Study smarter, not harder: Tips for acing your classes

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Have you told yourself that this upcoming semester is when you’re going to finally get straight A’s at UC Berkeley? Well, let me encourage you further by spilling my study secrets! 

Some people think that if you want to improve your grades, you need to buckle down, cut off friends and head to Main Stacks for the semester. I’m here to tell you that is exactly what you shouldn’t do. Learning is all about the experience, and if you simply study smarter, not harder, you’ll be good to go. So without further ado, here’s how I survived my first three years at UC Berkeley and how I plan to survive the last year. 

Sleep: Grandparent’s edition 

You’ve probably heard that sleep is the key to academic success countless times before. Well, I’m here to reiterate that sleep really is everything. Every day during the school year, head to bed around 10-11 p.m., and then try to get up at 7 a.m. This consistency of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is so good for your body. Even if you wake up early and don’t have anything due, you can just chill in bed or review notes from yesterday’s class. Plus, this ensures you get eight to nine hours of sleep every day, boosting your productivity and increasing your level of happiness.

Although there are a bunch of studies showing students’ productivity levels are highest at night, I have found that studying in the morning is when I’m most productive. Try it out and find what works best for you! It’s nice to head to classes stress-free, knowing you’ve accomplished a ton already. Plus, with evenings always free, you can take breaks, study with friends and actually enjoy college life.

Classic to-do list 

I, like many college students, have trouble sleeping because of all the anxiety school and extracurriculars pile on my shoulders throughout the day. Writing down a list of everything you need to do the next day right before bed helps to clear your mind and encourages you to get everything done. 

The day before a test, don’t study 

Yes, you read that right the day before a test, I don’t study. That’s because I am prepared. (Don’t get me wrong, I was never like this before.) Basically, how this works is from the first day of school to the last, save an hour before bed as “review time” (typically around 9-10 p.m.). Try devoting 15 minutes to review each subject, so with four classes, that adds up to an hour. All you need to do is skim through your notebooks and go over random concepts. But doing this for 15 minutes a night goes a long way … by the time the test day comes along, you’ll already know all the key concepts and definitions! 

I never make a study guide … what?

You’re probably thinking, “Oh my … this girl is crazy!” Well, maybe … but that’s not the point! I learned that whenever I make a study guide, I forget to include something and then that concept appears on the test.

So unless the teacher gives you a pre-made study guide with a list of key terms and questions, always study everything. An easy way to do this is to simply print out all your notes a week before the test and highlight them over and over and over again until you’ve gone over all your notes thoroughly. By then, you will have memorized everything. Yes, this takes a lot of time, but if you have a test coming up, just slip into the library from 12 to 5 p.m. on a Saturday, sit in a comfy chair and use highlighters and pens until you’ve gone over your notes one too many times. 

Laughing is 100% necessary

You need to take breaks and get out to laugh and spend time with friends. Happiness is necessary to studying well. Studying while in a good mood will increase your excitement about learning and help you memorize what’s in front of you, making studying a piece of cake. So don’t skip out on your college experience of meeting new people and spending quality time with friends. If you make sure to wake up early and jam during weekday mornings, you can easily afford the time to kick back and relax. Also, I read that 15 minutes of laughing equates to two hours of sleep. I’m not sure how much I believe this, but I do it all the time and I’m never sleepy.

Read out of order!

In terms of reading, I don’t know about you, but I always end up reading each page over and over again, making a one-hour reading last four to five hours long for no reason. It wasn’t until I started reading the introduction and conclusion sentences before reading the entire paper that I was able to concentrate. Knowing the conclusion provides you a summary of what you are supposed to read and a perfect skeleton for your notes. 

Again, studying looks different for every student, but you never know what works for you until you try it out. If you’re looking to change up your study habits, try some of my tips and tricks. Best of luck!

Contact Natalia Brusco at [email protected].