Four Unconventional Study Tips

When I was lucky enough to be seated next to a student in the top 10% of the 2L class, I made sure to pay attention. Not to the professor—which would have been the smart thing to do—but to her; how she studied, what she did during the lecture, which study guides she used… I thought if I could incorporate some of her methods, I might rise up in the class ranks. 

The day after our first major reading assignment, I was flabbergasted. She opened her textbook and every assigned page was highlighted from top to bottom—in a rainbow pattern. Without much pause I sputtered, “Olivia, why did you highlight the entire page? That book is going to be ten pounds heavier with ink by the end of the semester!” Not to sound like a clickbait article, but her answer shocked me: she said “I only highlight what’s important, and everything is important. Plus, it helps me absorb what I read and actively retain it.” 

Below are three more unconventional study tips to help you improve your class ranking, your grades, and maybe your ability to sleep at night! (Caveat emptor!) 

  1. Study alone, but near a group. 
    One of the weirdest (and yet most effective) ways I would cram before an exam was to sit near a group of classmates who liked to talk things out with one another. Now naturally, planning your study schedule around the opportunity to eavesdrop is an odd thing to do, so it helps if you are actually friends with these “think out loud” people. Just listening to them defining terms and discussing intricacies was enough to get me thinking: were they right on how they defined it? Do I agree that “x” exception applies? Did I read the case the same way? Sampling in on others conversations is a great way to take a guided study tour, but this approach won’t work at all if you haven’t done the reading or studying at all—you need to be able to have an (informed) conversation with yourself. 
  2. Stop studying when you’re frustrated or tired. 
    There is no point forcing yourself to hover over your textbook if you’re not going to be 100% engaged. Sometimes the best thing you can do long-term is to stop forcing information down your throat and shift to improving your sleeping habits or self-care instead. Obviously, this won’t work forever, but it can be an effective strategy for resting your brain and body during times of stress. (Pro tip: don’t use this as an excuse to binge a new show because you WILL get addicted and you WILL regret it.) 
  3. Get inspiration wherever you can. 
    Studyblr (Tumblr), Instagram, and even Twitter can be great sources of motivation. Searching “#notes, #studying, #student” and other tags can help you see how people organize their materials and might even encourage you to slow down and make your notes as pretty as possible. Who cares if you’re only “doing it for the ‘Gram?” As long as you retain the information and feel that you’ve accomplished all the studying you can for the day, you’ve done a great job. While I can’t promise that posting your own photos and study spaces will make you an influencer or get you a lot of likes, it’s certainly refreshing to put some positive social media out there and potentially motivate someone else.