Begin early, plan ahead and study smarter – not harder

Begin early, plan ahead, and study smarter, not harder. The end of the school year is rapidly approaching. Preparation for final exams should begin now, in addition to keeping up with regular classroom work. Many students leave “cramming” for cumulative exams until the last weeks or days which creates unnecessary pressure.

Study Approach Matters

Researchers have found that how you mentally approach something matters almost as much as what you do. Having the right mindset is important in order to study smarter.

  • Aim to think positively when you study, and remind yourself of your skills and abilities.
  • Avoid pessimistic thinking such as “I’m a mess, I’ll never have enough time to study for this exam.” Refocus and redirect your thoughts to: “I may be a little late to study as much as I’d like, but since I’m doing it now, I’ll get most of it done.”
  • Avoid absolute thinking. Instead of thinking “I always mess things up,” the more objective view is, “I didn’t do so well that time, what can I do to improve?”
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others. You usually end up feeling worse about yourself.

Where You Study

Create an ideal study place. Don’t just pick your bedroom or the library as default. Everyone studies and learns differently, so take into account your needs and habits to create a space designated solely for studying. You can count on it for future years of study.

Tips to keep in mind for effective studying:

  •  Make a schedule you can stick to. A study schedule should show what tasks you need to accomplish and when you plan to accomplish each task. This will provide you with the structure you need for studying smarter.
  • Break large tasks into a series of smaller tasks so that you can complete one at a time. If you try to complete a large task all at once, you may feel overwhelmed and may be unable to maintain your concentration.
  • Try to study at the time of day you work best. Some people work well early in the morning, others late at night. You know what works best for you.
  • Start with the most difficult subject first. Your most difficult assignment or subject will require the most effort and mental energy. Once completed, it will feel easier to tackle the rest of your work.
  • Take breaks and build in rewards. Many students view studying as a chore. It’s human nature to avoid it. If you select rewards to help reinforce what you’re doing, you may be pleasantly surprised by the change you find in your attitude. Studying for 1 hour, and then taking a 5 minute break to grab a snack and stretch is usually more sustainable and enjoyable.
  • Survey Read each chapter heading, introductions and summaries to get the main idea.
  • Question Ask yourself questions which you hope to answer when you read.
  • Read Read each section, answering your questions and outlining the main points.
  • Recite Cover your notes and using key words, recall the main points.
  • Review Reread your notes and keep reciting.

Don’t forget to learn! Studying isn’t just about passing an exam. Studying should be an effort to learn things, some of which you might actually find that you care about. You may have to take your share of classes that have little or nothing to do with your interests. However, you should still look for interesting information to take away from every experience.

Students who achieve high grades and success have usually developed and applied effective study habits. If you want to become a successful student, don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up. Work to develop solid study habits and you’ll be studying smarter. This will certainly pay off in the future!

Shannon Horton, Ontario Certified Teacher and mother of two, is the Peel Branch Manager for Qualified Tutors Inc. Her team of “hand-selected” tutors provide in-home tutoring from JK to University. (647) 478-6252,,

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