When it comes to studying you often hear the same advice about joining study groups and finding a quite place to study however effective studying often requires much more than that.
It requires a plan, the right environment, essential tools to help you retain what you’ve learned, a way to gather information in different ways and much more.
The purpose of this article is to provide you with the most important advice and tools you can use to make sure you get the most out of your study sessions without wasting valuable time and energy.
Have a study plan
Having a solid study plan can have one of the most significant impacts on your ability to study successfully.
In your study plan you should outline what the most important topics are and how you plan to tackle learning and retaining each topic.
Base these topics on how important they are for your class.
Pay attention to the areas you may be struggling with that are extremely important for your success.
If you are extremely familiar with a topic and don’t need that much study time on that topic than make sure you don’t spend all your time studying something you don’t need to.
Likewise be sure that you are focusing your attention on areas that are important to your class and relevant to your classes time frame rather than spending all your time on non relevant or trivial topics.
For example if you have a test on the skeletal bones of the head don’t spend your time focusing on other body parts or anatomical features that you aren’t being tested/graded on.
This allows you to be very effective with your time and narrow down what truly matters in the moment.
Focus on the material that has the biggest impact on your grades and education, especially if these are the areas you’re struggling with instead of re-memorizing something you already know and may not give you the best return on your investment of time.
Commit to a study schedule
Set aside a time of day when you can focus your time in an uninterrupted manner.
This can be in the morning after taking a shower and eating breakfast, after finishing your class session while the information you learned is still fresh in your mind, or late afternoon when you’ve finished all of your other responsibilities and are able to give your time and attention to what you need to study.
Most importantly choose a study time when its easiest for you to concentrate and memorize your topic.
Don’t waste your time studying when you are exhausted or distracted as you’re more likely to waste your time than you are to learn anything.
You may end up waking up, reading your notes and realizing that you don’t even understand what you wrote the day before.
Determining a good study schedule, especially one that has a consistent time such as 10 am or 8 pm helps you develop a rhythm that eventually becomes easier with time.
Set the mood
In many cases you hear advice that sitting on a quite room by yourself is the best way to study, however we are all different and some people study better under different conditions.
You may find that you study best in an area that has some ambiance, but still allows you to focus on your work such as a library or coffee house.
Or maybe you prefer to play some music and drink some worm tea under a soft light.
Finding out what type of environment best helps you focus and be creative can help with both your attention/retention and your desire to study in the first place.
You may find that some environments inspire you to study while others constantly distract you or put you in a non studying mood.
Your environment can have a huge impact you mood and thus your ability to focus and study.
Room colors, ambient sounds, room temperature, lighting, odors (coffee, scented candles, incense, etc..) and space are all things that you should consider when deciding where you want study.
You may be surprised at how much you’re able to concentrate when your environment puts you in a studying mood.
Learn to take good notes
Good note taking is essential to making your study sessions productive while also improving your retention.
Most smartphones have now audio recorders, cameras and apps like Evernote and Studyblue that help you record yourself and the notes that you’re taking so make sure you use them to your full advantage.
Create flashcards to help you memorize important terms, theories, ideas and other subject matter.
Take photos of anatomical models that point out important information and make audio recordings of topics you can listen to while you’re driving, walking or trying to remember something.
If you have a kindle reader or iBooks installed on your smartphone or tablet and you’re able to get your school books on them take advantage of the highlighting and bookmarking features they offer to make it easier to go back to important topics or mentions that you need to learn or reference in the future.
Lastly, don’t forget the tried and true pen and paper notebook.
These are the easiest and often most available resources you have for taking and keeping good notes.
Purchasing a few 3 – 5 subject notebooks can go a long way toward doing better in school.
Having a good note taking set up can drastically improve your success at studying.
Take advantage of audio and video lessons/information
If you’re studying a subject that has video or audio lessons or information available it can be an extremely valuable tool in your studying arsenal as it provides you with more ways to absorb the information you need to learn.
Videos can do a great job of helping you visualize the information you are learning while also providing audio commentary on the topic you need to learn about.
A good step by step video can bring new insights into the topics you’re studying and make breaking down those topics easier.
Audio lessons are great for helping you study while you’re on the go.
Doing topical searchers on YouTube and Podcast networks is a great way to learn more about various topics in the nursing profession.
