How to Focus on Studying so You Succeed on Your Next Test

Written by Nicholas Crusie — November 01, 2020

How to Focus on Studying so You Succeed on Your Next Test

College is an amazing time, as you likely already know. It’s a complete lifestyle change, and for many, the first time being away from home. With this expanded freedom, however, comes (you guessed it) more responsibility. 

One of the most difficult things facing new college students is proper time management. While there are many ways to stay busy while you’re in school, you’re there to learn, and that requires a fair amount of study time. Fitting in study time between extracurriculars, games, parties, and classes can seem overwhelming. 

At CordaRoy’s, our best advice for making sure you get in enough study time is to plan, plan, and plan some more. Scheduling in your study time helps keep you on track and ensures you are prepared when it’s time to take a test. Getting a failing grade on a college exam can set you back and even cause you to repeat a class, which will cost you a great deal of time and money. 

If you find you’re having trouble staying focused even when you do set aside adequate time for studying, we can help. Studying is more than cracking open the book. It’s kind of like preparing for a date: you’ve got to set the mood! If your study digs aren’t conducive to reading, critical thinking, and retaining information, your entire study session will be a waste.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to spend a bunch of money or spend extra time creating an environment that helps you focus so you can succeed on your next test. You just need to prepare yourself mentally, find a good spot, and commit to making your study time exactly what it is: study time only. Here’s how.

Schedule Your Time

Are you most alert in the morning? Do you hit a mid-afternoon slump? Are you only able to study in the evenings because of your class schedule? Ideally, you want your study time to coincide with the time of day you feel most alert. However, that’s not always possible when you’re limited by class times. Here’s how to carve out study time in your day.

  1. Get your schedule on paper. Or on your phone; whatever works for you. You just need to be able to visually see what hours are available in your day. Don’t forget to ensure enough time to sleep (we promise that you really do need it).

  2. Block out times that you absolutely cannot study. These can be class times, extra-curricular times, and times of the day when you know you’ll be extremely unlikely to study, even if you plan it (we’re looking at you, Friday night). 

  3. Schedule your study time in one-hour blocks to remain most effective. Research shows that studying a particular subject for three hours per week, broken up into one hour sessions, is most effective in helping you retain information better. 

Once you’ve gotten your study time blocked out, you need to commit to it. You can have a better time staying committed if you have a dedicated place you go to study. While you can always check out the library or other student common areas, they may not be available when you need them, and they will likely not be the quietest and most distraction-free areas on campus. 

Create The Study Space

You can create a simple study space in your dorm room or apartment, even if it’s small and shared with other people. You only need a few simple things to make the most out of a study space. 

  1. Good lighting. Look for the area of your room that has the most natural light. If you can sit near a window, that’s ideal. If your study time has you hitting the books after dark, just ensure you have a good lamp that gives off bright light. Soft, dim light can cause your brain to release melatonin, which can make you sleepy. 

  2. A comfortable and supportive chair. You don’t want a chair that’s too hard or one that’s so soft it offers zero support. You need a chair that’s perfectly cushiony for long hours of sitting but not so structured you aren’t free to reposition.

    A great option for study-time seating is a bean bag chair, and no, we don’t mean the ones your parents had growing up, filled with tiny polystyrene beads. Today’s bean bag chairs are not only attractive (no plastic coverings, we promise), they’re extremely comfortable and available in numerous sizes, so you can easily fit one in any size room. 

  3. Quiet or ambient noise. If your dorm room is anything but quiet, investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones is not a bad consideration. Whether you work better with light music or complete silence, noise-canceling headphones can help drown out voices so you can focus better.

  4. Proper tools. Don’t come to the party empty-handed. Make sure you have everything you need before you sit down. This can include calculators, tablets, notebooks, textbooks, snacks, drinks, pencils, and anything else you may need while studying. The more times you have to get up to get something you forget, the more opportunities there are for you to become distracted and waste time you could be studying.

    Once you’re distracted, it’s much harder to jump back in and refocus.

    If you’re planning to watch media while you study, you need a good device holder that allows you to use your device hands-free. A good device holder should be able to hold any device in either portrait or landscape position safely and securely, even if it is in a heavy, rubberized case. 

  5. Limited distraction from social media and/or phone calls and texts. Unless you’re using your smartphone to study, you should definitely opt to turn it off completely or place it on airplane mode. Nothing can derail your study time faster than a “quick” glance at social media or responding to a few texts. You know how it goes; twenty minutes go by with nothing to show for it. 

    Although studies have shown that it’s possible to still listen to a professor while scrolling social media in a class, the evidence is still lacking, and it’s nearly impossible to focus on reading material while you’re trolling hashtags. 

Prepare Your Mind

You don’t have to take an hour of hot yoga before you study, but you should have some kind of practice to quiet your mind and prepare you to focus prior to studying. It’s important that you pause before studying to ensure you aren’t focusing on other stressors that can occupy your mind while you attempt to digest study material. 

Here are some tips on how to prepare yourself mentally for your study session.

  • Release anxiety and stress. If you’re feeling stressed, it can have an impact on your study time. Before you begin studying, phone a friend or loved one to talk about what’s on your mind. Connecting with others can help you feel grounded and safe when things seem overwhelming.
  • Practice a quick meditation. If you’ve never practiced meditation before, it can seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. Simply sitting still with your eyes closed for a brief three to four minutes can help clear your mind and center your consciousness. You can find some great guided meditation apps for your smartphone, which are great for beginners and can help you learn the art of meditating on your own.
  • Have a coffee. Caffeine can help keep you alert and focused while you study, which can make your study time more productive. If you feel lethargic or just a little distracted, a small cup of coffee can help bring about the laser focus you need to crank out an assignment or study more effectively.
  • Take care of hunger pangs. If you’re hungry, grab something to eat. Being hungry will only cause you to be distracted while you study. If it’s been a few hours since you hit the cafeteria, consider heading there first or eating a decent-sized snack before opening your textbook.
  • Set a clear study time intention. What do you want to accomplish during this study session? Write it down on paper so you can keep focused on your goal. Don’t overwhelm yourself; you aren’t going to comprehend the whole of quantum physics in an hour. Set an achievable goal, like covering a chapter of material and making notes. If you have extra time, move on to another subject or dive deeper into the current text. 

Get Ready for Success!

If you’re really committed to studying and following these simple tips, your success can almost be guaranteed. Focusing hard so you can ace a test is easy when you make time, plan your study session, create a healthy study space, and get your head in the game.