Are your notes lying around until right before the exam? Or are you working really hard, but you just barely pass your tests? You can be more efficient! With the study tips below you will study smarter and more effectively and go into a lecture well-prepared. Also, check out our handy study apps that can support you while studying! Curious how you can improve your personal study approach? Schedule an appointment with a study coach from the Skills Lab.
Get the most out of your lectures
Go through the PowerPoint of the lecture in advance. No PowerPoint available? Then check the course manual for information on the content of the lecture, review the notes from the previous lecture or skim through the literature of the lecture. There is no need to go through all the material thoroughly before the lecture. If you know in advance what is going to be discussed, you can listen with more focus and important information will be more likely to stick.
- Take notes (in keywords or short sentences). Make a distinction between main points and secondary points and write down conclusions instead of individual facts. Difficult to make this distinction? Try to find a central thread in the material and pay close attention to what the teacher says. Can't figure it out? You may want to ask the teacher what the main points are.
- Use arrows and colors to make connections clear.
- Pay extra attention at the beginning and the end of the lecture: the content of the lecture is indicated at the beginning of the lecture and a conclusion or summary is indicated at the end.
- Go through your notes after the lecture. Ten minutes can be enough for this. Organize your notes, check whether you understand everything and what you still need to figure out.
Watch the 'Effective note-taking' video to learn how to get the most out of your notes.
Attending or replaying a lecture at home can be pretty tough. You are likely to be more distracted at home than in a lecture hall. Therefore, make sure your workspace is quiet, with sufficient light and ventilation. If you need to review a recorded lecture, choose a time when you know you will be at your most productive: after all, this kind of lecture takes a lot of concentration.
It helps to make watching the lecture more active, for example by breaking it up into half-hour chunks, by actively taking notes, and by constantly asking yourself whether you understand what your (digital) lecturer is saying. Go over your notes after these online lectures as well, as you can read above under the heading about taking notes!
Get the most out of your online lecture with the study tips from Educational Development & Training.
Studying also means doing a lot by yourself, at home, or in the library. But what is a sensible self-study activity? First, establish the purpose of your self-study. There are six: memorise, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create. Each goal requires a different approach.
Try to spread out your self-study time as best you can: no one can make themselves useful like a robot for eight hours in a row, especially if you have to do strenuous tasks like reading your study material. Make blocks of about 30 to 45 minutes and take breaks in between.
Reading is best when it is question-based. That means that before you start reading you ask yourself questions. What is the purpose of this text? How does the text fit the subject matter? How does this text compare to last week's? In this way, you focus on the essentials, and your reading immediately becomes more active because you are engaged in a kind of search!
More information on effective reading and reading strategies can be found in the video 'Read faster, remember more'.
University is often about understanding and making connections between topics. You can make these clear by making a mind map. Some think this is a gross word, but making one really helps a lot with understanding how all the material you read is connected!
Would you like to study with other students at the same time or could you use some peer pressure to get started and keep going? Join the 'Study Community' on the Uni-Life app! Place a call in the chat or hook up with other students from this group and get to work together.
The community consists of:
- Studying simultaneously with other students in an accessible way
- Motivate each other by working together
- For and by students
Language of instruction: English and Dutch
Duration and frequency: Ongoing
Platform: Uni-Life app
- Get up on time, preferably around the same time every day, and agree with yourself what time you start your tasks. Do you find this difficult? Maybe you can agree with roommates, family members or friends to have breakfast together (digitally) or do a day start where you update each other on the goals for the day.
- Working together with friends or fellow students in the UB or digitally via Teams can help you be more productive. The UB also offers group study rooms books.
- You're not alone! People around you probably also find it difficult to get motivated to work every day. Therefore, support and help each other. Make arrangements with roommates about noise free study hours, start an (online) study group with fellow students, talk through your schedule with family members, join roommates for breakfast or sports at a set time. Schedule a set time to talk with (a) friend(s) about how things are going: this gives rhythm and it helps to blow off some steam.
Know what is expected of you: Check the course objectives in the course description. What is asked of you?
Check whether you have mastered the objectives based on the content of the study material.
Read the criteria of the test and think about how they relate to what you have learned in the course (and the rest of your studies) so far.
Also consider the level to which you need to meet the criteria: do you need to be able to articulate the theory, or do you need to be able to apply it to a new problem? How to find out and how to best prepare can be found among the study tips of Educational Development & Training.
How do I make a good study plan?
For long-term planning, divide the total study material over the available weeks/days that you can devote to preparation. Divide large assignments into sub assignments and plan in some extra time! Also be realistic: party on the weekend? Take it into account!
Want to know how to make a realistic plan? Watch the video and the step-by-step plan 'Plan like a pro' or visit the website of Educational Development & Training for tips.
- Your phone can be a great source of distraction. Turn off notifications as much as possible, put your phone on silent and put it out of sight while you are working.
- Take a moment to list what your biggest distractions are and what you can do about them. For example, imagine what happens the moment you sit down at your desk. Too much noise? Discuss it with your roommates/family members and make arrangements with each other. Maybe studying in the UB or another quiet place will help you. Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can also help. Are you somehow quickly ending up on Netflix, youtube, insta, etc.? Just like for apps, blockers exist for websites. They are often easy to install and prevent you from accessing certain sites within a certain amount of time.
- Breaks and free time are critical to staying in good shape for long-term study. Do breaks and free time slip by quickly? Then see if you can plan them consciously.
- Take a real break. Put your work away, close your laptop, eat consciously and do something fun. A walk outside often works wonders.
- Study a maximum of 6 days a week and a maximum of 2 parts of a day (for example, morning and afternoon, or afternoon and evening).
- Stop on time, even if you were less productive than hoped, and make sure you can start fresh the next day. Get some exercise after work, such as by incorporating a yoga, walking or running session. This will clear your mind and re-energize you.
- Loafing and napping is not bad at all! Alan Lightman, professor at MIT, writes in "In Praise of Wasting Time" that there is nothing wrong with taking a nice long break or not studying for a day. It's best to store that somewhere in the back of your mind.
- Working from home in your pajamas can lower your motivation and productivity. Do you often find yourself in your togs and notice that this gets you into relaxation mode? Then put on clothes in which you normally go to the university or the library. That way, you can keep work and home well separated even at home.
- If possible, try to set up a separate place to work. That way you can keep work and leisure separate more easily as well.
- Read through the study tips. In this guide - compiled by teachers from Education Advice & Training - we answer seven questions that can help you keep yourself and your studies on track. Among other things, read more about procrastination, proper planning and meaningful self-study activities.
Other reasons why studying isn't going so well?
There are times when studying just doesn't seem to work out, for example when you procrastinate. You check your e-mail, grab a drink and fiddle around a bit more, only to close your laptop after an hour or so. These four questions about procrastination will help. You will find out what a good first step would be to get going again. Sometimes it's about first figuring out what you actually need to do, it helps to make a schedule or work out other more personal issues.
You can do this alone, for example with pen and paper, but also together with a conversation partner. Think of a friend, classmate or family member and ask well. Study coaches from the Skills Lab can also help you with this.
You may find that you need something other than study tips. Would you like advice or guidance on study-related or personal questions? Then know that you can turn to different people within the university for guidance or an interview.