How to study independently for your exams
Which one of these sounds most like you?
a) Yay! It’s half-term. Now I finally get to sit down and study in my own way. I can’t stand having my study timetable being dictated to me by the teachers.
b) Fabuloso – a whole week with no school and no exams. I can kick-back and relax (and deal with the consequences later).
c) Oh, gawd! I’ve got a whole week with no access to my teachers, no idea how to sit down and revise and the clock’s constantly ticking down to the next lot of exams.
It doesn’t matter which one of those people you’re most like. The thing is, when you’re studying for your exams, you need to be able to study independently.
There will be plenty of times when you’re literally on your own and you need to get on and study. You can’t just give up. That would mean giving up on yourself and your ambitions for your future. So, you’ve got do find a way to study independently.
Here, I’m going to show you my top tips about how to study independently for your exams.
How to study independently
1. Have a plan
When you’re studying independently, whether you’re the world’s biggest geek (my husband insists that being labelled a geek is a badge of honour. I’m not so sure it’s intended that way, but I fully applaud hard workers) and your excitement mounts every day as you walk towards your desk, or whether you can’t stand books and you’d rather listen to nails scraping down a blackboard than revise, you need a plan.
The type of plan you make will be different according to your general feeling about studying.
If you hate studying, your plan might consist of doing three ten minute bursts of intense learning throughout the day. It may not sound like much, but it’s a great deal better than nothing. And, you never know, if you get your momentum going by doing a little bit, you might well build up to doing a little bit more.
If you soak up knowledge like a sponge, then your plan will look somewhat different. You’ll probably be studying for much of the day. You’ll prioritise subjects and topics according to when the exam is going to be and how confident you feel about them. Your revision timetable will be totally filled out and you’ll feel calm and confident that you’ve got a plan that works.
Action step: Make a plan that suits you and stick to it.How to study independently, tip no.1: Make a plan that suits you and stick to it! Click To Tweet
2. Know your own learning style
Self-knowledge is such an enormous component of success in any walk of life. You need to be able to recognise what you’re good at and what you’re not good at to reach the high spots.
When you’re studying, you need to know how you learn most successfully. It’s no good spending hours chained to a desk reading if you hate reading and none of the words go in. You need to think back to when you have learned most successfully in the past and replicate those learning experiences in your study and revision.
If you need a helping hand with this, download the free chapter of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. This chapter will help you think through how you have learned most successfully in the past and how you can apply this self-knowledge to your current study goals.
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Action step: download the free chapter now and read it! (Just enter your name and email below to get started).How to study independently, tip no.2: Know your own learning style. Click To Tweet
3. Be mindful of what’s working and what isn’t
Even when you’ve identified the ways you learn most successfully you should be constantly checking with yourself to see if your chosen methods are working.
Imagine having this conversation with your self as you study:
Me to myself: “Is this stuff actually going in?”
Myself to me: “You mean going into our head?”
Me to myself: “Yep. That’s exactly what I mean.”
Myself to me: “Well, it was a few minutes ago but now my mind’s drifting.”
Me to myself: “What’s the problem? If it was working a few minutes ago why has it changed?”
Myself to me: “Well, I keep fantasising about that Easter egg that’s left in the cupboard downstairs. I just can’t get it out of my head.”
Me to myself: “Give yourself a break and a nibble of said egg, then get back to what was working.”
Your internal dialogue may take all sorts of forms. You may discover that, actually, this revision technique isn’t so great after all. Or, you may find you just need to get up and move your body. Or, you may admit to yourself that you need to ask someone for help. All this is really helpful stuff for helping you to make progress with your independent study.
Action step: keep asking yourself what’s working and what isn’t. Make changes accordingly.How to study independently, tip no.3: Be mindful of what's working and what isn't Click To Tweet
4. Set yourself some goals
You can have big goals. E.g. what grades you want.
You can have medium sized goals e.g. This is what I’m going to revise this week.
Or, you can have teeny-tiny goals e.g. I’m going to learn these 10 French vocab words in the next ten minutes.
Having goals, from the big to the tiny, helps you to move further and further forwards. If you know what you’re aiming for, it’s a lot easier to judge whether you’re being successful, than if you have no idea what you’re working towards.
Action step: set yourself a mini-goal every time you sit down to study.How to study independently, tip no. 4: Set yourself mini goals every time you sit down to study. Click To Tweet
5. Make time to look after yourself
Your brain is not a machine. Neither is your body. Both need rest and relaxation. Not only does taking time out help information to sink into your brain, but it stops stress from building and keeps you healthy.
So, plan time in for exercise, socialising, watching TV and sleeping. You’ll be more likely to keep going with your studies if you also allow a little bit of time that’s for you.
Action step: plan ‘you-time’ into every day.How to study independently, tip no.5: Make time to look afer yourself. Click To Tweet
6. Keep going
Even if you hate studying and find it incredibly hard to sit down to work, you need to keep going. The more you practice doing it, the easier it will become. You will also become better at doing it.
It’s the same as anything you find difficult. Two weeks ago I couldn’t do a plank walk (if you don’t know what that is, google it). Now I can do twenty in a row because I pushed myself outside my comfort zone and practiced. If you follow the tips I’ve given you above, you’ll find ways to study independently that work better for you and make you more successful. The more successful you become, the more you’ll want to keep going.
Action step: never say to yourself ‘I can’t do this.’ Instead, say ‘I’m going to get better at this every day’.How to study independently, tip no.6: Just keep on going and don't give up! Click To Tweet
Over to you…
Which of these tips are you going to take action on so you get better at independent study? Leave a comment below, then take action. Leaving a comment below will make you more accountable for taking the action steps towards becoming better at independent study, and ultimately getting better results.