How to Study Effectively: 7 Killer Ways to Boost Performance

If you’re a student you spend a significant amount of your time studying. If you are anything like most people, you waste your time with strategies that aren’t effective because most students just don’t know how to study effectively.

That wasted time could be spent in hundreds of better ways.

What are just a few strategies people think will help them?

They are biggies: re-reading, highlighting, and summarizing. Woa! Really?

While they certainly ‘work,’ they are horribly ineffective.

You either read too much, take things out of context and have to re-read, or think you’re learning all of the material, but in fact you aren’t.

Use the following 7 tips to learn how to study effectively and you can increase your memory retention by up to 1000% and decrease the time you spend studying by up to 300%.

This all correlates to higher grades!

1. Interleaving (Switch between ideas while you are studying)

How to Study Effectively Interleaving 1

You might use this this strategy at times and not even know it!

Don’t study one concept or problem for too long during a single study session for a single class.

Switching between different ideas will allow you to see similarities and differences between the topics or questions you are studying.

This will strengthen your understanding of the material.

If you are focusing on a problem that you’ve spent a good amount of time on, move to a different problem. Jumping between ideas will encourage you to make links between them which will help you solve a problem or deepen your understanding of a concept.

When you review the material a second time, do it in a different order than the first time. This will allow you to make more connections between the ideas.

How to Study Effectively Interleaving 2

Make sure you aren’t jumping around from idea to idea too quickly, though.

You want to be quick and nimble, but you want to make sure you are spending enough time on a topic that you understand it, otherwise, you aren’t being efficient.

Switching from idea to idea will likely feel strange at first, even difficult.

But remember, we want to study effectively, not study easily!

2. Elaboration (Ask, Explain & Connect)

How to Study Effectively Elaboration 1

Take your notes and textbook and make a list of everything you need to study.

Go through the list asking yourself how and why questions about the notes.

Then, lookup the answers!

If you are studying with your classmates, ask them questions about how and why the material makes sense.

How does this idea interrelate with the other ideas that you are studying?

Don’t just discuss the material, and definitely don’t get side-tracked.

Explain the ideas you are studying and compare and contrast them to other ideas in the text.

How to Study Effectively Elaboration 2

Use as much detail as you possibly can and try to relate the ideas to your everyday life. Relating the ideas to everyday life will make them concrete.

Concrete examples (as you will soon learn) is one of our 7 efficient study techniques.

Asking questions and explaining the answers you find forces you to connect the ideas to information you already know.

It helps you organize your thoughts and make these new ideas easier to recall because you are making associations with information you already know.

Asking yourself these questions makes you compare and contrast ideas, which improves your understanding.

The goal here is to get to a point where you can explain how all of the ideas covered in your text work together without having to look at your notes!

The types of questions you ask yourself will depend on the material that you are studying.

Say you are studying history. Specifically America’s involvement in World War II.

You could begin by asking yourself:

When was America first involved in the war and how did it happen? On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. This is the day that will forever be known as Pearl Harbor.

Why did this happen? The Axis were afraid of the United States’ involvement in the war, so they intended to destroy the United States’ Pacific Fleet so it wouldn’t interfere with their operations.

What was the outcome of this event? The United States was completely caught off guard. The Japanese damaged/destroyed eight U.S. Naval ships, and killed over 2,000 Americans.

What is the significance of this event? The following day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, which lead to the relocation of all Japanese-Americans into camps.

You could continue this series of questions all of the way through the end of World War II, building upon the story. Each idea builds upon the previous.

Using elaboration to ask these questions will allow you be able to tell the entire story without any notes.

3. Concrete Examples

How to Study Effectively Concrete 1

Use as many examples as you can in your study sessions that your teacher discusses in class and you can find in your text, slides, and other handouts.

Make sure they are as relevant as possible to the material you are learning.

Using relevant examples helps demonstrate ideas and explain concepts, which helps your understanding.

It’s easier to understand concrete information than abstract information, especially if you are learning an abstract concept, so always look for real life examples.

Bravery is an abstract concept.

You can describe bravery as an act of courage in the midst of danger.

The problem is that we’ve used courage and danger, abstract words, to describe an abstract concept.

To illustrate the idea of bravery think about a war hero in Afghanistan.

The soldiers platoon is being shot at and they are pinned down.

How to Study Effectively Concrete 2

Either sit like ducks and wait to be picked off, or make a charge to find better cover.

Running out from under cover while you are being shot at is certainly an act of courage in the midst of danger.

This is a concrete example for an abstract idea.

Take the material you are learning and search for examples in your everyday life that have concrete meaning.

How to Study Effectively Concrete 3

Thinking of your own relevant examples helps you learn, you just need to be careful your examples are accurate.

Understand the concrete example and you will understand the information.

4. Spaced Practice (No Cramming!)

How to Study Effectively Spaced 1

The problem with procrastination is that six hours of studying crammed into one intensive study session isn’t as good as that same six hours spread out over two weeks.

You’ll absorb more information and get better results on exams if you spread your studying out over a longer period of time.

In addition, it will be far less stressful than experiencing the panic of cramming the night before an exam because you will learn more and reduce the amount of time you actually need to study.

