As you all know (because I mention it at the beginning of every post 🙂 haha sorry) I am in the midst of studying for the bar exam. Studying this time around is far more difficult than the last time particularly when it comes to setting aside the necessary time to study while working a full time job. These additional responsibilities make it necessary for me to reevaluate my study habits, and incorporate all of the habits that made me a successful student.
This post is for all the students out there: full time, part time, students with kids, students who are married, all of you. Keep reading for my top 10 study tips.
1. Figure out what kind of a learner you are.
This is super important because certain study styles/habits don’t work for certain people. I am a visual learner. Which means my study habits include charts, pictorial depictions and a lot of reinforcement/repetition through writing. If you’re not a visual learner then it’s possible that my tips won’t be the best for you. So figure out your learning style and I guarantee you success will follow.
2. Choose your study space wisely.
A great study space does not necessarily mean being in a corner of the library. What conditions do you concentrate well in? Do you work well in silence, or are you the kind of person that gets antsy in quiet spaces? Do you need background noise, music, or the chatter of people? Are you easily distracted at home?
If you need silence to focus then the library or an empty classroom at school really is for you. If you need some sort of background noise then maybe find a small table at a café, or group study spaces. If you’re not easily distracted at home (not tempted to do laundry, or play with your cat, or organize your closet) then stay home and get your work done there!
3. Set a time.
This is a concept that I am now incorporating into my studies. Up until now I’ve always been a full time student. I essentially built in study times into my schedule between all of my classes, internships, club meetings, and part-time job. Now that I work a full time job I have to work a lot harder at setting aside the necessary time to study.
It is important that you set a time and stick to I. I decided that I would stay after work for 3 1/2 hours every day to study. I give myself Wednesdays off, and I study from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. I allow my Sundays to be very relaxed. This freaks me out a little bit because I feel as if I need to be studying all day in order to pass. But the reality of the situation is that when I was studying all day, I wasn’t actually studying all day. I was talking with friends, taking food breaks, etc. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Incentives (You’re a human not a robot).
Many times you tell yourself you’re going to study for 3 hours. But you end up spending 30 minutes on Instagram, 10 minutes on Facebook, 5 minutes daydreaming, 15 minutes grabbing a snack. These little breaks eat away at your actual study time. You can avoid this by creating incentives for yourself. Here’s what I do:
Instagram break: 5:45-5:50
Study: 5:50 – 6:30
Pack up: 8:25-8:30
I know this seems a little much, but it really helps me to not binge on social media while I’m studying. Why? I’m not sure if there is some sort of science behind this. I just know that I really focus during my “on” times. And I know that I retain much more information when I don’t randomly stop studying to check whether or not Kim K has finally posted a pic of Saint’s face.
5. Set Goals.
This one is easy. Before you start studying know what it is you want to go over/learn. Really self evaluate. If there is an area you know you don’t know well make the decision to attack that concept during that specific study session. Additionally, leave your comfort zone. I know that I’m guilty of quizzing and reviewing areas that I already know. It gives me a little bit of an ego boost to get the answers right. But you’re not doing yourself any favors. Focus on the areas you suck at and turn them into the areas you’re the best at.
6. Read Actively.
If you have to go back and reread a sentence 5 times because you were busy imagining how satisfying it would be to pay off your student loans after winning the $1.3 billion Powerball jackpot, then you’re probably not actively reading. You’re goal is to conceptualize and understand every sentence as you’re reading it.
Pro Tip: Read through a paragraph then go back and highlight the take away (or rule) from that paragraph. That way you’re reinforcing the information you’ve just read. And you’ve identified the most important information for your later studies.
7. Practice Multiple Choice.
Some professors will make past exams available to you. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! It’s the perfect example of the kind of questions your professor is likely to ask, and the way that they’re likely to phrase those questions. It will show you what kind of information you need to be studying. Will your professor ask you to list specific rules? Or will he/she focus on the theory behind the subject? Which should you study? Both? This is why practicing on past exams will help you!
8. Practice Essays.
The reasoning behind doing practice essays is essentially the same as doing practice multiple choice questions. It gives you a glimpse into what your professor is likely to ask. However, I also believe that doing essays is a better test of your knowledge on a subject. If you can successfully articulate the subject matter you’re being tested on, then you really know the subject matter.
With multiple choice questions it’s easy to get to the answer by process of elimination. Or seeing the right answer is a good trigger of the material. But having to come up with the answer, whether it be a rule or factors, yourself and to articulate the reasoning behind the answer is a great way to see how much of the subject matter you actually know.
9. Learn from your mistakes.
After taking practice essays/multiple choies questions read the right answer. Even if you get the answer right review the explanation and WRITE OUT the explanation. Why? Because, even if you got the question correct, there could be some sort of reasoning or explanation behind the right answer that you weren’t aware of that may be an important aspect to the writer of the test. If you got it wrong, reading and writing out the right answer reinforces the information and makes it less likely that you’ll get it wrong again.
At the end of every study session talk out what you learned from start to finish. “Today I learned that…” Talk out some of the answers you got wrong, “…this isn’t this, it’s actually this…” or “in these situations don’t apply this, apply this instead…”. Whatever it is that you learned talk it out. And do this away from your study area. I usually talk out what I learned on my drive home. I think it’s important to reiterate things outside of my study zone. I don’t know why, but it really does help me.
Remember that you are so much more than your grade/GPA. In the long run those things are not as big a deal as your professors make it out to be. You’re all amazing intelligent human beings. As long as you’re doing your best you’ll be successful!
Okay guys, I know that was a little bit lengthy. I hope that all of these tips are helpful to you on your educational journey!