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Work Smarter, Not Harder: Study Tips for Success

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

Whether you procrastinate or overstudy for school, studying is a difficult concept to grasp. More often than not, you may have to choose between going out with your friends or staying home to prepare for a quiz or test. Well, what if I told you both are possible? By following effective study strategies and advice from these accomplished alumni, you too can learn how to work smarter, not harder!

  1. Find a support system, so you can stay motivated to study.

“My first instinct in high school was to get some exercise or complain to my friends to vent all my angry energy. However, once that phase was done, I would go back to the problems and see what I got wrong. I would then try to get some feedback from other teachers to verify my suspicions about certain concepts to make sure I was learning from my mistakes.”

  • As Peter said, it is very important to have people to lean on. It can be difficult to study without support.

  • Whether it be family, friends, teachers, or fellow classmates, having someone to keep you in check can both remind and motivate you to stay ahead and start studying!

Pro-Tip: Study Groups

  • Study groups can maintain good morale when studying in a stressful situation.

  • They can also give you the opportunity to actively participate and apply the knowledge you are learning with others.

  1. Manage your time wisely.

“I always studied early and often for my exams. I often wrote down and asked myself questions that I thought could be the exam based on the material.”

  • Getting an early start might seem unnecessary, but even a little bit of review daily can make that final cramming session easier.

  • Procrastination may get the bare minimum done but imagine all you could do with the time you save by getting a head start!

* * *

“That is why it is important to give yourself deadlines. ‘I must finish this in the next hour.’ Time yourself with an actual timer. Break down large assignments into smaller ones so you feel a sense of accomplishment every time you complete a section. Work first, play later. But don’t forget to play later.”

  • KX, Yale University ‘24

  • Make a to-do list, planner, or set reminders (whichever you are most comfortable with). This will keep you on track with studying, so that the infamous stress doesn’t bulk up too much the night before a test or quiz.

  • Noelle Sorich, an alum of Seton Hall University, utilized Google Calendar and Erin Condren planners to help manage her work and time.

  1. Test yourself to prepare for tests.

“I used some common test-taking strategies such as the process of elimination, using other questions on the exam to help answer the current question, answering easier questions first, and pacing myself so I could attempt every question.”

Practice, practice, practice! I would just find multiple practice tests online and take them until I could get all the questions right.”

  • The SAT and ACT are perfect examples of places to use Mojo and Joshita’s tips. Standardized testing is not as intimidating when you approach it with the right strategies.

  • The process of elimination, double-checking, practice tests, and most importantly, sticking to a HEALTHY schedule, are only a few of the strategies that will increase your scores because you studied efficiently.

* * *

“I’m a big advocate for adjusting your study methods depending on the class. Some days it would be vocabulary review, other times it’s just practice problems, other times it’s reviewing notes.”

  • Cami Mejia, MIT ‘23

  • Wise words, Cami! I definitely couldn’t study for my Biology class the same as I would for English.

  • Test out what methods of studying led to the highest scores in specific classes, and eventually, you’ll know how to best prepare for a test or quiz based on your teacher, and the subject you are studying! For example, in biology, I’ve noticed reviewing my notes from class has really helped my scores. But, in English, going over my past exams and practicing what I got wrong has been most beneficial.

  • You may not get the hang of it right away, but take advantage of your mistakes to improve from there!

Tips and Tricks:

Active Recall:

  • Flashcards

    • Because you use repetition and active recall with flashcards, your mind will better absorb what you are studying. If you need to memorize vocabulary for your AP Psych test, make some flashcards! Check out Quizlet as well.

  • Presenting to a class

    • Teach your notes to an imaginary class, it is an example of active recall.

    • You can review your notes, while staying entertained!

Spacing Effect:

  • If active recall isn’t working, the spacing effect might.

  • This is the idea that you will better recall information if you space it out over time.

  • Psychology is telling us to get an early start, so why not try it out!

These tips will not only help you prepare for your next exam, but will also help in your long term retention of what you study. If inspired, come up with your own study methods too! Studying is an inevitable part of life, so instead of falling into bad habits, let’s adapt to achieve our expectations by studying effectively and efficiently!

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