It’s happened to all of us: We roll up to the library, unpack our bags, sharpen our pencils, lay out our notebooks, and...nothing. We look at all our study material laid out before us and we simply have no idea where to start. Not to mention that big exam looming over our head—yikes! Don’t panic and dash out of the library just yet. Instead, buckle down, because this is how you need to be structuring your study sessions to get the most out of your time.
1. Starting with the easy stuff.
You might be wondering, “I thought that the easy stuff should be left to the end, like dessert?” Well, this is your sign to go ahead and treat yourself. Being able to quickly tackle something at the start of your study session helps you to avoid procrastinating on getting started. Afterall, starting is half the effort, right?
If you can, pick something you can get done with quickly and check off your list. That sense of accomplishment you’re feeling right there? Oh yeah, that’s going to help push you on to the next task.
2. Adding the new material.
By this point, we’ve had a bit of warm-up but we aren’t tired yet. Your brain isn’t overwhelmed and it’s still early enough in the study session that it should feel clear and ready to absorb new information. Don’t forget to use study strategies, like taking notes, drawing diagrams, or testing yourself with active recall!
Keep in mind, if you’re tackling a lot of different subjects and tasks in the same study session, this is the time to put the tough subjects first! If you completed the first step of getting the easy stuff out of the way and you’re running high on that motivation, take that energy into the subject that you struggle with the most—so you can give more energy, focus, and thought into wrapping your head around those complex, new concepts.
3. Applying what you’ve learned.
At this point, we got all the new information in our heads. Now is the time to start putting that to use! Go over practice and application questions to cement the new concepts you’ve just learned. You’ll want to mix in some old material as well, and make sure you’re reviewing previous material as well.
Furthermore, if you have multiple assignments or exams that you’re studying for, this is the time to start prioritizing the one with the highest impact on your grade. Got that midterm exam worth 40% of your semester grade? Time to get on those practice questions first!
As always, remember to space out your sessions and apply study strategies. We’re out here to make the most of our time, but we’re not looking to burn out either! Adding some structure to those long-haul study sessions makes those late nights a little bit more bearable and easier to manage. It helps us stay focused and it keeps the ball rolling from beginning to end. So next time you settle down for a study session, you’ve got a game plan.