You will also significantly reduce the amount of time you have to study because when finals come around you won’t have to spend as much time re-learning all of the information!

Here is how it works:

The day after a class, start reviewing the information covered and organize your notes. Write down important facts and concepts in a logical manner.

Make sure that when you look back over your notes in a week you will be able to understand everything.

How to Study Effectively Spaced 2

Don’t just re-read your notes, write down entire paragraphs or summarize the material.

That’s completely ineffective and all you are doing is wasting time.

Use strategies previously mentioned to maximize your study time.

After you’ve covered the most recent material, go back and study important older information to keep it fresh.

How to Study Effectively Spaced 3

Start with material just discussed in class, then the material from last week’s classes, then the material from the previous month.

By far the most difficult aspect of this strategy is execution.

You need to be organized.

Make a schedule of short study sessions and put them on your calendar.

Stick to it.

How to Study Effectively Spaced 4

Make sure to leave at least two to three days between study sessions on the same subject, if possible.

Do this for every one of your classes.

You may find yourself studying at odd hours (heaven forbid on a weekend!) and it will seem strange at first, but you will be shocked with the results after only a week.

Remember, in the long run you will be spending much less time studying!

This means more time for work and play!

5. Dual Coding (Words and Visuals)

How to Study Effectively Dual Coding 1

The idea of dual coding is combining verbal material with visual material.

Combining the two allows your brain to process the information in two different ways.

This is extremely useful for subjects that are notoriously very wordy, like English or Psychology.

Search through your text, and slides and find visual representations of the material you are studying.

How are the words in the text describing the visual representation?

Now, switch.

Take the visuals and explain in your own words what they mean.

Lastly, take your notes and draw your own pictures to represent each idea or concept.

How to Study Effectively Dual Coding 2

You don’t need to be a great artist to do this!

Trust me.

All I can draw is stick figures.

You don’t need your notes to look beautiful.

By drawing your own pictures you are finding new ways to represent the information.

Come up with a variety of ways to represent the information like a cartoon script, charts and graphs, a diagram describing how something works or a timeline.

How to Study Effectively Dual Coding 3

Your end goal is to be able to visually represent every idea you need to remember.

Visualizing your information will allow you to absorb more information in a picture or diagram than an entire page of notes.

It will truly make you think about the material because you have to find ways to visually represent it.

Using visuals with words will certainly allow you to remember more information than just your words.

In fact, it’s so powerful that the final strategy is entirely dedicated to visual learning techniques.

6. Retrieval Practice (recalling what you know)

How to Study Effectively Retrieval Practice 1

Once you have mastered the aforementioned strategies, the single most valuable study tip to help you boost your study performance and become more efficient is retrieval practice.

Retrieval practice is retrieving everything thing you can remember about a topic.

You need to put away your textbook and your notes and write down or sketch out everything you know about a topic.

Absolutely no peeking.

To make this strategy successful, you need to use it awhile after you actually learned the material.

You can’t leave class or read a chapter in your textbook and recall everything you know.

It won’t work.

That’s reciting information you just learned, there’s a difference.

Take as many practice tests as you can.

If you don’t have practice tests, create them and switch with a classmate.

How to Study Effectively Retrieval Practice 2

You can also use flashcards, but you need to go well beyond writing words and their definitions.

You need to be able to recall all of the concepts and main points in your material, not just just the definitions of words.

Retrieving information like this has several impacts.

The first is that it makes remembering the information in the future much easier.

This is a very powerful strategy if you have test anxiety and just blank when looking at an exam. Retrieving the information before you take an exam will allow you to remember it much easier in the future.

The second is that it highlights what you don’t already know and where you should focus your time.

Check the work you’ve recalled against your class material.

What did you get right and wrong?

Right there, you know how to focus your time. Instead of reviewing all of your class material, you can focus on what you do not know.

7. Visual Learning Techniques

How to Study Effectively Visual Techniques

Visual learning techniques are by far the most powerful and effective way to study almost every type of information.

Let me say that again because it needs to be emphasized.

Visual learning techniques are the most effective way to study.

You will see the largest benefit with the smallest amount of work if you implement even one visual learning strategy.

Most people don’t even know what I mean when I say ‘visual learning technique’, which goes to show how little they are used.

But I made you a promise in the beginning of this article that by following these tips on studying effectively you can increase your memory retention by up to 1000% and decrease the time you spend studying by up to 300% and I intend to keep this promise.

But the only way you are getting those results is if you use a visual learning strategy.

You also need to get it out of your head that you aren’t a visual learner, or for that matter, that there is even such a thing as learning types.

Get it out of your head.


The only way I can convince you that this is the most important strategy in to study effectively is for you to convince yourself.

Therefore, I need you to do that right now by reading this article about visual memory techniques.

Once you do, you will understand
7 strategies to study more efficiently.

Combined, these strategies will easily improve your memory retention up to 1000% and decrease your study time up to 300%.

I encourage you to try them.

Don’t just read!

If you want to take it easy, start with the first strategy and work your way down the list until you have mastered each strategy.

Spend a week getting used to it before moving to the next.

Build upon that strategy the next week with the next strategy until you have mastered them all.

After you try these techniques I’d love to here from you!

Post in the comments which strategies worked and which ones didn’t.

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