Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Schools across the country have been closing down due to the coronavirus situation, including those in my own hometown in California’s Bay Area. Resting well and staying healthy and stress-free are more important now than ever. Exams and grades should be a smaller concern right now in the grand scheme of things.
I do, however, empathize with my students who have been bored at home and feeling unproductive while trying to study. I’m sure many of you can relate, so I put together this guide on how to study efficiently at home. Read on for the best study tools and methods to help you focus while studying at home.
POPULAR STUDY METHODS
From years of experience in working with students, I've found that most students fall into one (or multiple) of the following categories in terms of how they study:
The persistent online researcher. These students Google all the questions they may have as they are studying. They hop from one article to the next online in search of the best explanations and diagrams. They also frequent websites such as Khan Academy.
The serial Youtuber. Many of my students are auditory learners, meaning they absorb material better when they hear someone else explain things. These students often watch Youtube videos and Khan Academy videos.
The super organized notetaker. These students invest a lot of time and effort in creating very organized notes, study guides, and diagrams. Drawing out processes and writing down detailed notes helps them digest and remember information much better.
The old-school notetaker. These students typically just rely on pens, a notebook, and the textbook. Taking notes while following the textbook material works well for them. Because this method involves the least amount of interaction, most students do not fall into this category.
All of the methods above are fine! If you have been using a method of studying and it has consistently worked for you, do continue using it. No one way is better than the others because every student learns differently.
EFFECTIVE STUDY SKILLS AND HABITS
However, there are some study skills and habits that boost your study efficiency no matter what type of study methods you prefer. Here are some of them:
Think about the big picture. First, when you are studying a chapter, keep the chapter’s overall topic. If you are studying the circulatory system chapter and then the book starts talking about respiration, pause and think about how that relates back to the topic -- the circulatory system. There are so many details in biology and chemistry. Everything can get jumbled together if you lose focus of the big topics anchoring down all the details. The second point about the “big picture” is to remember the overarching themes that everything seems to lead back to. In chemistry, a great example is hydrogen bonds between water molecules. In biology, there’s the regulation of homeostasis.
Make yourself a game plan, especially if you are preparing for a big exam such as finals or the AP. There is a lot of material to cover. Making a game plan has two purposes: it divides your work up into smaller, achievable goals, and it ensures that you will get to reviewing all the material if you stick to the plan.
Note things down. Whether your favorite study method is to watch helpful Youtube videos or to scour Google for answers to your questions, it always helps to jot down the key information and answers that you find. Practice active learning by writing it down and you will be more likely to remember it. When finding videos, articles, and other materials online, I also recommend saving that link somewhere. Later, I’ll share a tool that’s perfect for saving such resources.
Stick to just a couple of study tools/methods. I know studying can get tedious and sometimes you just want to try something new, like going from plain old notetaking to flashcards. The problem with using different methods is that most likely, you’ll end up with notes, flashcards, study guides, etc. all over the place. It all becomes clutter that you won’t want to go back and review. In addition, trying out and adjusting to new methods and creating new study materials is very time-consuming. That is why I recommend sticking to whatever is already working for you.
TOOLS TO USE
Once you have figured out what your learning and study preferences are, you can pick the right tools to use. We live in the digital age and are so fortunate to have so many different tools at our disposal. Here is a list of top study tools:
Google Drive. I absolutely love Google Drive, and it seems my students do as well. It’s on the cloud, so you’ll never lose your typed notes again if you save them here. You can also save PDFs of class worksheets, PowerPoints, etc. so everything is in one place.
Colorful pens -- for drawing diagrams. Drawing diagrams is especially important in the sciences because there are so many processes and structures to learn. Drawing them out will help you remember both the vocabulary and the concepts involved. It also activates the more creative region of your brain so you are more engaged.
Youtube & Khan Academy videos. These are also great tools for understanding processes in science because unlike diagrams, which are stationary, videos show exactly what is happening throughout the process. You also typically hear the accompanying explanation, which helps many students retain the information.
Evernote. This is great for students who love to dig for answers, diagrams, videos, etc. on the Internet. Bookmark and save all the great material you find by using Evernote. It’s basically a digital notebook that allows you to take your own notes and also clip websites and articles online.
Quizlet. This is a popular, free online flashcards tool. You can create your own flashcards or find already created sets from other students. It’s much faster than handwriting cards, and you can access them anywhere as long as you have Wifi (they have an app too).
Each other. Studying with others and explaining concepts to friends and classmates will help you understand and remember the material better yourself. This has been shown consistently in studies and you’ve probably experienced it as well. Even though we are all practicing social distancing and attending class remotely right now, you can still use things like Zoom or FaceTime to study with friends.
Hope this offered some inspiration for adjusting to “study from home”! If you have other useful tools, study hacks, or helpful tips, please comment below and share them with other students who are adapting to learning from home!