11 Ways You Can Get in the Zone and Study Like a Pro

You’ve arguably come to McKendree University to study and become an expert in your chosen field, but let’s face it – studying is hard. Even though the thought of reviewing those psychology notes or history facts might have you feeling on edge, don’t worry – studying and retaining information isn’t an insurmountable task. Whether you’re prepping for a presentation or a midterm exam, there are plenty of easy and effective ways you can get focused and hone in on your studies. Check out our top 11 tips below to help you during your next study session!

Holman Library
Find Your Ideal Study Spot

If you want to have a great study session, you need to find the right environment for you. Maybe you like tucking yourself in a quiet corner away from all the noise to focus on writing papers or quizzing yourself on flashcards. If so, Holman Library, the computer labs in Clark Hall and PAC, the study lounge in your dorm hall, or even the Active Learning Center next to New Residence Hall West could be the right place for you. Prefer the hustle and bustle of others while you review your biology notes? Stop by the 1828 Café or the Hub in Pearsons to collaborate with your friends. Don’t be afraid to try different places to see what works best for you!

Get Rid of Distractions

It can be next to impossible to focus on your studies when your phone is blowing up with notifications or you find yourself logging onto your social media pages. Do yourself a favor – mute or turn off your phone and place it in your backpack while you study. If you need to use the Internet, use it for research only. This will help you zero in on your subjects and help you retain critical information for your upcoming tests and beyond!

Keep Organized Notes

When it comes to notetaking, creating a system that works for you can make studying so much easier. Make sure your notes are legible and organized; this will save you hours when you review your notes for tests. Find what works best for you: bullet points, highlighters, tabs, indents – or even a combination of these methods! If a system isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to shake things up and change up your system.

Student Studying
Review Your Notes ASAP

Here’s a trick the pros use: as soon as your class ends, take ten minutes to review your notes. You can either read them or take out a blank piece of paper and write down everything you can recall from class. Got back-to-back classes? Don’t sweat it – even a couple of minutes will work to help cement this new information in your mind. This will make recalling information when you need it much easier! If you enjoy journaling, keeping a study journal and jotting down everything you remember from the day is also a fantastic way to improve your memory (and give yourself a mini-study session at the same time).

Turn on Some Tunes

Did you know that listening to music has been shown to increase focus and help the brain absorb and interpret new information more easily? Not just any music will do, however; classical or instrumental music is ideal. Now’s the time to find classical, world music, or your favorite movie or video game soundtracks and curate a top-notch instrumental playlist for your study times! If you find music too distracting, ambient noise like rain sounds can work perfectly.

Learn So You Can Teach Others

Memorizing facts and cramming information in your head might be okay for the short term, but it won’t serve you well as the semester goes by or after you graduate. For a deeper comprehension, try truly understanding the content so that you can teach a classmate or a sibling. This is a much more effective strategy than just rereading the material over and over.

Say It Out Loud

It might seem a little unconventional, but try reciting your notes or those dates in history out loud next time you study. You might be surprised how much you can remember when you’ve said it out loud! Feeling a little creative? Try coming up with alternative lyrics to popular songs with the material you recently learned in class. It’s a great way to remember foreign language conjugation rules or parts of the Kreb cycle. Just be aware of your surroundings so that you aren’t disturbing others who are trying to study as well!

Active Learning Center
Space Out Your Study Time

You might feel tempted to study nonstop into the wee hours of the morning, catch a few hours of sleep, and then wake up to cram just before your morning class. Unfortunately, this isn’t a realistic or healthy way to study. Create a realistic schedule that includes bite-sized chunks of studying with plenty of breaks in between. And don’t forget to actually take those breaks as well. Go for a walk, watch a funny video on YouTube, or pop into your friend’s room to say a quick hello!

Stay Hydrated

Guess what else will help you study better? Drinking plenty of water! Several studies have shown that drinking water improves brain function, which will help you stay focused, retain more information, and think more efficiently. You’ll also feel more refreshed and will stave off sleepiness during your study sessions. On the other hand, take it easy on the caffeine. Those energy drinks might help at first, but you’ll wind up crashing hard and feeling foggy and worn out soon enough.

Take Care of Yourself

In addition to drinking plenty of water, you’ll want to remember to eat well, exercise regularly, and get plenty of quality shut-eye to help keep your mind sharp. Put away the Flaming Hot Cheetos (they’ll get your notes messy anyway) and snack on something healthy like carrots or walnuts. Take some time to get up at least once every hour to stretch and take a quick walk around the Quad. And if you feel sleepy, go ahead and take a quick nap! Taking care of your body will help you retain new info like a champ.

Students Playing Chess
Reward Yourself for a Job Well Done

All done studying? Treat yourself! Watch an episode of your favorite show, visit your friend down the hall, or go snag a favorite treat of yours to reward yourself for a great study session.

If you keep these study tips in mind and give them a try, you should find that tackling the next assignment, writing the next paper, or studying for the next exam is easier than it was once before. You’ve got this, Bearcats!