How to Study Well for Your Exams

advice for students
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By Oshitha Narangoda
Last updated on August 8, 2023

If you are planning to study in the USA, you may want to know how to score good marks. Developing good study habits — and knowing which study habits to avoid — can lead to student success.

A female international student with dark hair and glasses sits at a table holding a pen and taking an exam next to two other female students

Preparing for exams? For international students at US universities, learning how to study well can help you score good grades and build confidence when sitting for your exams. Whether you are preparing for an exam, quiz, or assignment, developing good study habits will improve your productivity and prepare you for student success.

What Are Good Study Habits?

The trick to studying well is to learn how to study smarter — not harder. Picking up good study habits and putting them into practice will help you accomplish your goals at your college or university and help you study efficiently. Here are some good habits and tips you can use when studying.

Discover what works best for you — Before you start studying, it is important to figure out what type of learner you are. You could be:

  • A visual learner who prefers to study by looking at information

  • An auditory learner who prefers to listen to information when studying

  • A kinesthetic learner who prefers hands-on learning, such as participating in activities or solving real-world problems

After identifying which type of learner you are, find the most impactful methods you can use to study. For example, if you are a visual learner, you can use graphs, diagrams, and mind maps, or even watch documentaries or videos relevant to the subject area you are studying. 

Choose the ideal place to study — You should sit in a place where you feel comfortable and will not be distracted. For example, if you choose to study in your TV room, you may not be able to focus because there are too many distractions. Make sure the place you study is quiet, and turn off or silence your phone while you work.

Create an outline of what you want to study and make short notes — Making an outline before you start studying helps you have a productive session. With an outline, you can extract and summarize the most important information. This is an effective method that will help you remember what you studied.

Practice what you studied with friends — If you learn better as part of a team, you can get together with friends and study as a group. This will not only motivate you to study well, but can also help you remember things faster.

Do not hesitate to ask for help — There are friends and professors who are willing to support you in your studies. If you are having difficulty understanding what you are studying, reach out to an expert (your professor, advisor, or staff at campus resource centers), and you will be well equipped to achieve your study goals!

What Are the Good Study Habits for Virtual Learning?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning has become part of students’ lives. Here are some good study habits you can use if you are studying remotely.

Give yourself time to get familiar with the new environment — It may take some time to adjust to online learning practices and expectations. A digital classroom is similar to a traditional classroom, but you may still find it unfamiliar, especially at first. So, make yourself comfortable with the new environment. Read through the course syllabus and familiarize yourself with your professors and course instructors. Make sure you meet the technical requirements of the course by checking your internet connection, and having the recommended or required equipment, such as a laptop, second monitor, and headphones.

Identify your goals and build a study plan — Before you start studying, identify your goals and objectives, and write them down. This way, you can keep track of the goals you identified and review them before you go through your course material. By building a study plan, you can prioritize your objectives and save time.

Stay motivated — When studying from home, it can be challenging to stay motivated as you progress through an online course. One way to stay motivated is to remember why you chose to start the course in the first place. Again, remember your goals and how the learning experience will help you reach them. Stay connected with your classmates and share learning tips with each other. If you feel confused, take a small break or reach out to someone you trust for advice.

How to Study Well During COVID-19

In times of uncertainty, it is OK to feel worried. However, by following good habits, you can study efficiently — even if you need to quarantine at home.

Here are some effective tips for studying well during the coronavirus pandemic.

Focus on your health first Staying healthy is your top priority. Do not forget to dedicate some time for self-care in your daily schedule. Focusing on your physical and mental well-being is as important as focusing on your studies. Take basic precautions: wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing. Keep in touch with people who care about you and take a break when needed.

Notify your family that you are studying — Remember what we said about distractions? That includes family. Let your household know when you are studying and ask them to give you space and to be quiet. This will help you focus more with fewer distractions.

Compliment yourself — You have made it so far, and you should feel proud of yourself for continuing your studies during the pandemic. Reward yourself by taking a break, reading a book you love, or indulging in a favorite treat.

What Are the Bad Study Habits You Need to Avoid?

As a student, you may be aware that bad habits can demotivate you and affect your productivity. Here are some common bad habits students should avoid.

Procrastinating — While being confident that you have enough time to study is not a bad thing, procrastinating and waiting until the last minute could affect your studies — especially when you are preparing for a final exam. There are various methods you can adopt to avoid procrastination, such as using apps to track your goals, asking someone to check up on your progress, creating a to-do-list, and reducing the time you spend on social media.

Choosing a distracting place to study — If the place you chose to study is distracting, you may find it difficult to concentrate. Whether it is a room or a coffee shop — choose a location with the right atmosphere for you to study.

Studying the night before a test — While you may be able to get through some tests using this method, it is a habit that will not work all the time. Studying the night before a test will not help you cover all the areas you need to focus on, and it may even make you feel tired. To avoid this, study and prepare in advance. Take a break before the day of your exam and relax. You can go for a run or listen to your favorite songs. Make sure you are refreshed and ready on the day of the test.

Not choosing the right people to study with — Choosing the right people who motivate you to study is important in performing well on your exams and completing your assignments. When you attend a group study session, make sure you and your study partners discuss relevant topics and stay focused.

Why Do Your Personal Health and Well-Being Matter When Studying?

Being in good health is important for facing daily challenges, focusing on your studies, and increasing your productivity. Both your mental and physical health are essential.

What Are Good Habits for Your Health and Well-Being?

Practice positivity You should always be your first priority. Be mindful of your emotions and moods, focus on having positive thoughts, and always remember to stay motivated.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle — Making healthy food choices, staying hydrated, exercising daily, and getting an adequate amount of sleep directly improve your health. By focusing on a healthy lifestyle, you will be more productive and feel energized.

Get a change of scenery — Studying may feel repetitive if you do not get a change of scenery once in awhile. Instead of always studying in the same place, you could go to a café or find a shady spot in your garden to relax. If traveling is not an option, go for a walk in your neighborhood and get some fresh air. A new environment — or just time away from your study area — may help you feel less stressed.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you — Find a circle of friends you admire, people who bring out the best in you and motivate you to achieve your goals.

Take a break in between your study sessions — Taking a few minutes away from your books helps you relax and process what you studied. With effective study breaks, you can complete your assignments or prepare for your exams with less stress.

Preparing for multiple exams, including your midterms or final exams, may seem overwhelming—especially during a pandemic. With many universities introducing virtual classrooms for their students, it may seem difficult to adapt to the new environment, but if you cultivate good study habits and avoid the bad habits students tend to have, you will get a head start on accomplishing your academic goals.

Good luck!

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