11 Unique Study Tips For College Exams

It’s been about a year since I graduated from university. I was a Business major and to be quite frank with you, not a great student. I never really felt like I got a grasp on studying effectively. I would cram the night before a test and rarely read the textbook. Since then, I feel that I’ve gotten a much stronger grasp on productivity and discovered effective, unique study tips.

Go figure that once I leave college, I start to feel like I could have done way better. But truly, little techniques can go a long way in improving your GPA. So here are the things I have learned can make you a better student.

Here are 11 study tips to help you ace your college exams and make you the best student you can be.

Turn “I Have To” Into “I Want To”

Instead of feeling like you have to study, tell yourself that you want to study. You want to ace this exam. You want to learn. Trick yourself into believing it. Your mindset is so important and feeling obligated to do something makes you want to run the other way. I find that this method helps me in a lot of ways. If I simply say, “I want to get this done, so that I can kill this test!” I’m much more likely to be productive while studying.

Take 5 Minute Breaks After Every 25 Minutes

Set a timer and force yourself to focus on a specific activity (ie: reading a chapter, writing 500 words, creating or studying flash cards, listening to a lecture, etc.) and then try to beat the clock. After 25 minutes, or whatever time you believe it will take, decide whether or not you need a break. If you do, take five minutes to do something equally productive. Get a load of laundry in or reply to an email. Then, once five minutes are up, set the timer again and get back to it! I believe that by taking productive breaks, you’re less likely to get distracted on your breaks by social media or texting. I don’t know about you, but my breaks would end up being a lot longer than five minutes.


Clear your mind. I’ve just begun trying to implement meditation into my daily routine, because I’ve heard such great things about how it helps you focus and de-stress. When we’re stressed out about exams, piles of homework, and upcoming deadlines, we could really use ten to fifteen minutes to regroup and refresh.

Practice Teaching the Material to Someone Else

If you can’t explain it to someone else, you don’t understand it enough. Oftentimes, I am certain that I know material and then someone will quiz me and I can’t explain it. “But, I’ll know it when I see it on the exam.” Nope. It’s never true. Even if you don’t have friends or family around to “teach,” play a little pretend. Imagine that you’re explaining the material to someone who has very basic knowledge on the subject.

Have a Designated Study Space

Define your study spot! Ideally this spot is not your bed or couch. Your brain needs to know that when they are in this particular space, it’s time to work. If you don’t have a desk or can’t work at home, pick a coffee shop or the library or somewhere that you know you can be your most productive self. Try to continuously use this study spot each day. Make it feel like a routine.

Experiment with Note-taking Techniques

When I was in school, I don’t feel that I ever perfected a note-taking technique. This is something I’d highly recommend, because we all learn differently. Practice different styles and see what helps you retain the information best. Flash cards could be your thing or perhaps it’s re-writing your lecture notes, but whatever it is, do it and tweak it ’til it’s nearly perfect. Don’t just do what you think you’re supposed to do, because what might work for Joe might not work for you and that’s okay.

Study with Classical Music in the Background

It’s harder to concentrate when you’ve got music with lyrics, but calming music can actually be a brain booster. Make a study playlist and get your study on.

Read with Purpose

Don’t just skim or read without intention behind it. Think about what your professor wants you to get from the material. I always had trouble reading the textbook, because I felt like I was reading it aimlessly. Come up with questions as you read the material and truly engage with the material.

Study Right after the Lecture

Don’t cram the night before the exam. It’s not even half as effective as studying after each lecture. You need sleep before an exam. I feel like college students are programmed to cram the night before exams and project deadlines, but don’t let it happen to you. Put fake dates into your calendar and force yourself to get started earlier. I can’t tell you how many projects I half-assed, because I decided to wait until the last minute. It’s not a good feeling to submit an essay that you aren’t at all proud of.

Start with Something Easy

When you aren’t in the studying mood, start with something simple like writing out note cards. When I don’t feel like doing my work, I’ll start with something that is easier or more fun. Eventually as I get going, I’ll perk up and get in the zone. I think of it as a little warm up before the main event.

Use the “Studyblr” tag on Tumblr for Motivation

My sister, who is currently a Junior in college, discovered the #studyblr thread on Tumblr and told me about it. I’m not even in school and it makes me want to study. It has study notes and desks to inspire you and tips for studying more effectively. It seems like such a great community of students who want to learn and do well in school. Nothing is more motivational than getting involved in a good community.

I hope these tips left you feeling inspired to get studying! If you have exams coming up, I wish you the best of luck, friend!



What study techniques do you use? Recommend some for us in the comments!

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