Nine tips for effective studying


Jessica Camberos

Stress from assignments and exams can lead to burnout. Try implementing new study tips into your routine, and make a difference in your school performance.

Jessica Camberos, Writer

Do you want to perform better in school but you feel like your study habits don’t cut it? Do you find yourself stressed out with overdue assignments and upcoming exams? 

These feelings are universal, but there are many ways to implement study habits that solve these problems. The JC’s college skills department can help, with Tutorial Centers on both the Santa Rosa and Petaluma campuses. Among the faculty ready to assist students is Amy Flores, faculty lead at the Santa Rosa center. According to Flores, the centers offer topic-specific tutors and group study sessions in addition to teaching how to study.   

Everybody learns differently so what works for one student might not necessarily work for another. Implement these tips into your daily routine to discover what works best for you and to help you meet your academic goals

Tip 1: Plan ahead

Keep a planner with you at all times. If you find digital planners more accessible, there are a variety of mobile apps you can download. Some great suggestions are Planner Pro, Structured and MinimaList. If you don’t find the apps to your liking, you can always use the basic Calendar app. 

For some students, physically writing due dates helps remember them. Write down the due date for every assignment, project and exam. At the beginning of a new semester read through the course outline and note assignment deadlines and exam dates. 

Organizing and planning will help you stay on top of your coursework and keep you from falling behind. 

Tip 2: Attend class and pay attention

Sitting through long lectures can leave room for distraction. It’s easy to let our minds wander and to be tempted to scroll through our phones. 

Avoid any possible distractions by keeping your phone in your bag and practice active listening. This means to attentively listen to the speaker and seek to understand what they are saying by responding and reflecting. Active listening and participation can help you retain information. 

Skipping class can be tempting, but try to avoid doing so. While you may think missing one session won’t hurt, you will have missed out on a lot of information. 

Tip 3: Set goals and keep a study schedule

Set time aside every day to study. In fact, make it a habit to study regularly.

Set a goal for every study session to make sure it is effective. Focus on math one day and on English another. Or study math for 15 minutes, then use another 15 for physics. 

“Take chunks so it’s, like, maybe four pages, three weeks in advance. Then move on to the next big chunk,” Flores said. “Again, [it’s] the importance of planning.” 

If you reach your study goals, reward yourself. Spend time with friends, treat yourself to a meal or take a long nap.

Tip 4: Take notes

Taking notes helps you listen more closely to the lecture, engaging your mind. According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and their study, “Effective Note-Taking in Class,” taking notes and summarizing what you hear can lead to better information retention.

This doesn’t mean writing down every single thing, just the key points.

Flores agrees with the study findings, and she has another pointer, too.“I remember when I was in high school and would take notes using different colors, to emphasize and highlight things,” she said. “When I saw notes I wrote myself, it was easier for me to have a connection.”

Underline, write keywords in the margins and use multi-color highlighters. Choose one color for key points and definitions and another for examples.

Tip 5: Join or create a study group

When students get together to study, they can learn better than when they work alone. According to scientific journal ScienceDirect, a 2017 study revealed students who used a study buddy significantly reduced their chances of failing a pathology course as opposed to those who studied alone.

Set up an online study group, or if you’re feeling social, meet up in person. When you work in groups you not only gain team experience, but the desire to procrastinate is weakened

Tip 6: Ask for help

There is a stigma that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness; this is simply not true. Asking for help does not determine your intelligence, and you should never be ashamed to reach out. 

Asking for help can provide both clarification and guidance. If your class has a PALS, you can start there. Or find your instructor’s office hours and stop by for a visit.

Tip 7: Change environments

Where we choose to study can impact our learning. Try out different environments and find the one where you study best. Try your bedroom, the school library or perhaps the new café down the road. 

Both SRJC campuses have an on-campus tutoring center that serves as both a quiet space to work and a place to seek assistance on coursework. “Use the Tutorial Center, not only when you need help, but make it a habit. Make it a routine,” Flores said. 

You will need a comfortable space that not only allows you to concentrate but keeps you engaged. Sometimes it works best to move between studying spaces.

Tip 8: Keep a positive attitude

While assignments, exams, and attendance aren’t always exciting, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. Optimism can go a long way. A single grade does not determine your abilities or your future.

If you receive a bad grade, move on and take it as a challenge to study harder and do better next time. 

Tip 9: Relax 

Concentrating on school work and staying on top of assignments is important, but your health should always be your No. 1 priority. 

Allow yourself to take breaks and relax. Hang out with friends, take a walk or simply sit back and breathe. By stepping away and giving your body and brain time to rest, you will prevent burnout.