Concentration means focusing all your attention on a single subject. This sounds simple, but many people have difficulty concentrating and end up wasting valuable study time. Like other skills, concentration can be learned through practice and repetition.
Noise can be a great impediment to concentration. Choose a quiet place to study away from high traffic areas and doors. Studying in lounges exposes you to noise and other interruptions.
Do you think you study better with music? Test yourself by reading two similar passages of a difficult text, one in a quiet setting, one with some music, then see how much you remember for the two passages. If you do want sound, make sure to choose music with no words, or try a fan or other white noise source to block distractions.
Your eyes function best in natural light, but you may study effectively in artificial light. Eliminate glare, flickering or contrasts between light and dark. Studying in a place such as the Tabernacle means using either inadequate lighting or a lamp in a dark room, both of which cause eye strain and reduce concentration.
Be consistent about when and where you study. Find a place that works well for you, and then routinely study there. Your mind will be more conditioned to concentrate if you establish study habits.
- Don’t study on your bed; it sends conflicting signals to your body. Sit upright, or even perch on the edge of your chair. An alert posture adds to an alert mind.
- Pay attention to temperature – high temperatures may make you sleepy; low temperatures may be distracting.
- Make sure you have everything you need: books, highlighters, paper, dictionary, etc., so you don’t need to interrupt your study time to gather materials.
You can often reduce anxiety by talking with someone about your worries. If you are concerned about a class, talk with your professor or classmates, or go to the Academic Enhancement Center for assistance with your study strategies.
If you have personal concerns, use the resources available to you. Talk with your RA, Counseling Center staff, or whoever is most appropriate to your needs. There are also many resources available off campus, such as HotLine, counseling services, and the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.
Keep a journal. This can help you think through your difficulties and add a measure of perspective.
Daydreaming can be a useful activity, but it may interfere with studying. Jot down thoughts that distract you during study time, then use a study break to think about them. Promising yourself to pay attention later will help you return to the task at hand.
HUNGER AND FATIGUE
Hunger and fatigue can leave your brain in a fog.
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals, and avoid using sugary snacks for a quick boost that will leave your brain in a slump 20 minutes later.
- Make sure to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Trying to study when you are tired wastes more time than it’s worth. Don’t nap regularly; it interferes with your sleep cycle.
- Take a 5-minute break every 30 to 40 minutes. Walk around, get a drink of water – do something that gets you moving.
- Schedule exercise and activities for late afternoon. This makes a good break after a day of studying, at a time when many people are at a physical low. Activity can also help reduce fatigue.
It can be difficult to concentrate on learning material that doesn’t hold your interest. You can increase your motivation in a number of ways.
- Focus on the result. Clarifying your long-term and short-term goals often helps you envision your future.
- Try to find practical applications for material you are learning. How can this apply to you life outside class?
- During study sessions, switch subjects rather than trying to work on a single topic for hours at a time. This will help hold your interest.
General Study Tips
- Make good use of daytime hours. Physiological “freshness” of your brain means 1 hour of daytime study may be as effective as 1½ hours at night. Plus, getting things done during the day leaves more free time at night.
- Approach studying as you would any exercise. Warm up your brain by reviewing notes and assignments just before class; you will take in more information during lecture. Reviewing your lecture notes shortly after class as a “cool down” activity helps to solidify learning.
- Vary your study activities. Don’t follow reading with reading. Instead review art history photographs, review biology terminology flashcards, practice French with a study partner, or find a physical activity to get you going.
- Get enough sleep. An alert brain takes in much more information than one that is fatigued. Pulling all-nighters is useless in the long run, and will interfere with your concentration.
- Learn how to organize your time. People who are involved in many activities generally make more efficient use of their time and get better grades.