Effective Study Tips for Grad Students

Posted on the 18 January 2017 by Krickeyb

Hello hello! With the semester well underway, it is time to share some of my effective study tips for grad students. The advice I share is not limited to graduate students, but it has helped me during my experience thus far. I have changed my study habits significantly since beginning graduate school. As an undergraduate student, I studied far less than I do now. (I studied during my undergrad, I was just adamant on having a social life, too, haha.)

Disclaimer: These study tips are what work for ME! We all learn/study differently. My hope is that someone out there can benefit from these tips that have proven to work in my career as a student.

  1. Study Tips

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    Utilize books over computers! If you need the computer, save any reading material as a PDF or print the necessary documents so you are less tempted to go on Facebook, YouTube, or another distracting website. *Sub-tip: Turn off the wi-fi or block any sites that can become a distraction. Try an app that can temporarily block websites to essentially force you to study, haha. I would use the app, Cold Turkey. I’ve become more disciplined these days and use the app far less.

  2. Take breaks! Although this may be an obvious tip, it is one I have to remind myself often. I can sit at my desk for hours and not realize how much time has passed. I will skip meals, my legs can fall asleep, and I can even put off using the bathroom. That is NOT good for you. Be sure to allow time for breaks. Eat, take a power nap, walk around and get the blood flowing, and of course, use the bathroom. Use breaks as an incentive, too.
  3. Study for 30 to 40 minutes at a time. This kind of goes with taking breaks. Our brain can only absorb so much information at once. Study a chapter. Take a break. Study another chapter. Take a break. I have found that exercising for twenty minutes during my break helps increase my concentration when I begin studying again. Give that a shot.
  4. Study Tips

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    Go somewhere that is not distracting. If I could study at the library every single day, I would. Sometimes I need to be at home, though. With that being said, I always study at a desk. I rarely am in bed or a living room where I can either fall asleep or be distracted by electronics.

  5. Lighting is key. To piggy back off going somewhere with little distraction, I recommend having great lighting. Low lights make me sleepy. Too much light also strains my eyes. Find the lighting that works best for you. If possible remain consistent with that lighting.
  6. Get enough sleep. I know this one can be really tough. Trust me. I get it. Between my mind racing in bed about assignments coming up or simply having a million things to do in a mere 24 hour period… sleeping at least 8 hours seems nearly impossible. Try your hardest to get as much sleep as possible. If you need to (and are capable), take a power nap during the day.
  7. Ask questions! If you have a question about an assignment or readings, ask your professor or a fellow classmate. Don’t be intimidated. What’s the worst that can happen? A group of gals from my previous classes and I have a group chat where we occasionally ask each other questions. No one feels judged or embarrassed because we all want to succeed. Your professors are there to help you. If not, you may need to reevaluate the school you chose.
    Study Tips

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  8. Find a technique and stick with it. I have tried many study techniques. I found the best way to study for me was to utilize different colored pens, sticky notes, and reading aloud. Every so often, I will turn a study playlist on LOW to help me remember any topics I struggle to understand.
  9. Drink water, eat healthy. Another tough one, I know. It is so tempting to grab a box of oreos and down some red bulls to give you energy. Here’s the thing, though, all of those will make you crash… HARD. Utilize those breaks to do some sit ups, walk around the room, body weight squats, and other exercises to help you wake up. I always have at least a 32 oz tumbler of water, a cup of coffee, and healthy snacks when studying. Just remember, if you are going to have coffee, drink an amount that won’t negatively affect your sleep. If you are falling asleep while studying, your body may be telling you it is time to rest. Close your eyes and wake up fresh, ready to continue studying (even if it is a power nap).
  10. Make a realistic checklist. Nothing is more satisfying than checking off a task on your to do list. It has to be realistic, though. I try to make checklists by time of day. One for the morning and one for the evening. My spirits are always lifted when I check that final task off in the morning. I take a nice break at lunch, go to yoga, or do whatever makes me feel refreshed for the afternoon tasks.  

Each of these tips are easy to adjust. Make them work for you, your schedule, and your preferences. Enlist a friend to assist you if necessary. I am always reaching out to friends, classmates, and professors on how to better prepare myself for class. School doesn’t have to be miserable.

Completely unwarranted life lesson from a married woman #38: Take the time to invest in your studies and you will reap the benefits. I promise you will even have time to socialize, even if it is briefly through Facebook messenger or texting. Work hard to play hard. 

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