Just make sure the information you are learning about comes from a good reputable source.
If you own an apple device you can also check out iTunes University as they offer tons of school lectures on numerous topics.
Whether you’re on a long commute, going for a walk or sitting in a quite room audio is a great way to help you gather you thoughts and learn about a topic, especially when you find it difficult to continue reading the same content over and over again and you need to take a break from reading.
Take a kinesthetic approach
Sometimes the best way to learn about your topic is to physically engage in performing the tasks that you’re learning about.
For example students who volunteer at health care facilities often gain greater insights into what they are studying and find it easier to understand their school work since they are constantly performing some of the tasks that they’re required to memorize from a text book or classroom lecture.
Even if you’re not volunteering at a health care facility or you’re not at a stage in your education where it is an option to volunteer you may be able to learn from other nurses who work in a hospital or healthcare setting.
You can also find other educational resources in your school that allows you to practice or physically exam the things you are learning about such as anatomy and physiology.
You can order plastic replicas of skeletal bones and other anatomical features from sites such as amazon that you can take apart and study at your home.
Whether you’re studying anatomy, learning to how to perform CPR or being taught how to use an IV there are often tools that allow you practice what you’re studying so that you can learn more effectively.
Anything you can find that allows you to physically deconstruct and reconstruct it that is related to your classroom study can help you improve your understanding of your topic.
While laptops and tablets may not offer the same level of kinesthetic learning physical models offer there are a number of excellent programs that allow you to manipulate computer generated models in order to help you better understand how they work, which can drastically improve your study efforts.
Use visual aids whenever you can
Visual aids are extremely effective at improving human recognition and retention and have been proven to significantly affect recall in the students who use them.
Perhaps you’ve heard that people remember twice of what they see compared to what they read when it comes to learning.
Depending on whom you talk to the amount of information you can remember from visual aids can be significantly higher than what you retain from reading.
Just by understanding that important fact you can have a significant improvement in memory by using visual learning
Visual aids such as images (photos), graphs, charts, videos and physical models are all excellent ways to help you retain information.
Interactive videos and demos may also be useful in helping you memorize important topics and concepts.
Websites such as Amazon offer useful visual aids such as flashcards and physical models that can help you quickly understand and retain the information you are learning about.
Have a study buddy or group
Study buddies/groups can be extremely valuable when you’re trying to learn about a difficult subject, especially when that subject requires other people in order to truly understand the topic you are studying.
Being able to bounce ideas and theories around and use your collective knowledge to solve problems is extremely beneficial.
Having a study group allows you to ask questions and view things from a perspective that you may not have thought about, which opens up new ways of learning about the same topic.
It also makes it easier to understand complex topics that others are good at breaking down into easily understandable concepts.
You can study for exams and tests, gain a better understanding of medical procedures, learn more about anatomy and see your topic from different perspectives by having other people to study with.
Just make sure that your study group is just as focused as you are and make sure you hold each other accountable and quickly let go of students/study partners who just want to fool around or distract you.
One of the best ways you can improve your own learning is to teach others what you know about your topic.
By teaching other people about anatomy, physiology, chemistry, medical procedures or whatever it is you’re studying you will educate and teach yourself about your topic while also helping others learn.
Being able to educate other people and especially being able to answer questions you may not have thought of allows you to develop your cognitive understanding of the topic you are learning about.
The process of teaching also helps your brain identify, dissect and reconstruct the important lessons you’ve learned and hard-wires those lessons into your head because it tells your brain you are providing valuable and important information that you may need to recall in the future.
Don’t over do it
Being effective at studying means not overdoing things and not taking on more than you can handle.
Trying to take too many difficult classes for example will often lead to more stress and less constructive study time as you won’t be able to give each subject the time it needs for you to truly understand it and learn.
If you try to make up for your study time by not sleeping you’ll also largely reduce your ability to retain what you’ve learned making your study time less effective.
Depending on who you listen to reducing your sleep by 1 – 2 hours can reduce you’re ability to perform and concentrate by 20% – 30%.
You may not realize it but that extra hour of studying you did the night before may end up reducing your effectiveness by as much as 30% the following day.
The added effect of stress also makes it difficult to concentrate and stay focused as you may find yourself moving frantically from one subject to the next rather than taking the time to sit down and give each topic the time it truly needs.