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Smart studying for smart students
Are you being hounded by your study?

1. Practise Time Management
For successful results enough time needs to be devoted to studying, and there needs to be good time allocation.
  1. Allocate time to both study and other activities
  2. Allocate your study time to the various study subtasks
Time management can be improved by
  1. Making an overview of all the study tasks: what do I have to do?
  2. Assigning priorities: what is most important?
  3. Planning your study tasks: when am I going to carry out each subtask?
  4. Creating a favourable study environment: what helps and what hinders me in carrying out the planned tasks?
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     Is your study sometimes too much for you?
2. Set attainable targets
Divide your main goal into concrete subgoals, and decide when you want to achieve them. In a way you put yourself under pressure, because you want to reach a certain goal in a certain time. And, as a bonus, you can feel pleased with yourself when you have reached each goal.
For example, write down when you want to have finished the main chapters of a book, or when you want to have completed the various sections of an assignment. Be careful of unrealistically optimistic targets, because you won’t reach them and this is discouraging.

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No idea about how you are going?

3. Check your progress
Regularly check your progress, so that you know how you are going. This makes it possible to catch up if you get behind (subgoal is not reached). In this way you can prevent the workload mounting up and your targets becoming too unreachable.
Studying is of course not just a matter of putting in the hours. Check if you are studying productively, or if you sit staring at your books daydreaming.

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Do you muddle your way through?

4. Organise a good work environment with appropriate study aids
    A stimulating work environment is characterised by
  • An appropriate study place with minimal distractions
  • A good study rhythm: enough (not too much and not too little) study on a regular basis. Get used to a study rhythm that suits you and reach your daily targets
  • Clear agreements with yourself and others about ‘competing’ activities such as sport, society activities, and paid work
  • Study aids such as good lecture notes, previous exam papers and a computer that works (a must)
  • People around you to give you support, to study with and whom you can ask for help if you need it
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Do you just sit and daydream?

5. Study actively and strategically
Study actively by asking yourself questions about the material, taking short notes, or making an outline. Try not to absorb the material passively, like a sponge, but to process the information in an active way. Test whether you understand the material by reciting it from memory, by asking yourself questions, by talking about it to other students and by doing previous exam papers.

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     Do you sometimes feel discouraged by it all?

6. Develop an interest in your subjects and the confidence that you are able to pass
Some thoughts and ways of thinking can have a negative effect on your study. Two extreme examples are unrealistic pessimism such as, ‘I’ll never be able to do it ’, and unrealistic optimism such as, ‘I’ll try and start tomorrow’. Critically examine such ways of thinking you may have and analyse them.
For example, if you do not immediately understand some material this does not mean that you are too stupid for it. Some topics can be extremely difficult and require time and thought. Stay critical and do not be too quick to jump to a negative conclusion about yourself. Keep to your subgoal and ask yourself precisely what it is you do not understand and what you can do about it.

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Robert M. Topman, Studentenpsycholoog b.d., Universiteit Leiden