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Education & Development

Top tips for more effective study

Updated Wednesday, 4th March 2015

Follow these top tips to help you get the most out of your study time.

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Book pages Creative commons image Icon Making time

When time is tight, decide when it is going to be done – or how it will be done differently – by remembering the 4Ds:
  • Do it (don’t just worry about having to do it)
  • Dump it (does it really need to be done?)
  • Delegate it (ask someone else to do it)
  • Do it less well (does it have to be perfect?)

Dealing with distractions

Sometimes it’s difficult to study because of distractions. These can be real (for example your child needs attention), but they can also be ways of putting things off. So if it’s a real distraction – deal with it. If it’s a way of putting things off – ignore it and get on with your study.
Research has shown that successful students are not necessarily those with the most intelligence; more often it is those with the determination to keep going through ‘thick and thin’.
Feedback from OU students confirms that peer support, whether face-to-face or online, is a great help. As well as offering the opportunity to share ideas and critically engage with course materials, study groups help to sustain motivation, improve time management and to generally boost confidence. This is the case even if folk aren’t studying the same course!
Image of student Lesley Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Ross Finnie - The Open University "I think you definitely lose confidence if you have to give up a career, for whatever reason. Reflection helps you realise your potential, which can get lost in your caring role" - Lesley

Using Reflection

Reflecting on your learning as you go along can also be a helpful planning tool, based on your thoughts, feelings and actions. By using reflection you’ll learn more about the ways of study that suit you best: this will help you work out when your concentration is at its strongest and doing the most difficult work at that point of the day.


I find it difficult to get down to studying:

  • Set small goals for your study session with rewards at the end such as ‘I’ll read this section before I make that coffee’
  • Do a deal with yourself – ‘I can go to the pub tomorrow if I study tonight’
  • Just do it! Often a task doesn’t take as long as you expect
  • Stop at a good bit – it makes it easier to start again.

I'm easily distracted:

  • Tell family it’s your study time and put the phone on hold
  • Avoid a big meal before you study
  • Organise your study space so that it’s comfortable and you can find everything easily.

I can’t seem to stick at it for long:

  • Have a quick break every half hour
  • Mark or highlight the parts which are holding you up and move on – then return to them when you have read more (often it will make more sense).

This is part of a collection to accompany The Open University in Scotland's Open Pathways to Higher Education.




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