Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
As you know, prepping for an international test is no easy challenge. You have all the stakes weighing deeper on your shoulders, you need a specific score with a deadline, the nerve of the moment, and so much more.
But, before the test and after it, once you get into the university or college you planned on. You will find that having and following a pattern of study habits is a must.
Luckily, you don’t need to cave in despair, as you can easily be the master of your destiny. You just need to be consistent with a few habits. Study habits that is. Here is the shortlist of the top 5 tips that have helped my students achieve their score:
Make it part of your routine
Get your area organized
Be ready before the session
Be serious about it.
I am aware that some of these may sound obvious, but from experience, I find that most students tend to ignore the obvious paths for some reason and try to find a miracle shortcut that doesn’t exist.
Trust me here, when students are convinced to follow these easy steps and include them in their lives, they yield results much faster. Let`s get started.
I am very much aware that some of these may sound obvious, but from experience, I find that most students tend to ignore the obvious paths for some reason, and just ignore most paths all together. Trust me here, when I have convinced my students to follow these easy steps and include them in their lives, they yield results much faster. Let`s get started.
A number of students have approached me in the past and told me, “Hey, I`m taking the TOEFL in 3 days, and I need some preparation so that I can get 100.” or, “I have a presentation at work in front of the shareholders of the company tomorrow, can you help me out?” My answer is usually not very nice.
You have to be very realistic regarding the time preparation you have in your hands, how many weeks or months you have to prepare before the deadline. It can’t all be pushed into one or two sessions, it`s way too much info to digest.
You need to be able to subdivide your topics into categories and study them one after the other in multiple sessions, that way you remember more of them. Studying all at once triggers quick jumbling and forgetfulness all over the place.
The best way to do it is to set a time limit on how long you want to study and set up a goal, of what you want to study in this session, or how many pages of a guide you want to cover.
This of course, if you have plenty of time to prepare for an evaluation or presentation at school or work. If your time is restrained, you do have to go for a more aggressive approach, although the learning curve in the long term is not so beneficial for you, you may be able to get a much better score than not doing anything in the first place.
Brief Summary: Don’t over plan. Try to have a specific goal, e.g. Master this in 1 hour, cover x pages. Make sure you have enough time. If it’s for a specific test, don’t study all at once.
Make it part of your routine
Let’s be honest, we have all got a routine, sometimes we are very aware of it, and other times not so much. In order to decipher if you do, just ask yourself this question:
What do I do every weekday from x time to y time?
It will pop up. After this, I would advise you to do a small timetable with your routine and include a set time, anywhere between 1 and 2 hours on the days you are available.
If you have time to prepare, maybe every other day, if you are in a rush, make it daily. If possible, try to make it at the same time on most days, this way your body adapts to this rhythm.
You will want to avoid over-studying as it will not yield as good results as studying constantly for more days. Actually, studying a lot at first can lead to saturation and you can easily get blocked at this point.
Spacing out your study routine will help a lot for a specific evaluation. But where you will gather most of the benefit is in the long run, once this is adapted to your regular life and you can apply it to many other things, like a job presentation, planning a trip for vacation and much more.
Brief Summary: Everyone has a daily routine, find out yours and incorporate time. Create a timetable and be consistent. If possible, keep it in the same schedule.
Get your area organized:
It’s always distracting to study/work in a messy area, which is why you must always push to study in the best place you can. A place where you can sit down and have some room in a nice clean surface with plenty of light and no interruptions.
If at home, the dining room or a desk is where you want to go. If at the university the libraries are usually suited for this, although there may be the occasional greeting from an acquaintance.
Just make sure you have all the material you need before you start studying or you will be interrupted by constant trips to get this or that.
The place where most of this studying will take place is at your house, so, if possible, try to have a steady place where you “always” study. This way the habit can root itself deeper into your day by day, and in a few months, when you are about to sit to study, your body will be pre-disposed to the activity and it will be easier every single time.
Brief Summary: Make sure you have a nice surface with enough lighting. Have all the equipment you will need. Avoid interruptions. Be consistent with the area
Be ready before the session:
Continuing from the last thought, try to think ahead of what you will need and where you will be. Do I need a laptop? Is the calculator really necessary? Are these all the books I need? Am I forgetting something? These are things that will constantly make our study sessions slower and less efficient.
Try to leave your phone out of this one. Yes, it has got plenty of tools for us to use as a resource, but until we humans find a way to focus just on one thing without interruptions, the texts from our friends or those social media memes will always be lurking in our sub-consciousness begging for attention.
So take a calculator and the material you need, e.g. notebook, laptop, guide, book, formula sheet, pencil, eraser, etc.
Aside from our phone, other sneaky distractions are food and sleep. So make sure that you are rested, whether it be a full night sleep or a 10-minute nap before.
Yes, I said a nap, it helps a lot. After you wake up, have a snack and get your stuff ready to absorb that knowledge. The only additional thing you will need is some water.
Brief Summary: Think ahead of what you will need, materials, books. Make sure to be rested and eaten before you sit down. Avoid the phone at all costs. Only have water, food distracts.
Be serious about it:
If you are reading this, and you have made it this far, it means you have an interest in improving your study habits. Something that a lot of students do when they are by themselves, is postponing their study sessions for x reason. It is understandable that life sometimes throws a surprise at you, but unless it is absolutely necessary, you must not skip a study session.
Procrastinating is the evil twin, you must always avoid that, as it is unproductive. I understand that everyone needs to let go of a bit of steam every once in a while, but incorporating this into your routine will be the best thing you do for yourself.
In order to maximize your study session, I really advise that you go through your notes of the previous session to start linking thought in your mind and get in the zone faster. Make this routine a part of you, and in time, it will be easier to do it automatically.
Brief Summary: Don’t postpone. Don’t procrastinate. Before you get “in the zone” review your notes. Make it a part of you.
And that is it. I usually have a “talk” with my students before I start classes with them in order to see how committed they are to their program, whether they are preparing for a test or for general English sessions, this helps.
Afterward, they learn to apply these simple steps into the other classes or activities they have. They learn how to focalize their attention and to be serious about their study because I make it very clear that it is not my future the one pending and that it is in your hands to take control.