How To Study At Home Effectively | 15 Additional Strategies

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With students across the country are at home right now, we’d like to take a moment to share how to study at home effectively during this trying time with some helpful tips, in addition to what we’ll share in our upcoming FREE webinar this Sunday.

Learn how to study at home effectively, no matter the circumstances, with our 15 proven strategies.

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How To Study At Home – Phase I

1) Get Dressed

Don’t study in pajamas.

If you’re studying at home without outside appointments, then it’s easy to stay in pajamas all day. As comfortable as that is, it won’t help your study sessions.

You’ll be too comfortable, which often causes motivation and focus to decrease while studying. Instead, if studying at home, make sure to:

  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Brush your hair
  • Make yourself presentable

You’ll feel more awake and motivated to work, which in turn boosts your confidence. Studying at home is as much about your mental state, as is soaking in the necessary information. Build yourself up before tackling the hard work.

2) Eat Properly

Don’t forget to eat before, or during, a study session.

Besides sleep, your brain needs fuel from energy to properly function. Moreover, it’s difficult to concentrate on reading or solving math problems when your stomach is growling.

Focus on healthy snacks like vegetables and proteins, rather than chips or sugar. Quick tip – if you’re keeping a regular home study schedule, then consider prepping out your snacks in advance.

For example, carrots and hummus can be easily portioned out in advance in containers and ready to go when you need it. Simply pop one open during a quick break, enjoy the snack and mental break, and then get back to work.

This way you can relax for a few minutes, without wasting too much time on food prep.

3) Study When At Your Most Alert

Find the timeframe where you’re at peak productivity.

Every student’s internal clock is different when it comes to alertness. Some students are at their best first thing in the morning, while they’re still essentially waking up.

Other people are better in the afternoon, once their brains are firing on all cylinders. The point is finding when you can absorb the most information and logically process through it effectively.

We normally recommend study sessions either in the afternoon or morning, especially if you’re doing them at home. It’s easier to wake up early for a good 30-minute review session than trying to concentrate late at night after a full day’s worth of activity.

That’s why at Prep Expert, we focus on scheduling our classes either in the morning on weekends, or in the afternoon during weekdays.

Your brainpower will be closer to its peak rather than spent.

4) Set Up A Designated Study Area

Don’t use your bed for studying!

The temptation is real but you won’t be effective. Inevitably, your comfort level will lull you into taking a quick nap or full-on sleep.

Your attention span is now gone, and any hope for retaining information is gone. That’s why it’s important to set up a designated study/workspace for yourself.

How you do it depends on your personal taste. However, here are some essentials it should have to be effective:

  • Flat, clear surface space (large enough to hold laptop, books, pencil, and paper),
  • Power outlets (make sure that you have power for both lighting and keeping your laptop on)
  • Comfortable seating (have a piece of furniture that helps your posture for studying)

Sitting upright has been shown to promote energy levels, confidence, and mood. Your attention span is stronger sitting up straight rather than slouching or laying down.

5) Keep Your Study Space Clean and Organized

An organized space helps an organized mind.

Keeping your study space clean and organized is more important than you realize. First, it helps your mind stay clear and focused because you’re not distracted by clutter or frustrated by it.

Second, your study sessions stay on schedule, because you don’t waste time looking for whatever you’ve misplaced. Losing ten minutes of review time because you can’t find a working pen or pencil isn’t going to help you pass a test.

Think of the French culinary term mise en place, which translates to “everything in its place”.

6) Create A Schedule

Don’t go into a study session without your time mapped out beforehand.

Home test prep study sessions should have a structure. You need to approach it methodically, and an important first step is working out the structure itself.

This structure is basically a schedule that lets you:

  • Organize your attention per subject
  • Set aside time for breaks and review

For tests like the SAT and ACT, with multiple sections and subject matter, this organization is important. You can break down per session how much time to spend on particular sections and then move on.

For example, at Prep Expert, our SAT and ACT classes are structured to break down different sections across weekly sessions:

Week Schedule
1
  • Students attend SAT Class 1 and SAT Class 2 to learn strategies related to SAT Math, SAT Reading, and the SAT Essay
  • Students complete the official practice SAT Exam #1
2
  • Students attend SAT Class 3 and SAT Class 4 to learn strategies related to SAT Writing, SAT Math, and the SAT Essay
  • Students complete the official practice SAT Exam
3
  • Students attend SAT Class 5 and SAT Class 6 to learn strategies related to SAT Reading, SAT Writing, and SAT Math
  • Students complete the official practice SAT Exam #3
4
  • Students attend SAT Class 7 and SAT Class 8 to learn strategies related to SAT Math, SAT Writing, and SAT Reading
  • Students complete the official practice SAT Exam #4
5
  • Students attend SAT Class 9 and SAT Class 10 to learn strategies related to SAT Reading, SAT Writing, and SAT Math
  • Students complete the official practice SAT Exam #5
6
  • Students attend SAT Class 11 and SAT Class 12 to review strategies related to the SAT Essay, SAT Reading, SAT Math, and SAT Writing
  • Students complete the official practice SAT Exam #6

If you sign up for one of these classes, you know right off the bat what kinds of subjects will be covered, along with how to manage your time from session to session. You can then coordinate your other obligations around them.

How To Study At Home – Phase II

7) Have A Pre-Study Ritual

Create a simple routine that gets your head in the game.

Athletes have pre-game rituals, so why shouldn’t you have a pre-study ritual? When studying for a test at home, you need to find your focus and productive flow.

