I figured I'd try to save some of you new students the trouble and here's a few tips I've found that help me study more effectively! Again, I'm no expert, just a fourth year university student so I think it's safe to say I've done my fair share of studying.
1. Make a Plan... and Stick to it
This tends to be one of the first things I do when I'm studying, usually just to procrastinate but in the end it helps me map out what needs to be done and allows me to see everything as a whole. Be realistic with yourself, are you really going to read 5 chapters in one day? Doubtful. I probably won't take my own advice on this one, but start early. Take a tip from Nike and JUST DO IT.
I know this may not be the best tip, so why would I put it so close to the top? Well, because it helps me tremendously. I can't go to the library without something to munch on! It helps me get my mind off the stress of studying and helps channel my frustrations elsewhere than the papers in front of me. The harder my work gets, the more I chew... which is good for you and burns more calories anyway! Obviously choose healthy snacks, or this tip will just make things worse for you.
When packing a library snack I go for a green tea, some kind of fruit or veggie, and something crunchy and salty like pretzels or goldfish. You know what you like, just try to make it a good balance. Not pigging out during finals is hard, that kraft dinner may be taunting you from the cupboard, but you want your brain to be in the best shape possible for the amount of knowledge you're going to try to cram into it.
3. Take a Break
Again, you may think I'm crazy for putting this one on the list, but it works for me. Your brain can only retain so much information at once! The general consensus is that you can fully concentrate for about 30-45 minutes at a time. The amount of time varies on the person, the subject and whatever, but you get the idea. If you're sitting go take a walk, take a shower, cook a nice meal. Just don't forget to come back to your notes. If you really have a hard time coming back, set yourself a timer. For every 30 minutes of studying you get a 10 minute break, I think that's extremely fair. Or if you're like me and will stare at a wall while trying to figure out what sound a giraffe makes for 15 of those 30 minutes, set yourself goals that relate to amount of material covered, such as after I read this chapter I can go on the internet and youtube what a giraffe sounds like.
This is possibly one of the most useful apps for studying! Unfortunately, I believe it's only available for mac. The app lets you choose sites to "blacklist", then you set a timer and those sites will be blocked from your browser! It's great. You can still use the internet, just not facebook, or twitter, or pinterest... I could go on. http://selfcontrolapp.com/
5. Music or no Music?
Depending on what I'm working on music may or may not be part of my routine. When it is, I prefer something without lyrics because I find myself singing along and adding choruses to my study notes... Although, if you're musically inclined turning your study notes into songs is a GREAT way to study. My study playlist is Modern Meditations on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIOcXpq_Gb4&feature=list_other&playnext=1&list=ALHTd1VmZQRNola_Qi3erQCWklYoF9JrpG).
I hope this helped you procrastinate from the work you should be doing, it sure helped me not study for my midterm Wednesday, so now....