There is an art to studying. To do it well requires a number of skills. For example, how do you make a good study schedule; how do you deal with large amounts of study material; how do you prepare for lectures and how do you ensure that you are well prepared exams? These are all questions you will face when you start studying.

To help you on your way, we’ve prepared a few tips that will help you answer them:


At university, you will have to deal with large amounts of subject matter and many activities. A well-designed study schedule is indispensable. A good schedule will provide you with a clear overview of your obligations and the peace of mind to enjoy your time off without the nagging guilt that comes from not knowing whether you should be studying.

To create your schedule, first you must determine exactly how much time you can set aside for studying between now and the time of your next exam.

  • Determine how much material you need to study and try to break the larger subjects down into smaller chunks.  Spread the entirety of the subject matter out over the weeks and days of preparation time available to you. Also schedule some time towards the end for review, so that when exam time rolls around, all the subject matter will be fresh in your mind.
  • Split large assignments, such as writing a paper, into smaller mini-assignments, and be sure to allow for setbacks and delays by scheduling more time than you think you’ll need. Start early (even if it feels too early), so that you can learn by experience how long it takes you to complete large assignments. This way, you avoid running into trouble if any part of the assignment takes longer than expected.
  • Schedule realistically; it’s all very well planning a long Sunday of studying, but when you strongly suspect you’ll spend Saturday night at a party, and most of Sunday in recovery, then it’s better to allow for that ahead of time. Create your schedule in a way that keeps your study goals attainable even when life interferes.
  • To get a better idea of how much time you’ll need to complete certain study assignments, it may be useful to maintain a study log in which you record how much time each (partial) assignment took you. This will help you create more realistic schedules in future.
  • Try to avoid distractions. It may prove beneficial, for instance, to put your mobile out of reach before you sit down to study.Before you engage with the subject matter or start your assignment, consider which parts of it you find most interesting and what you hope to gain from your efforts.
  • You may find it motivating to reward yourself for completing your studies on schedule. Promise yourself a day engaged in your favourite pastime if you finish in time. It is essential, anyway, that you allow yourself time for relaxation.
Studying texts

During your studies, you are likely to encounter vast amounts of text. When you do, it is vitally important that you are able to structure large texts. Writing your own summary can be helpful in this regard. In your summary, you should write down (a schematic of) the main and side issues of the text, leaving out as much as you can of the examples and any repetition. Detailing and distinguishing between the main and side issues will help you understand the structure of the text. When writing a summary, it may be useful to take notes in the margins of the text as you go.

Schematically summarising a text or mind mapping is a worthwhile effort: it contributes to your understanding of the text and will be useful later on, when you’re preparing for the exam.

In groups of two or three, sit down to discuss the content you’ve reviewed and come up with new examples to clarify the theory. This, too, contributes to your understanding and retention of texts.

Lecture Preparation

There is a reason that so many lectures have mandatory attendance. They clarify and contextualise the subject matter and offer the opportunity to ask questions.

To optimally prepare yourself for a lecture, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the required reading and any previously treated subject matter. Creating a summary or mind map of the text(s) is a useful tool for achieving this. If anything seems unclear in the text, trust that it will be addressed in the lecture or that you will be able to ask questions during or after the lecture. It may be advisable to review your notes from the previous lecture if the upcoming lecture will cover similar material.

It is impossible to retain all the information offered in a lecture. That is why you should take notes. Pay special attention at the start and end of the lecture, as the overall structure is often announced at the start and the end usually offers a summary or conclusion.

Not a swift writer? Write down key words or phrases. Even these will prove helpful when you review the PowerPoint presentation of the lecture later on. Don’t attempt to transcribe the whole lecture. Instead, try to distinguish between the main issue and any side issues. It is a good idea to leave marks in your notes that create a clear visual distinction between the issues, the examples, and things like references to the literature.

Exam Preparation

To do well on an exam, you must discover exactly what is being demanded of you. Consider the goals of the course. What do they require? Is it mostly analysis or the ability to connect snippets of information? Whatever ability is required, you should use the subject matter to practice that ability. Also look at the exam criteria and decide how they connect to what you have previously learned in the course (and your studies in general). How much practice have you had at doing what the exam criteria require? You should also consider the level at which you must meet these criteria; is the ability to describe the theory enough or should you be able to apply the theory to new problems? These things matter when you’re preparing for an exam.

Academic integrity

Accuracy and integrity are the foundation of science. Utrecht University helps you to get the best out of yourself and your study programme. This means, among other things, that you will acquire knowledge about scrupulousness science and academic integrity as part of your curriculum. The Academic integrity checklist will support you with this. The checklist provides some concrete tips about writing a paper, conducting research and working with other students. The checklist also shows that ‘academic integrity’ is about much more than fraud and plagiarism.

Additional assistance and useful links

Educational Development and Training
If you have doubts about the way you study or if you experience problems in your studies, help is available at Educational Development and Training (part of the Utrecht University Centre for Teaching and Learning).

Useful links
There is a lot of useful information online that can help you to improve your study strategies and skills.


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