4 Steps to Forming Effective Study Skills in High School
As online high school students gain more independence, they also gain more responsibility with their own studies. With standardized tests, as well as ACT®, SAT®, and AP® tests approaching, this is the time to develop good study habits.
For quick bullet points and takeaways on study techniques, click the link below to view and download our guide containing study tips for stressed high schoolers. Print this out and keep it in a folder, or pin it to your desk, as a constant reminder while you study.
For a more comprehensive guide to developing effective independent study habits, see our tips below.
- Before you study, schedule your time.
Plan to study for about two hours each dedicated study night, five nights per week. It helps to schedule your time by writing down all the study goals you have at the beginning of the week and then estimating how much time each task will take. You should also assess the urgency of each task, as more urgent tasks should be scheduled for the beginning of the week.
- Learn the tricks for efficient note-taking.
The more comprehensive, legible, and organized your notes are, the easier it will be for you to study them. Notes can increase your recall of important information and can be used to call out important topics or ideas that you need to revisit.
- Create your own bullet system, using different numbers or symbols for different things. For example, you can use a star for points you’d like to come back to, an exclamation mark for points you plan to put on flashcards, or a smiley face for concepts you’d like your teacher to re-explain.
- Shorten your notes by using abbreviations and symbols. You don’t need to take the time to write out every word if you will remember what you meant. Save yourself some time!
- Feel free to get creative. Draw pictures, thought bubbles, or anything that pulls your attention to important topics. Mind mapping is a great technique to help visually organize information you need to study.
- Use your study time wisely.
- First, make a conscious effort to stay away from distracting websites that can suck up your day. If you have trouble with this, you can download an app that will allow you to shut out distracting websites when you choose, like SelfControl for Mac® users. Not a Mac user? You can also download extensions for your web browser, such as Strict Workflow for Chrome, which will block distracting websites for 25 minutes at a time and also give you 5-minute breaks.
- Don’t study right before bedtime, or at a time when you know you will not be fully committed or awake. Give yourself some daylight hours, if possible, to study. If it’s nice out and you aren’t prone to distractions, you could sit outside in the sun while you study. This can help keep you awake and alert.
- Take breaks frequently. Learn your body’s natural rhythm and understand how long it takes you to get back in the zone. If it takes you a while to refocus, you may want to take a 30-minute break every hour and a half. If it’s easy for you to get right back into your studies, you can take a 5-minute break every half hour.
- Avoid multitasking. Trying to take on multiple tasks at once can weaken your grasp of information, reduce your memory, and hurt your performance overall. Reduce distractions as much as possible while you study, and make sure you are solely focusing on one topic. It helps to let everyone you live with know that you need quiet time, or go to a library or quiet study location.
- Turn your notes into flashcards. As you mark your notes, be sure to mark any terms or topics that you are struggling with or that involve some extra understanding or memorization. Flashcards help hammer these concepts into your brain by challenging you to think about and remember things that you’re having trouble with. You can also make your own digital flashcards for free.
- Study with friends. While it’s important to stay focused and have solo study sessions, mix things up by arranging group study sessions once per week. Just make sure that your friends are ready to study and be serious. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun studying together, but it is a working session.
- Visualize tough concepts by turning them into pictures or stories. This is important for reading comprehension, so as you read about different ideas and topics, pull out specific words or phrases and connect them to a picture, memory, or story. This will also help you recall the information when you think of the story or visual later.
- Study in a setting similar to the testing environment. Try to study at a desk with little or no distractions. You might even want to turn off your music and all other noises. This will also help your recall of information when you take the actual test, because the setting will be familiar.
- Keep yourself healthy.
TYou can’t be on your “A game” if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Being tired or hungry or worked up can affect your focus and ability to remember information.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep! Only 15 percent of teens report getting at least 8½ of the 8–10 hours of sleep they should get. Make sure you’re one of them, if possible.
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime, and be conscious of winding down for the night. Don’t try to stress and study right before bed. If you didn’t get to any tasks during the day, make a list for tomorrow rather than worrying about them all night.
- Get vitamins and nutrients, and avoid junk food. Reward your body and mind for all of their hard work by eating foods that will boost your energy and keep your mind and body going. Try things like walnuts, berries, leafy greens, and whole grains. Here are some other nutrient-dense foods to include in your diet daily.
What study tips do you have to share with high schoolers who are forming new study habits? What works for you or your child? Please share your experience in the comments below!