It’s a couple of days before the exam (maybe even the Saturday before the big test on Monday) and you are staring at that thick textbook just lying there in front of you. The book seems like a slab of granite – immovable, oppressive, and weighing you down.

How do you start studying? How do you keep it up? How do you succeed, and how do you make studying more enjoyable?

I’ve been a student myself (a couple of times, actually). Studying is hard, I know. But you can make it easier for yourself.

I looked back at what helped me succeed. I searched far and wide and did some research, and I came up with a list of 10 tips, tricks and techniques that will help you get through.

So here we go!

Make summaries

I know, it’s even more work that you’ll need to do. But you will be extremely grateful that you made the effort in the end! Summarise your course content using headings, subheadings and bullet-points.

Summarising will help you in 2 important ways:

  • It will help you internalise the work as you put it in your own words.
  • It will make it easier and faster for you to study the work, as you will have short synopses of the course content.

Make summaries as you go through the work the first time. Then, when exams come, you are going to have a much easier time studying and revising.

Learn the concepts first

It is important that you grasp general concepts before learning the details.

If you try to memorise details without fully understanding how they fit into the theme or topic, you are most likely going to forget them!

Understanding the general concept first will allow your brain to remember the details and facts as they relate to it.

Change location

This is a great tip that often worked for me. Tired of studying? Change your scenery. Go study in a park, at a coffee shop, or even just in another room. Go get some fresh air, and take your books with you!

Not only will this refresh your mind, but studies have shown that changing locations increases your likelihood of remembering things you learn. Memory is connected to environment.

This is also a benefit of distance learning, as it affords you the opportunity to study wherever you want and wherever you feel most comfortable.

Study with someone

This is one of the fears that most correspondence students have: the fear of studying alone. But just because you aren’t in a classroom with peers, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from studying with someone! Ask a friend or family member to quiz you on your work.

And if you get stuck, College SA provides an excellent student support system that you can use: e-mail, Skype, or call your tutor for help.

Find your study method

I used to draw little pictures in the margins of my notes to help me retain the information. Some people benefit from drawing diagrams or mind maps.

If you are struggling to keep the information in your head, maybe you just haven’t figured out which approach suits you best.

Remember: You aren’t necessarily bad at memorising things – you are mostly likely just using a study method that isn’t working for you!


This is a great motivational tool. Set yourself daily study goals. Then determine how many study sessions you’ll need each day, and how much you’ll need to learn in each session.

This will help you overcome procrastination, as well as allow you to pace yourself for greater ease and relaxation. You’ll feel much more prepared when you’ve got some structure in your study routine.

Reward yourself

If you keep to your goals, reward yourself. This is a great way to stay motivated and disciplined.

Take breaks

Don’t exhaust yourself in one session. The rule is 15 minute breaks every hour. But this rule is more of a guideline: you can make your own schedule. I used to take a 15 minute break every half an hour, in fact!

Find a pace that works for you, and then stick to it!

Get enough sleep

Too many students cram for exams the night before. This is not a great idea, as the more tired you are, the less information your mind will retain.

Make sure you get enough sleep during your study time, as well as the night before the exam.

And again: don’t only sleep! Remember to stick to your study schedule.

Enjoy it!

I’ve been roommates with a number of different students – all studying an array of different courses. One thing I noticed is that studying was easier for those who enjoyed their subjects. This is why you should choose a study direction that you are actually interested in! What is the point of studying a subject if you don’t actually enjoy the work?

Do you really want to make a career out of something you don’t like? You don’t have to! Find your passion, and studying will become much easier.

Once last thing… 
Don’t stress so much! Stress will not only hamper your memory retention, but will often paralyse you when you actually need to be studying.

So, take a deep breath. Relax. And remember: