Once you’ve reached graduate school, it is easy to assume you know everything you need to about studying. After all, you’ve made it this far, right? The reality is that there is always room for improvement in everything we do. When we move past undergrad, many of us find that our workload and adult responsibilities start quickly growing. Eventually we have to face the fact that relying on sheer willpower and the ability to operate on four hours of sleep can only get us so far. There are only 24 hours in a day and if we want to be able to maximize our impact, we must figure out how to study smarter and not just harder.
I try to approach my studies looking for activities that give me the greatest return on investment, or ROI. Over the years I’ve encountered a lot of great advice, and the way I study now looks completely different from how I studied a year ago. After lots of trials and tribulations, these are my most-used techniques to “study smarter, not harder”:
#1 Use Textbook Reading Techniques
This is something I only just learned how to do because when I was in my English undergraduate program, we didn’t have textbooks, only novels! Luckily my boyfriend goes to the Bush School and has hundreds of pages of reading a week, so he was able to teach me the keys to getting the most out of your textbook readings. Before you do you first full read-through, read the introduction, learning objectives, all of the headings and the conclusion. Remember, there are no spoilers in a textbook and figuring out what the main concepts are will help you fully comprehend the text the first time.
#2 Outline Your Readings As You Go
This goes hand in hand with the last tip. While you’re going through each heading, write each of them into an outline so you can fill it out with the most important details while you’re doing your read through. Some people might find it more beneficial to only write down the most essential things and skip the headings, but if you’re like me and have a hard time organizing your notes this can be a lifesaver!
#3 Use Audiobooks
If you have the fortune to be assigned novels for your readings, they almost certainly come in audiobook form. Again, this advice probably is partially related to my history as an English major, because most textbooks don’t come in audiobook form. However if you’ve been assigned a nonfiction book that would be available in say, a Barnes and Noble there is a good chance you’ll be able to find it in audiobook form. I no longer get assigned novels, but I have found two of my assigned book on audiobook this semester: a history book and a book on America’s teachers. Not only can I listen to the material on 2x speed, I can also listen to it while I do chores around the house. Just make sure you pay attention to your comprehension and make sure you aren’t getting distracted from the audio.
I hope this has been helpful for anyone out there wondering how they can approach their studies more effectively! And let us know in the comments: what are some of the techniques you use to study smarter?
Jessica is a masters student in the Education & Human Development's Teaching, Language, and Culture department.