Study Advice Q&A

After my Applying to Medical School Q&A, I thought it’d be fun to do another one for general study advice! I’ve tried to answer as many questions as I could but apologies if I missed yours out for one reason or another; hopefully this post will still be useful to you regardless!

To make it easier to navigate, I’ve split this post up into several sections:

  1. How I manage my time
  2. How to motivate yourself to study
  3. Study methods
  4. How do you revise for…

How to you plan your studies when you have a lot of homework and you’re doing completely different things in class?
I’m not one of those people who does the homework on the night it’s set (even though this is a really good habit and if you can do it, then you definitely should!) but I always make sure that I leave time for it when planning my revision for that week. I’d say that classwork should be your priority as there is no point in doing revision if you are behind in the things you’re studying in lessons (plus, it’s not worth getting on the wrong side of your teachers) so always make sure you have time to do homework before even thinking about revision.

How do you manage your time doing all your notes so organized and then properly studying?
I make most of my notes in class! I very rarely write my notes up (unless I am revising the topic) so I find it quite easy to manage my time in this sense due to the fact that they don’t really take much more work than making regular notes. My titles and set ups aren’t too elaborate (even though sometimes they look it) and using bullet points means that I can complete most of my notes fairly quickly providing I am focused on finishing them!

How do you manage your time so you can study and get good grades without going crazy and feeling burnt out?
One of the key things that I’ve found important is being reasonable with the amount of work that you can get done. Sometimes I work fairly slowly because I can get distracted, so I tend to keep my workload at around two topics per night (with homework if I have any), this means that I don’t get stressed about finishing everything and I can afford to take a little longer if I need to. Also try and take up at least one non-academic hobby so that you are forced to take a break from studying!

Any tips on how I can catch up with notes during term time as work seems to be piling up and I can’t find time to review work?
If you just want a quick review of everything you’ve done that week, then I recommend dedicating a section of your week to covering questions relating to the topics that you’ve covered. This helps you to go over it quickly and refresh your memory without spending forever rewriting your notes.
In terms of catching up on class notes, I’d suggest putting aside time each night to finish off any notes from during the day and organise them in your folders etc. If you have a lot to catch up on, then your best thing to do at this point would be to spend one weekend solely finishing them off so that you’re caught up and ready for the next week.

What do you do for extra revision? Do you have a timetable that you follow? I always find I struggle with what and how much extra revision I should do besides my homework!
I don’t follow a timetable as such because the amount of time I have to complete work each week differs due to things outside of school, etc. Recently I sat down and made a list of every single topic which showed up in each of my exams and so now I study one from each exam per week as a minimum (on top of any homework or revision for assessments I have). This works well for me as it’s flexible enough that I can make it fit around my other activities, but it still gives me guidance on what to study each week so I don’t fall behind.
If you’re doing GCSEs or lots of subjects, this may be trickier to plan as it’s unreasonable to think you could cover twenty different topics each week without fail (it’s not impossible, although you may get burnt out very quickly). You’d have to maybe consider different ways to split it up, but I still think it’s a good principle before you start full-on exam revision!

How many topics do you aim to revise each week?
My bare minimum is 9 topics per week as I have 9 exams, although I do more depending on if I have tests or homework that week!

How many hours do you do a night?
I honestly don’t know! Probably around 3-4 hours depending on the things that I have to do and other activities I have

How do you cope with managing time? I’m struggling to manage my time to get revision, homework and extra experience done. I also find timetables hard to follow!
I understand because I also hate timetables! This year I’m using the method I spoke about above, however I used a simple to do list app last year. I downloaded the Momentum extension on Chrome which meant that I could see my list each time I opened a new tab (so I was pressured into doing my work)! I highly recommend using the method I spoke about above if you don’t like rigid schedules but need a place to start.

