How to have an effective study session

“Without a vision, a people perish.”

This quote is carved into the outdoor amphitheater of my hometown, and somehow it has stuck with me for my life thus far.

This mantra is now your new best friend for study sessions.

I find as a tutor that there is no one size fits all solution or technique for being good at studying. Seeing what has worked well and what has failed has, in turn, made me an elitist studier.

Okay, that’s unfair. I’m not a jerk, but I am very prepared and particular when it comes to studying ANYTHING. I would like to pass along some of that wisdom and some of my best practices to you.

First of all, your time is valuable and limited. I don’t mean to put you in a panic, but you need to have some sense of urgency. It would be practically impossible to have any efficiency if your time was unlimited. Every minute you have on this earth is precious and if you wholeheartedly believe that then you need to be using this time wisely. You are reading this article now so it seems like you have a good start.

Think about what you know. This can always help you decide what you need to learn. Exchange this information to those who are studying with you. Do you think you know a concept pretty well? Awesome, explain it to someone in your group who doesn’t. Even if you are feeling behind in a class, write something down. You do know something, even if it’s a concept related to your class but was not mentioned in it thus far. Building momentum is key, and it always helps to have a running start.

ready with a snack, a coffee, and a plan

Second, make an agenda. No matter the subject or purpose of a study session, you need to have an idea of what you would like to do with your time before you start. Write this agenda down (don’t just keep it in your head) and show it to everyone studying with you. Now everyone is on the same page. Our generation is notoriously confused when it comes to communication. As a professional tutor, I can say it is rude to not explain what you would like to achieve in your time to those spending it with you. If things change, whatever, thats okay. Any plan is better than no plan. An example agenda I would use might look like the following:

1-2pm Review key concepts and rewrite definitions from the study guide in our own words

2-2:30pm Discuss diagrams from this chapter, explain them to one another

2:30-3pm Write flashcards and quiz with them

3-4pm Review difficult problems from the practice exam

Third step, tip, whatever you want to call it, have hard and soft goals. Hard goals are things you need to learn right now, definitions, key concepts, understanding diagrams, etc. Soft goals are more general and might take a couple days to achieve. Better study skills, neater notes, etc. At the end of your study session, or at least the time you scheduled, you should review the hard goals you set. Did you learn what you needed to learn? Give a quick summary to the group to prove it, and add it to the known/ I got this list. Don’t? Find another time to study so you can get the information. If you did get the information and it didn’t stick, think about a different method of studying, and employ that at the next study session. Check in on you soft goals in a week. Have you been studying regularly? Are you becoming a better student? Use the next week to progress!

Please please please study in increments. Keeping a study session on task for more than three hours is nearly impossible no matter how motivated of a student you are. Shoot for small sessions and supplement group studying with some individual studying.

alternating studying individually AND in a group environment is key

Following these practices will ensure that you have made a conscious effort to prepare for a study session. Studying in groups can be so beneficial and efficient if done with the right people and frame of mind. So get out there, text your friends, make a plan, and get to work!!

For more tips on finals check here and student planners for the semester check out my Etsy! Good luck!

me enjoying coffee and knowledge on my bedroom balcony

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