An easy way to align yourself is by creating a simple ritual that lets you slip into a different mindset. A basic example of this is:

  • Clearing your workspace and turning all necessary equipment on
  • Closing your door (if applicable)
  • Quickly organizing all your note-taking materials
  • Putting on headphones or earbuds
  • Opening up or writing down your to-do list or session agenda

You can do these tasks within five minutes, but in that time, your brain will shut out any other distractions and be open to learning and reviewing new study material.

8) Set Up An Alarm Or Timer

Stick to your schedule with a timer.

Once you have a schedule set, be sure to stick with the timetable within. Don’t shortchange reviewing one subject, because you lost time and were distracted over another.

Setting a timer helps keep your focus on the task at hand, creating urgency to make the most of that chunk. Once the timer goes off, you need to move onto what’s next on the agenda.

If you know you didn’t get enough done in the last segment, then plan to double back during the next study session. This way, you are consistent in how much material you study and keep making progress.

9) Use The Pomodoro Technique

This time management tip is great for especially long review sessions.

It’s a simple process:

  • Select a task to complete
  • Set a timer
  • Work on it until the timer goes off
  • Take a timed break

What you need to figure out for yourself is the time ranges to work with. In general, Pomodoro works best when you work for a 20-30 minute interval straight, then break for 3-5 minutes.

Afterward, reset the timer for another 20-30 minutes and go again. This productivity technique has shown several benefits:

  • Burnout prevention
  • Maintains focus
  • Keeps user on-task

If you’re in the middle of a long study session, such as a comprehensive test section review, then using Pomodoro to break it down into manageable chunks helps.

10) Get Noise Cancelling Headphones or Earbuds

Drown out distractions with good audio gear.

No matter how good your concentration is, noises at home can definitely distract. If you’re going over especially difficult material, then barking dogs, noisy siblings, or other household noises can distract.

You can easily avoid this problem by investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. If you’re attending an online class, they’ll let you focus on the material better by canceling out all other extraneous noises.

If you’re taking a Prep Expert live online course, this is especially useful. Why? Because we go over many strategies for both the SAT and ACT and getting distracted or missing the opportunity to ask questions in real-time can hinder your understanding. Thankfully, our instructors can handle virtually any question you throw at them about either test.

If you’re reviewing class notes or doing homework, then a great tip to keep concentrated is listening to binaural beats. This is music set to specific frequencies (8 to 13 Hz) that can help promote focus and attention.

11) Block Distracting Websites and Apps

Don’t let push notifications or other news pull your attention away.

Staying productive is often difficult when being constantly bugged with app notifications or new headlines refreshing constantly. For mobile devices, the easiest hack is turning on ‘Airplane Mode’ before a study session.

This way you temporarily stop receiving all app notifications, text notifications, etc., while engaged in work. Once your session is finished, simply turn the setting off and you’ll receive all the notifications again.

The reason this tip is important is that research shows that it takes 23 minutes to get refocused after giving into a distraction. That’s too much time to lose over an email or text notification.

12) Use Active Studying

Active studying is a great way to keep your brain engaged both before and after a study session.

In short, you ask yourself questions before, during, and after a session. Right off the bat, it has immediate benefits to you: Helps give your studying direction, Keeps you on track while reviewing material, Promotes reflection and self-improvement.

Pre-study to ask yourself:

  • What am I going to learn today?
  • What do I already know about this subject?

Questions to ask while studying:

  • How does this information fit into the bigger picture?
  • Do I understand what I just learned without question?
  • Is there anything still confusing me?
  • Can I easily sum up the main points?
  • Are there any keywords or concepts I need to spend more time reviewing later?

Questions to ask after a study session:

  • What did I learn from this study session?
  • What do I need to review or work on before the next session?

Active studying is a great way to stay sharp and engaged with what you’re studying. By doing so, you reduce potential stress and exhaustion caused by disengagement.

The benefit of Prep Expert’s live online courses is that they encourage active studying through real-time participation with our instructors. Prep Expert instructors always make sure to:

  • Ask questions and get feedback on what they’re presenting
  • Address questions for you as they come up
  • Make sure you receive as much clarity as possible on a given subject

13) Actively Take Notes

Don’t be afraid to put a pen or pencil to paper when going over materials.

When studying for the SAT or ACT, as well as any other exam, make sure to take down notes. This point is especially important when it comes to reviewing online coursework.

If you’re working with an on-demand or live online course, it’s tempting to stop and simply rewind the recording afterward. It’s better though to actively write down notes while learning and studying course materials.

This constant writing focuses your attention on what’s being taught and keeps away outside distractions or multitasking. Moreover, you can write down questions that you can use to review what you’ve studied, or look over further for clarification.

How To Study At Home – Phase III

14) Post-Study Exercise

Feeling a little scrambled after a study session? Consider a quick burst of exercise to relax.

Yes, working out after studying probably doesn’t sound like much ‘fun’. However, if you’ve just finished a mentally grueling session, then doing something physical will release that tension.

Studies show that regular exercise works out both your body and brain; short-term exercise can sharpen your focus for up to three hours due to increased brain blood flow. Improved sleep and mood are also positive side effects.

If you’re stuck at home and need to get that energy out, consider doing bodyweight exercises and cardio work for 20-30 minutes. You’ll feel tired but also calmer, and that material you went over will be less stressful.

15) Get Plenty of Sleep

Don’t underestimate a full night of rest.

No matter your age, aim for eight hours of sleep every school night. It’s the best way to refresh your brain and prepare it for the next day’s information processing.

Staying up late at night to cram or review is often tempting. The problem is your alertness and memory retention suffers. That retention loss means that future study sessions will lead to less learning.

In the end, don’t sacrifice sleep for cram sessions. You won’t know more, and your brain won’t function well the following day. In short, this is how to study at home effectively, no matter what the test you’re preparing for.

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