How do you stay motivated? And how do you stay positive?
I’ve found that focusing on your goal is really helpful when it comes to staying motivated. Obviously, this is tougher if you don’t have an exact destination in mind but I still think even just saying to yourself “okay I really want -insert grade here- in this subject” gives you something to work towards. It’s also easier if you can reflect on how far you’ve come in comparison to your whole journey; I’ve worked from a D grade in chemistry at the start of last year to an A (almost A*) in my most recent mock, which just shows that hard work can pay off.
As for staying positive, I’d just try and find things you like about studying and the subjects that you are taking. I find it quite satisfying to put together my notes so I don’t mind sitting down to do work most of the time and it’s even easier if I particularly love the topic!

How can I be more productive after college when I’m always tired?
Like I’ve mentioned above: be realistic with the amount that you have achieve. If you tell yourself that you only have to review one set of flashcards and then finish off your homework for the night, you’re much more likely to get it done than telling yourself that you’ll cover three different topics. Similarly, make sure you know what you’re going to do before you get home – not just the topics that you’re going to look at, but the revision methods that you’re going to use and your aim at the end of it. If you’re super prepared you could even set it all out before you leave for college!

Any advice for someone lacking motivation to study?
Make studying enjoyable! I know it sounds impossible, but if you sit down with a snack, a hot drink and a good playlist then studying isn’t anywhere near as awful as you’d expect. Alternatively, be tough on yourself and download apps which block certain sites on your computer and phone for specific amounts of time so you have nothing better to do! I use Flipd on my phone and I’ve used the Forest extension on my computer before

Advice on preparing for exams with depression/lack of motivation please
If you’re really struggling, then my recommendation would be to find a reason to study and prove to yourself it’s worth doing.. This doesn’t mean listening to your teachers talking about how you’ll fail if you don’t, I mean proving to yourself that it is worth doing. Work as hard as you can for a test, follow up anything you don’t understand with a teacher, retake it if you don’t do well and then show yourself that there was actually a point to all the work and you’ve improved. Find the entry requirements for your dream university or look up what employers want for your ideal job and then work to get those grades. Work to beat that one really annoying person in class – it literally doesn’t matter what it is, just find a reason which makes studying worthwhile for you.

How do you study for an exam?
I don’t really have any special methods! I tend to make summaries of the content before tackling past paper questions. I typically go over the content several times during the year so I know it relatively well by the time it gets to the exam. Also, depending on the exam I may spend more time covering the content than doing questions and vice versa.

Hi! I was just wondering how you know when to write notes fully on a sheet of paper or when to write them on flash cards?
I typically use flash cards to revise once it gets closer to exam time and I am summarising the information as opposed to learning it in details. Until that point, I almost always use notes to study as I just find that they’re easier to write and store normally.

How many times do you write out one set of notes before you make flashcards or mind maps, etc.?
I don’t have a specific number of times as I sometimes do mind maps before I make summaries, etc. I’d just say that normally I used mind maps and flashcards for quick revision, e.g. just before a mock or an exam, as opposed to learning the content before an end of topic test.

I have a very low attention span, how do I deal with this?
I know how you feel, I can get very easily distracted! I’ve found that I tend to be more productive when using apps like Flipd as I know that I only have a certain amount of minutes left before I can take a break. I also find that I focus better when listening to music that I like but I’m not too familiar with (so I don’t get distracted by it). I know that a lot of people like soundtracks from their favourite films or TV shows – I personally listened to a lot of Sleeping at Last songs during my AS exams as they’re quite calming and they’re mainly instrumental.

What is your best way of memorising information?
Quizlet has saved my life on many occasions when it comes to memorisation! I primarily used it for vocabulary when I did Spanish, however it works for other subjects too. I’ve used it to quickly go over the studies in psychology as well as for key words in biology.
I also find that writing out flashcards and then using them to test myself works too!

How do you proceed with note taking?
I don’t plan out my notes before I start writing them at all! I keep to a simple method of headings and bullet points and I usually only use one or two colours so that I don’t over complicate it. Most of the time I don’t even bother splitting my page in two and I just do it by eye as I go along!

