How to study

Studying before exams is the best way to be prepared. You can make it easier by preparing a dedicated study area, breaking it into manageable stepsrevising what you've already studied, and managing expectations and pressure.

This will be useful if:

  • You're going to be taking exams soon
  • You want to learn about effective study habits
  • You have trouble concentrating on study
  • You want to learn about revision
  • You're looking to manage pressure and expectations
Students using computers in class

Break it down

You look at the amount of stuff you have to learn for a course or exam, and it feels like a huge, unmanageable task. So, break it down. Make a list of small, achievable study steps – maybe summarising a category or chapter – and tick each one off as you do it. Then, make a list that builds on that – you'll get further, more quickly, than you thought was possible.

Make a space

Decide on an area to study in (even just a corner of your room), and don't do anything else there. This'll make it easier to avoid procrastinating. Make it a clean, well-lit, comfortable space so you're not constantly getting up and walking away.

Take breaks

Don't force yourself to push on through when you're tired. You can only absorb so much in one sitting. Try to take at least a ten minute break for every hour of study you do. Also, don't sacrifice sleep to study – you need to get good sleep to be on top of your game.


Instead of just working your way from one end of the textbook to the other, take time to go over what you've already looked at. This will help it sink in and become more accessible in your memory. Go over last week's formulas, charts, essays or chapters while you're pushing on with this week's.

Take the pressure off

Working up to exams can be (and probably is) pretty stressful. If pressure's motivating you, and isn't a problem, great! If it's getting to your head though you can relieve it by:

  • Talking to someone outside the situation
  • Getting some time away from study
  • Revising your expectations
  • Talking to people who you feel are putting extra pressure on you

What can I do now?

  • Make a study timetable but make sure you take time to relax.
  • Try to limit your study to a certain amount of time a day.
  • Check out our fact sheet on goal setting.
Last reviewed: 24 August, 2015
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