Study skills and habits

Here is advice on study skills, how to study to learn more and not feel stressed and on how to keep up to par with your studies.

As a University student, you are expected to take great responsibility for your studies. A large part of the time is used for self-study. It requires motivation, self-discipline, concentration, and planning. Your study skills will therefore be an important tool for you to succeed in your studies.

  • Plan your studies so that you do not get stressed before the exam and assignments. Stressful reading makes in-depth learning difficult. It only results in reading on the surface and you miss the context and quickly forget what you learned.
  • To learn in-depth, you must see events, connections, and causes in their proper context. It is also important that you try to relate to if you already know something about what you are going to study. It will help you find the connecting phenomena.
  • Instead of reading for three hours and be half asleep, it is more efficient to read for an hour and then take a break. For purely biological and physiological reasons, we get tired. The brain needs to sort and digest all the information it has taken in to efficiently take in additional information.
  • Discuss what you read with your fellow students, it can bring perspectives on what you have read.
  • Set milestones to reach, "When I have read to page 35, I'm ready and can ..." (fill in any options here, such as train / eat some good chocolate / Skype with my friend / check favorite blog). Try to find positive thoughts about your student life, your future, about you, and your life - more thoughts that give you energy.
  • Make it a habit to write down important things during class. It is helpful when you are studying for the exam. Write down keywords, concepts, and important sentences. Write clearly and organize your notes as soon as possible - before you forget.
  • Take the opportunity to ask questions during the lectures - you have an expert in front of you. There are probably several others in the room wondering about the same things as you.
  • Summarize the most important things from the literature well in advance of the exam. When you study, underline the most important. Try to summarize the text. Then go back to the literature and see if you missed something important. If you have done this thoroughly, you only need to read your own summary before the test.
  • Most important of all is motivation and your willingness to learn more about what will be your future profession. Remember the end goal with your studies, it will help to give you the "boost" you need to be strong when your studies are tough.

Study skills at home: Motivation, routines, and keeping up the good work

  • A quality study session is uninterrupted: It has a beginning, an end, and a clear focus. Plan for it realistically.
  • Timeboxing: Set the alarm in your clock to 20-40 minutes, depending on what is manageable to you. Read and work without interruptions during this session. Take a quick break, before moving on to the next session. A number of study sessions like this form a workday.
  • Lots of stuff to do? Empty your mind into a list. The feeling that you have so much to do can make it hard to get started in the first place. Write down a list of what you need to accomplish today, and the rest of the week. Immediately you'll feel the relief, and the desire to get to work, now that you know what to do.
  • Write a journal! A recognized good tool to deal with emotions and keeping up spirits. Note in particular what it is you learn each day.  When spending day after day alone, it helps to have something to keep track of. So keep track of what you learn and see it grow with every page in your diary.
  • If you get stuck on something and can't get started: Settle for something simpler, smaller, but still in the right direction. Instead of constantly thinking about that thing you have to do, direct your attention to something attainable. That's usually when things start to roll and little by little we end up finishing the big tasks as well.

App tips: Google "block distractions", "pomodoro apps" and "habit builders".

Reading fast and slow.
How to manage demanding course literature

  • "Should I really read this?" Read with intention and purpose: Ask yourself what it is you want to get from the text you're about to read. "I will read this chapter to find the answer to why ..." or "I am going to make a short summary of these pages." It's easy to read just for the sake of reading, but we get more quality when we state the reason for reading something.
  • "Read from high above!" The table of contents is a wealth of information, short cuts to what the whole book is about, with all the important terms, the structure of the book. Introductions, summaries, review questions and similarly accessible information is highly valuable and a huge time saver. Make sure to get this general view of the whole book before going into details.
  • Understanding is a gradual thing. Some texts "fight back" and resist us when we try to comprehend. To gently skim a text several times days before the close reading allows us to familiarize ourselves with it and prepare our minds.
  • Deep, close reading is best done in a sequence of short 20-30 minute sessions interspersed with short breaks and repeated reviews. "What did I just read?" And don't settle with a vague feeling of having read something interesting. Recreate the content in your head or by taking notes, so that the knowledge becomes your own.
  • Keep a pen in your hand while reading. Move it along the lines as you read, as a help for the eye and to build concentration, and as a reminder that this is serious reading, not only for joy. Mark important things and write down questions that arise.