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The Ultimate Guide to Study Smarter, Not Longer

Here’s a riddle: two people study the same amount of time for a test with the same material, but one gets a much better grade than the other. Why?   

They likely had better study skills and knew how to use their time effectively to prepare for that exam. Knowing your personal study strategy is essential for effective study time.  

If your study strategy needs an update now that you’re in a higher education environment, don’t worry. We’ve put together a list of study tips that will help you study smarter, not harder.  


Create a Color-Coded Deadlines Calendar   

Your unit outline is one of the most essential documents you’ll ever get. It’s so important, in fact, that some lecturers will quiz you on it before they open up any sort of online access to the course (or course software). This document contains their policies, the projects and tests to expect, and most importantly: due dates!  

Instead of looking through multiple unit outlines at once when you’re in more than one class, take the time to map out all your due dates in one place at the beginning of the trimester.  

You can do this on a physical wall calendar, on a digital calendar, or with a spreadsheet. We recommend the last option.  


How to Make Your Deadline Spreadsheet  

To start, assign each class a colour. On Google and Apple calendars, you can assign events colours in the “detailed” view when you create an event. Working through one class at a time, put in the due date, the assignment name, and the class (each in its own column, on a spreadsheet).   

Then, do the same thing with the next class, inserting new rows as needed for due dates that overlap or come in between assignments for your other courses. This is a great way to see which of your weeks are assignment heavy, which allows you to plan ahead.  

If you do this every trimester and pay attention to details when doing it, you’ll never miss an assignment. The time it takes is well-worth not having that stomach-drop feeling when you realize you forgot something.  


Consider Taking Notes by Hand  

We know this is the Sydney International School of Technologyand Commerce. So why would we suggest you take notes by hand instead of on your laptop?  

Studies have found that people remember things better when they take notes on pen and paper rather than on their computers. According to researchers, when we take notes by hand, we manipulate and transform information, leading to a deeper understanding.   


woman taking notes blank notebook


You can always type up your notes later or read them aloud to use voice-to-text technology. In fact, revisiting your notes to digitize them will help you remember them too. 

It’s a win-win. 


Learn How to Read Your Textbook Like a Pro  

University involves more reading than high school. Textbooks at this level are dense, and they’re hard for even native English speakers to get through. However, reading the material is an essential part of preparing for class and for exams.  

So what do you do? Instead of reading the entire chapter in one sitting, use this active reading technique. It’ll help your brain digest the information better and increase your retention.   

When you open your textbook to the chapter you have to read, look for any pre-pages with a summary of the information. Some books may have this at the end of the chapter. Read this first.   

Next, go through the text and read all the headers (bolded parts and different section titles), figure descriptions, and any vocabulary words. You’re helping your brain create an outline for what it’s about to learn.   

Once you’ve skimmed the text for the things above, only then should you start reading the chapter as you usually would. It sounds like more work, but you’ll be impressed at how effective it is. You can even do your own experiment and try one chapter with this method and another without.  


Two students with a textbook


Know Yourself  

If you’re someone who likes to study late at night, don’t pack your schedule with events that happen in the evenings. You want to create a schedule where studying is a priority.  

If you know you do better in the morning, try not to stay out late or sleep in so you miss your best study time.  

But this tip isn’t just about when you like to study. You also have to know what lies you tell yourself. For example, if you say, “I’ll finish this in the morning,” will it happen? Or will you hit snooze and then have to run to class without time to finish it?  

The same is true with studying with friends. If you’re someone who can deal with the distractions, great! But if you know you learn better in a quiet environment, don’t make study groups your number one study technique. They work for some people, but not all. 


Ask Your Lecturer for Help 

The number one mistake students make is not taking advantage of one-on-one time to meet with lecturers. Your professor wants you to understand the material, and they want you to succeed.  

You’re not bothering them by asking them questions, asking them to go over class material in more detail, or simply wanting to meet with them during office hours. They’re there to help you learn. Make the most out of it!  

You could even be helping your fellow students out by showing your professor that they need to go over something in more detail with the whole class after bringing it to their attention.  


teacher talking to her student in computer class at the university


Study Tips for Higher Education Students: Find What Works for You  

There is no one size fits all study strategy for higher education classes. Each person learns differently depending on their learning style, childhood experiences, and current understanding of the material.  

The most effective study tip we can give you is to learn what works for you, then keep doing it. As with many other areas, consistency is key.  

We know you’re smart, or you wouldn’t be here. We wrote this list of study tips for higher education students to inspire you to try something new. But if all else fails and you really need help, as an SISTC student you can always reach out to the Student Success Hub Team.  


They’re there to help you succeed.  


To begin your career in IT, SISTC offers a Bachelor of Information Technology with the option of majoring in two fields: Digital Enterprise (DEN) and Business Information Systems (BIS). 

To find out more about the courses offered at SISTC, visit our course information page.