all the other things in your life that need attention, it's hard to concentrate on what's in front of you. That's why one of the most important things you can do before studying is clear your mind of all those thoughts and focus on the task at hand. When you have a free moment (maybe on your commute to school), write down anything that needs your attention and then let go of it until later. Once you've cleared your mind, take a few moments to mentally prepare yourself for the task ahead: what are you going to study, how long will it take, when will breaks occur, etc.? This is an essential step in shifting your mindset from "I have to study" to "I get to study."

The key here is not to get stuck thinking about any one thing. You can worry about work or social issues later; for now, just be aware of them so you can let go. Being mindful means acknowledging each thought as it comes up and then letting it go. It's not easy, but the more often you do it, the better you'll be able to get into "the zone."

5. Create an Ideal Study Environment

When you’re studying, do you find yourself getting distracted easily? Forget to eat? Keep checking your phone? If so, you may want to consider creating an ideal study environment.

Here are some tips to help you create the best study environment possible.

Go to a quiet place where there won’t be any distractions. This may be a quiet spot in your home, a library, or even a public park. The key is that there are as few distractions as possible and that it’s quiet. If you’re at home and it’s hard to find a quiet place, try using headphones with white noise music or just earplugs (everyday noises can be distracting).

Create a clean and organized workspace for yourself. Find yourself somewhere that has plenty of light and room for all of your study materials.

Study during the time of day when you have the most energy. If you’re someone who is more productive in the morning, then wake up early and get started on studying then. If you have more energy in the afternoon or evening, try studying then instead.

Make sure that your phone is either off or turned on silent mode when studying so it doesn’t distract you from what you need to get done. It may also be helpful to put your phone in another room so that you can’t hear it (especially if you are more easily distracted by phones).

Forget all those messy desks with papers scattered everywhere, especially if they are all related to different subjects. It's important that you keep everything tidy, so you can find what you need when you need it. All your notes should be organized and filed away in one place. This means that when someone asks for a certain note, or you need to look through your notes for a particular piece of information, it will take you no time at all to find it.

If your house is a bit on the loud side, it might be useful to invest in some noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. You'll be surprised how much this can help when trying to focus. If you don't have any money to spend on headphones, try using earplugs instead - they're cheap and do the trick just as well!

6. Use Technology Wisely

The internet is a great resource for college students. It's filled with scholarly articles, helpful websites and useful tutorials, but it also contains distractions like social media and online gaming.


Use technology wisely to study smarter. There are tons of apps and websites that can help you stay organized and focused at school, but it's up to you to decide which tools will work best for your learning style.


Here are six tips to help you use technology wisely so you can study smarter.

Make use of the calendar on your phone or laptop and put deadlines for assignments and tests into it. Set reminders for yourself when something is due soon and make sure you have plenty of time to complete the work. Set reminders for revision for a few weeks before an exam, too.

If you have trouble getting up in the morning, set your alarm to play the music that will get you pumped up for the day ahead.

Find some apps that can help you with your studies – there are plenty of free ones out there that can help you with everything from learning foreign languages to creating mind maps.

Use YouTube to find tutorials on subjects you're struggling with at school. There are usually loads of helpful videos on there created by other students and tutors.

Sign up for email alerts from websites that post new content every week, such as news websites such as MailOnline, Huffington Post, and The Guardian or fashion sites such as Vogue or Cosmopolitan. You can easily keep up-to-date with what's happening in the world around you without wasting too much time.

If you have a long commute to work or school, download podcasts so you can listen to them when you’re traveling. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your chosen field.

6. Use Technology Wisely

The internet is a great resource for college students. It's filled with scholarly articles, helpful websites and useful tutorials, but it also contains distractions like social media and online gaming.

Use technology wisely to study smarter. There are tons of apps and websites that can help you stay organized and focused at school, but it's up to you to decide which tools will work best for your learning style.

Here are six tips to help you use technology wisely so you can study smarter.

Make use of the calendar on your phone or laptop and put deadlines for assignments and tests into it. Set reminders for yourself when something is due soon and make sure you have plenty of time to complete the work. Set reminders for revision for a few weeks before an exam, too.

If you have trouble getting up in the morning, set your alarm to play the music that will get you pumped up for the day ahead.

Find some apps that can help you with your studies – there are plenty of free ones out there that can help you with everything from learning foreign languages to creating mind maps.

Use YouTube to find tutorials on subjects you're struggling with at school. There are usually loads of helpful videos on there created by other students and tutors.

Sign up for email alerts from websites that post new content every week, such as news websites such as MailOnline, Huffington Post, and The Guardian or fashion sites such as Vogue or Cosmopolitan. You can easily keep up-to-date with what's happening in the world around you without wasting too much time.

If you have a long commute to work or school, download podcasts so you can listen to them when you’re traveling. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your chosen field.

How to Study? Use Technology To Study Smarter.

How to Study? Use Technology To Study Smarter.

