3 Study Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The last minute rush

Many of us are guilty of leaving our studying to the last minute. You can stop yourself falling into the trap right now. Create a timetable of the two weeks leading up to your exams - download a free template here. You can adjust this depending on how far away your exams are and how long they will be. Add in all your activities. Leave time for shopping, buying food, returning library books etc. Now you will know the actual amount of time you have. How many hours is it? Fill out the free hours with available study time. Remember to put in some fun activities; the biggest advantage of planning ahead allows you time for relaxing which will make your studying much more effective.

Having a definitive amount of time (and seeing it diminish) is a lot more motivating for most people than just knowing ‘not to leave it to the last minute’.


We all know this one. Be it checking Facebook, watching TV, chatting with parents or friends or some other thing. Often things you would never bother with if you actually had free time, but somehow they become fascinating when you’re supposed to be studying. Here are some simple steps you can take to cut down on procrastination and distraction:

  • Download Self-Restraint – a free program to block Facebook, Twitter and any other websites you know will distract you.
  • Put your phone somewhere else, or in aeroplane mode, if you can bear it. Do put it in another room, and not in a social space so if you do crack and check it you won’t then be drawn into a conversation.
  • Be strict with your breaks, this will help you be strict with your study time. For example, work for 25 minutes and have a break for 5. Stick to only working for 25 minutes and you will be more focused in that time. Set a timer if you need to.

Once you develop your ability to focus, procrastination will become less and less of an issue.

Trying to learn things the wrong way

Learning by rote (memorization technique based on repetition) is probably the worst possible way of trying to remember anything, even for unconnected subjects. If you are doing this, stop now! The key to effective learning is: always connect new information to what you already know. This is the secret of all the fastest learners.

How do you do it? There are several methods. Which one you should use depends on the type of information and on your personal learning style. There are instructions on the most effective (and some unusual) methods in my book, The Stress-Free Study Guide. One of the simplest but most effective methods is to use similes and metaphors, and these aren't confined to literature studies.

The simplest way to use this method is simply to look for things that remind you of what you already know; it doesn’t matter if the comparisons are obscure comparisons. For example, comparing a concept in biology - like cell replication - with something you know about computer games or the interactions between the characters of Pride and Prejudice. You might think of a group of connected mathematical equations as a family - maybe a dysfunctional or comedy family like The Simpsons.

Better study skills lead to better grades, and normally less stress too. If you found this article helpful, consider downloading my book. You don't need a Kindle, you can read it on your phone with this free app.

This post was kindly contributed by Matthew Thomas. He is an expert in learning and stress management, and author and founder at www.stressintofocus.com.



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