Have you started revising for your June exams yet?
I’ve been revising for my exams since around February half-term, albeit in a more relaxed manner. I’m aiming to cover everything well before the exams so that when it gets to June I can focus on exam technique and past paper questions!

Do you revise past paper questions with or without your notes?
Normally I don’t use my notes when doing the questions unless I get really stuck

What is your favourite way to study?
I think my favourite way is just taking regular notes as it allows me to be creative with header designs and colours, plus it’s definitely the quickest way too!

How do you memorise the huge amount of content in psychology?
One of the ways that I’ve found is just to go over the information over and over again, condensing it each time. Our course mainly focuses around different studies which we’re expected to know a lot of details about so after finishing each study in class, I would make a detailed summary sheet for it. As it got closer to exams, I then condensed these into mind maps and eventually into one page on in a tiny notebook. This allowed me to remember the key details (such as numerical results, number of participants, etc.) without writing out masses of information (like the whole procedure)

How do you study for chemistry which involves memorising formulas?
I’ve found that just doing lots of practice questions has allowed me to learn the formulas for chemistry. If you’re struggling to remember them then I always recommend Quizlet, however I think it’s important that you remember how to use them in practice as opposed to just learning them by rote

How do you revise a content heavy subject like biology?
My method for biology is actually really similar to psychology! I’ve found that by making detailed notes and then summarising them down each time I go over them, eventually into a really short form like flashcards, I can recall a lot of the details of each topic from just a basic summary sheet.

Do you have any ideas or tricks on how to do well in A Level sciences?
Past questions are key! I know they’re boring and I know that they can be tough if you feel like you don’t know anything, but a lot of it comes down to exam technique (especially in biology) so it’s important that you know how to approach a question in the exam. If you find it hard at first, then it may be worth going through them with your notes so you can see the areas that you need to make clearer notes on and then do them without your notes at a later stage

How would you study for organic chemistry?
I absolutely hate organic chemistry because there are just so many mechanisms to learn, but my biggest tip is to just write them out over and over again. I know that it’s boring but it’s the best way to make sure that you can remember all the fiddly details (like remembering to draw lone pairs, etc.) As for organic synthesis, I’d suggest that you try to make up your own questions just by picking two random molecules and then figuring out a path between them

How do you revise for the core studies paper?
I’ve found that by knowing the details of the studies you can guarantee yourself most of the marks on Section A as they’re purely knowledge based. In order to do this I use the condensing method that I spoke about above. As for Section B and C, I’ve found that the most important thing is know how each study fits into a certain area, perspective, debate or key theme. Usually for the key theme it’s pretty obvious – e.g. Bandura is in External Influences on Children’s Behaviour because he’s looking at how observing a model being aggressive can cause aggression in children, however for the areas, perspectives and debates you have to look at the assumptions of it and then decide if the study fits. One thing that I’ve found helpful is to make a giant spreadsheet with each study, area and perspective on and along the top I put each of the debates so that I can categorise them into the different sides

Which resources do you use to revise psychology?
OCR seems to be a really unpopular exam board for psychology so there aren’t a lot of resources available! I use the OCR published study guides for a lot of my revision as they have all the details you need for most of the studies as well as my textbook and the workbooks by Hodder too. Online, I’ve found that the sites, SimplyPsychology and Crash Course to be useful!

Have you done an EPQ, if so do you have any tips?
My main advice to anyone considering an EPQ would be to pick a topic that you’re interested in! I finished my EPQ way before anyone else because I was genuinely interested in the topic so I didn’t mind researching it or writing about it in my spare time. Another tip would be to keep your references organised as you go along; I spent a good few hours putting together a bibliography as I hadn’t organised my references as I did my research or my essay. I’d suggest putting a reference column in your research diary/document so that you can fill it in as you go along and then just copy and paste it into your essay when you need it!

Hopefully I’ve managed to answer most of your questions here! If you have any other questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram or email me!

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