7. Organize Your Notes

When you’re studying for an exam, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the information you have to review. Most people just write down everything they need to remember and then study that, but this is often not the best approach. In fact, there are several ways you can organize your notes and study more efficiently, so you don’t have to spend as much time reviewing and memorizing.

One way is to create summaries of all the key points, so you don’t have to read through every single detail. Another is to use flashcards, which allow you to test yourself on information without having any notes present. Finally, there are visual aids like mind maps or diagrams, which help you see connections between ideas that aren’t obvious when just reading text on a page.

Summarizing your notes is a great way to study more efficiently because it allows you to focus only on what matters most. When learning new material in class or from reading textbooks, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the details rather than understanding what they mean as part of a bigger picture. Summarizing your notes means creating outlines or lists that highlight only essential points without going into too much detail about them.

Another strategy is to organize your notes by topic or theme. This allows you to group similar pieces of information together so you can see how they relate — especially if they come from different sources like textbooks, lectures, and online research. It may help to create your own color-coded system so you can easily separate notes by topic or source at a glance.

Another way to organize your notes is with flashcards. Flashcards are useful because you can use them anywhere and they’re easy to organize by subject or topic. Since most people take notes during lectures and then review them later, this technique works well because it allows you to go through your lecture notes while studying and split them up into categories based on what they’re about (e.g., “chemistry” or “biology”). You can then organize these categories by writing them on index cards with one word per card so that when you go back over each category, it will be easier for you to remember what was said during class time and how those ideas relate to one another.

Some people organize their notes by categories and topics. For example, if you’re studying for an exam on American history, you might have different sections for colonial America, the Civil War, and the 20th century. Within each section, you can include sub-sections that cover specific aspects of that topic.

8. Skip the All Nighter

While it may seem like a good idea at the time, pulling an all-nighter is not a productive way to study. The lack of sleep affects your thinking and learning abilities, so you'll have trouble focusing on and absorbing the information you need for your test. A better strategy is to study early and often, for short periods of time, such as one or two hours a day for several days leading up to the exam. This will help keep the information fresh in your mind.

After studying, take a break instead of pushing yourself with an all-nighter. You might also want to avoid caffeine after 2 p.m., as it can disrupt your sleep patterns if consumed too close to bedtime.

Once it's time to get some shut-eye, make sure your room is cool and dark and eliminate distractions like TV or music. Try not to stay in bed longer than necessary, especially if you can't fall asleep right away — that can make it harder to fall asleep later on.

If getting enough rest isn't possible due to an upcoming deadline or other life stressors, try taking brief naps throughout the day so you're not completely exhausted when studying for your test.

9. Study in Groups

Studying in groups is one of the best ways to study smarter and not hard. It promotes more efficient learning. The way we learn from one another is by internalizing information and then explaining it to our peers. When we teach each other, we can recognize if the other person understands the concept or not.

The second advantage of studying in a group is that it teaches you how to work together with others. It teaches you how to collaborate and communicate efficiently. This is important for all careers, but especially so for careers that involve working in teams.

The third benefit of studying in groups is that when you study alone, you're limited to your understanding of the material, whereas when you study with others, they might have a very different perspective on the subject matter and offer valuable insights that you may not have considered before.

Here are some tips for working successfully in a group:

Pick your study partners wisely. Everyone should be similarly motivated to do well in the class, and each person should contribute something different to the group. For example, one person might be very good at explaining difficult concepts while another has excellent study habits.

Keep everyone on task. When you're studying with friends, it's easy to get distracted by idle chit-chat. But if the group strays too far off-topic, it can waste valuable time. Try to limit socializing before and after your sessions, or let everyone take turns bringing snacks so you can eat while you work.

Be responsible for taking notes. Everyone should take notes as new information is presented by other members of the group, but it's especially important that someone write everything down for people who weren't there or who are absent for future sessions. If each member takes a turn being responsible for note-taking during their session, you'll avoid getting stuck with all of your homework at once when you go to review your notes.

Make studying fun! A lot of study groups meet in coffee shops, which can be fun and make studying seem more like socializing than work.

10. Reward Yourself!

Many students try to study as long as they can and retain as much information as possible. They only take breaks when they absolutely must, if at all.

The problem with this method is that it makes studying more of a chore than it needs to be. It also doesn't necessarily produce the best results.

Rewarding yourself when you study is actually a better approach because it makes studying more enjoyable. And in turn, it helps you retain information more effectively. Here's how:

It gives you something to look forward to. Some people dread studying because they don't like thinking about numbers or equations in general. Having something to look forward to during your study time will make the process less painful and more enjoyable.

It helps you focus on the task at hand. When there's something you want, like a piece of candy or an extra hour watching TV, you'll be less likely to get distracted when you're studying.

It makes the time go by faster. Studying for hours on end can seem monotonous, but rewarding yourself can make it feel like it goes by faster because of how much fun you're having while doing so.

It's fun! If there are parts of studying that are boring, rewarding yourself will help boost your mood and make you look forward to studying more. And if you can enjoy studying as much as possible, you'll retain information better because of it.

It makes you more efficient.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Muhammad Rafiq

Related Articles