How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

If you’re like the average student, the chances are, you spend much time reading and studying without having much to show for it. Unfortunately, many students assume that their inability to recall what they have studied means that they need to put in even more hours.

While that may be technically true, the reality is, if you have been reading for a minimum of 3-4 hours a day, you’re already putting in plenty of time. The problem isn’t the time; it’s the study techniques. If you’re struggling with an inability to recall everything you’ve read, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

This problem is so pervasive that many psychologists and scientists have spent decades trying to figure it out and solve the problem. Surveys have shown that students often use relatively ineffective study strategies. One potential remedy is to include learning-strategy training in students’ educational experiences. Thankfully, their research has produced great results that have helped many students get better at learning, memorising, recalling, and applying the knowledge they’ve acquired.

In this post, you’ll learn proven study techniques for high school students. With these techniques, you’ll be able to learn smarter and faster, without necessarily reading for long hours.

Set the Right Expectations

The first thing you need to work on is your mindset and expectations. One of the most significant issues that some high school students face is their desire to have perfect recall. And while this is technically possible, it takes lots of practice and unique predispositions –like someone who has an eidetic or photographic memory- to pull it off.

Even your school teachers, the educational system and private tutors don’t expect you to get 100 per cent all the time. There’s a margin of error available for all students. So, cut yourself some slack, and do your best to get great grades –aim for 85-95 per cent recall. You’ll easily beat most of your classmates at this rate and top your class.

Use Active Studying Methods

Active studying methods are study techniques that help you form your own meaning from the text you’re studying through the use of examples, connecting your new knowledge to real-life issues, and making learning personal for you.

This is not the same thing as highlighting texts in your notes or textbooks or re-reading the same material over and over in the hopes that repetition will aid your recall. It is learning actively about that particular subject.

For example, let’s say you just learned about effervescence –the bubbles you see when you open a can of soft drink. You can make that experience more active by opening a new can of soft drink or dropping a tablet of vitamin C or paracetamol into a glass of water and watching the reaction unfold. Then, using what you’ve learned, you can track each stage of the reaction until the end. Other active study techniques for high school students include using symbols representing ideas, concept association, formulating questions, and answering them yourself. 

Take Advantage of Distributed Studying

Distributed studying or spacing are fancy names for the process of spreading out your studying over a longer period –e.g. weeks and months instead of 1 week to exams. The most effective distributed studying tactic is to spend a short time on each subject you have for the day. In a study, Nate Kornell, Department of Psychology, University of California, found that the spacing effect results in more longterm learning than massing them together.  

For example, if you have Math and English class during the day, read up on the topics before and after class. This will help you better prepare for class and improve your understanding afterwards. During your pre-class study, take note of problems that jump out at you and listen for them in class.

Then ask questions about these ideas, concepts, or terms. This will help reinforce your new knowledge and increase your understanding of it. Remember that the whole purpose of reading or learning is to understand and use the new knowledge in some way. Distributed learning or studying sure does make sure of that.

This particular strategy requires you to control your schedule, and that’s no small feat. The easiest way to develop the discipline necessary to see this through is by creating a daily to-do list for your studies. It can be as simple as studying for 2-3 hours a day –30 minutes or more for each subject- and then playing or having fun. You’ll learn, understand, and remember more if you do this every day.

Focused Intense Sessions Work

Sometimes, students are intimidated by the idea of studying for long hours. As a result, they tend to put it off for as long as they can until they can no longer do that.

A quick and easy way to overcome this reluctance whilst still getting fantastic results from your studying is something called studying sessions. This means that your study is done in sprints instead of marathons.

For instance, instead of studying for a stretch of 5 hours, break down your study in manageable chunks like 1 hour. Each hour can be like a lap where you study for 45 minutes and quiz yourself for 15 minutes. Then, take a break for 20-30 minutes and get back to studying.

Each lap is called a focused intense session. This is one of the more powerful exam study tips for high school students and others. Do this more, and your recall will go through the roof courtesy of the combination of studying and quizzes.

Pick the Right Location for Your Study

Everyone is different. Some students study more effectively when there’s little or no noise. Then, some need some music or background noise to assimilate and recall.

Some students need to be around other folks when they are studying, while others prefer the quietest part of the library. Find what works best for you and do it. If you’re unsure, practise both until you find what works best for you.

While there are tons of study resources for high school students, the reality is that most high school students are neither interested in finding nor using those resources.

They want proven study techniques and practical exam study tips to help students ace their examinations. The tips in this post work because they’ve been tried and tested by millions of students before you. Use them, and you’ll likely graduate in flying colours.