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Study techniques for university students

Finding the best study techniques is vital for any university student preparing for exams. Studying effectively is not a matter of chance. As a freshman, you’re sitting in class fascinated by everything you learn. Then, you spend the rest of the day thinking how fortunate you are that you get to spend the next few years learning so many incredible things (all with a hangover). 

And then you have a Yahoo quiz (£9,000 a year to do Yahoo quizzes… great!!) or an exam and you find out you know as much as you did during your first lecture. Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many students face this same challenge. 

Fortunately, many universities have conducted research on study techniques and methods that best help students learn and harvest the information taught to them. So we have put together 10 study techniques that are likely to help you retain more information and ace that next Yahoo exam!


What are some effective study techniques?

Making and KEEPING TO a study schedule:

So a few weeks into your first term at university, you probably realised that a few one-hour lectures a week are not enough to learn and retain the information on your course… That and the fact it’s a 9 am lecture the morning after students’ night in the Union. Therefore, you must set aside certain hours of each day for study just as you would for going to lectures, sleeping and cashing in drink tokens for two on Tuesdays at your students’ union! 

The amount of time needed for study each day will vary depending on the skills with the subject matter. An average of two hours a day is what is recommended by academics, but what do they really know? It’s important to note that going to classes is just the beginning and the real work starts afterwards. 

Curious to know how to manage your time? Then check out our careers guide on
time management which has everything in it you will need to know when making and keeping to a study schedule.

And while you are taking a break, check out You can find your future job, internship or graduate scheme.

Studying in an appropriate setting:

Look, there’s no escaping it. Whetherspoons is not an appropriate study space. With that in mind, the right surroundings will help you greatly. Your study desk or table should be a quiet place – free from as many distractions as possible. 

Some experts claim that a useful study technique is studying in the same place. For example, when you sit down at the kitchen table, you expect to eat. When you sit down in an easy chair, you watch TV, etc. Developing the habit of studying in the same place could be useful for those who like to have a routine and/or get easily distracted, as it may help to find a place to improve your concentration. 


If the university library isn’t the place for you, then check out our blog for some great places to study in your area. 

Discover your learning style:

Amazing, after almost 14 years of education it’s at university that you discover what learning style best suits you. Well, it’s never too late. A key study technique is knowing which learning style helps you learn better. 

Below are three of the various learning styles used by students: 

  • Auditory learners prefer to learn by listening. Many students learn best by reading their notes aloud and discussing them with other people. So this may be a style that’s best suited to you. 


  • Visual learners prefer to learn by seeing. Yes! Seeing! But it’s not enough to just randomly stare at a page and hope you absorb all the information. Using colours in your notes and drawing images and diagrams helps represent key points. As a study technique, this helps many students as they might remember the key points and ideas as images.


  • Tactile/kinesthetic learners prefer to learn by doing. As a study technique, you revise key points by role-playing or building models.


Review and revise:

At least once a week you should go back over the things you’ve studied in class. Thinking things over can help you understand the concepts from your lectures. 


Take breaks:

A study technique that many overlook is the value of taking breaks. This is especially useful for when you’re feeling tired or frustrated. Working too long on a task can actually decrease your performance. 

When you take a break, make sure you get away from your desk or study space. A bit of physical exercise – even just a walk – can sometimes help you look at a problem in a different way


Ask for help:

If you’re stuck on something, or something just doesn’t seem to make sense, you can always ask for help. Talk to your lecturers or classmates about the things you don’t understand. What you might find is that it will help you understand concepts better and work as a memory improvement technique.


Stay motivated:

When you’re studying it helps to keep in mind your reasons for doing all this hard work, like a course or a career you’re working towards. Many students find that a useful study technique for them is to decorate their study space with inspirational quotes or photos of people. Not exactly studying itself, however, it could help you put in those extra (much needed) hours of work. 


App it up:

There are heaps of apps out there for helping students with all aspects of studying. From Evernote, Exam Countdown Lite or Flashcards+. It’s useful to ask your friends and lecturers about other study apps they would recommend or use. 

When it comes to studying it’s easy to get lost in notes and ideas. As a study technique, using apps when you are studying can help you build a mind map, create citations and work more efficiently.


Keeping a careful record of assignments:

Put it down in black and white – including the details – and keep it in your notebook. It’s important that you know exactly what you are doing and expected to do it is the first giant step toward completing important assignments successfully and on time. 


Look after yourself:

You’ll study better if you take care of yourself. As a student it is easy to overlook taking care of yourself and what it means to actually look after yourself. It’s important to make sure you eat well and get enough sleep and physical exercise. Not to reward yourself with too many sugary or fatty snacks or push yourself to study late into the night. Which is why this study technique is often overlooked or misunderstood.


Bonus tip: Don’t focus on one subject for too long! 

If you’ve never felt “burned out” from repeatedly studying pages of history notes, scrutinizing chemistry formulas, or practising music scales, consider yourself lucky. But know that the threat is real. As a university student, it’s very uncommon to have only one module in a term. Therefore, as a useful study technique, it’s best to vary your material rather than zeroing in persistently on one area. 


For better or for worse, studying is part of university life. It is also a technique that requires patience, practice and trial and error. As you think about study techniques that are right for you, consider the tips above and find out which study technique will help you get the most out of your university classes (both for the engaging and the not so engaging ones).